I would like to recognize the following people for their assistance in this examination of Monkees instruments and gear. Thank you to Kevin Schmid, longtime Monkees aficionado and collector, who contributed pictures from his collection and through countless emails and conversations assisted with details large and small. Thanks to the various representatives from Gretsch Guitar, Gretsch Drums, Gibson, and Fender for answering questions about model numbers and production runs. And a special thanks to Monkees archivist, historian, author, and producer Andrew Sandoval, who graciously took time from his busy schedule to provide new information, properly identify photographs, and for being accessible to Monkees fans. His book, The Monkees: The Day-By-Day Story of the '60s TV Pop Sensation is available for purchase. Be sure to tune into his Come to the Sunshine internet radio program.
Photographs appearing on this page come from my collection, from Kevin's, and a wide variety of other sources. The work of Monkees and rock photographer Henry Diltz can also be seen in many of the photographs here. I would also like to recognize the Sunshine Factory website for some of the screen shots that appear below.
Please note that this is not an exhaustive examination of every instrument ever utilized by The Monkees throughout their entire career. The focus of this information is predominantly on the 1960s era of the group. Updates will be posted as necessary. New information and photos are always welcome. Please contact me here.
Perhaps no other guitar defines Michael Nesmith than the famous blonde Gretsch, played by Michael on The Monkees television series, in the recording studio, and on the concert stage throughout the 1960s. When providing audio commentary for The Monkees: Season One DVD set, Nez relayed that he always liked twelve string electric guitars. Various guitar companies like Vox and Rickenbacker produced twelve strings, but he preferred the bluesier, twangy sound made by a Gretsch as opposed to the pop sound of a Rickenbacker. Once the pilot of the TV show was sold, Nesmith approached Fred Gretsch and asked him to make a twelve string guitar. Gretsch complied and produced a non-production model, one of three made. (The other two were given to George Harrison and Chet Atkins.) A representative from Gretsch confirmed that the 6076 Model was produced from 1966-1970.
Early on during the Monkees project, Gretsch signed an endorsement deal with the group. As a result, The Monkees were supplied with Gretsch guitars, basses, and drums. (It is unknown whether or not Davy's percussion pieces like tambourines and maracas were Gretsch models.)
This sunburst 6-string Viking could be seen in episodes of The Monkees television series during both seasons. It has also been spotted in photographs taken during recording sessions.
Micky in the recording studio with a Gretsch Viking 1967
On the set of the TV show 1966
"Cuddly Toy" video 1967
Michael's 12-String Gretsch Black Tennessean Guitar
Scene from the pilot
Another Gretsch guitar that Michael possessed appeared in the pilot episode of The Monkees. Nez had previously purchased this Gretsch Tennessean as a six string and later had it converted to a twelve string in Los Angeles, California. The neck eventually snapped off.
Because some scenes in the 1965 pilot were later re-filmed in 1966, Michael can be seen initially with his black Gretsch as they setup at the bandstand but with the blonde Gretsch by the time they start to play. (Davy's guitars change in these scenes, too, from the Gretsch Anniversary [Model 6118] during the original take to a Gretsch Viking in the 1966 take. Peter's bass is different as well, moving from a Fender Precision to a Gretsch.)
Michael used another twelve string Gretsch on tour in 1967 that was identical to his blonde Gretsch, except it was a different color (sunburst).
Hollywood Bowl soundcheck 1967
Gretsch Monkees Signature Guitar (Model 6123)
A Monkees model Gretsch guitar was available on the market from 1966 until 1968. Gretsch had earlier found success with their Country Gentlemen and Tennessean models in 1964 and 1965 because of George Harrison's frequent use of them. When the Monkees model was introduced, however, sales were disappointing. Despite the high quality nature of the guitar, Monkees fans didn't rush to buy it. Some Gretsch experts have even surmised that purists, perhaps caught up in the furor at the time about the group's nontraditional origins, were not interested in a customized Monkees guitar. It is speculated that approximately 200 Monkees model Gretsch guitars were produced. This item had to be ordered directly from Gretsch by the given guitar store. Today, the Gretsch Monkees Signature Guitar is a highly sought after collectible that has been known to sell for thousands of dollars through online retailers like eBay.
Michael's Latter-Day Gretsch Guitars
Justus sessions 1996
2012 Monkees tour
In the years since Monkeemania in the 1960s, Nez has continued to play Gretsch guitars. The blonde Gretsch guitar he used on both the 2012 and 2013 Monkees tours is a twelve string Country Classic I. It was custom made for him by Gretsch when he did a concert for them in the 1990s at the NAMM Show, a music products industry trade event. This was also the guitar used during recording sessions for the 1996 Monkees album, Justus.
Nashville, Tennessee 2013 Monkees tour
Michael's Gretsch onstage during the 2013 Monkees tour
Michael's White Gibson SG Guitar (Custom Model)
The Gibson was used most famously during the live "Circle Sky" sequence from The Monkees' 1968 feature film, Head. It was also utilized extensively for Monkees concert appearances, being played by Nez while on tour with the group in Australia and Japan in late 1968. Michael was also seen with the Gibson during the "Naked Persimmon" segment on the 1969 Monkees television special, 33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee.
A frequent companion during his last full year with The Monkees, Nez used the Gibson for guest spots by The Monkees on The Joey Bishop Show in 1969 and throughout the yearlong trek across North America with Sam & The Goodtimers. Photographs also confirm that Michael played this guitar for some early performances with the First National Band.
Sessions for the Wichita Train Whistle Sings album 1967
Salt Lake City 1968
"Circle Sky" live
Whatever happened to Nesmith's blonde Gretsch & the white Gibson?
The blonde Gretsch was stolen in the 1970s (in a separate occasion from the guitars Michael had stolen from Red Rhodes' guitar repair shop). The white Gibson was apparently taken from a club in the San Fernando Valley in California in the early 1970s.
Nez has spoken about his affection for these instruments in recent years, as well as his desire to have them returned. "I know they are out there still and I miss them and would like to have them back after all these years," he posted on Facebook in 2010. "Whoever has ended up with them, please return them, no questions asked. They were and are an important part of my life." The Gretsch has surfaced but with a price tag.
Michael's Black Gibson Les Paul Custom Guitar
"33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee"
The Les Paul is the guitar that Michael played when The Monkees recorded "Pleasant Valley Sunday" in 1967, producing the classic riff that became the cornerstone of the song. It was also seen on 33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee during the quartet's performance of "Listen to the Band," and again in 1969 when The Monkees performed live on The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour. Michael continued to use the Les Paul throughout the First National Band era in the 1970s. The guitar was featured on the covers of two of his solo albums, Infinite Rider on the Big Dogma and Live at The Palais. Nez was last seen using the Les Paul while performing with The Monkees at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles in 1986. Upon purchase at McCabe's in Santa Monica, California by his wife Phyllis as an anniversary present for Michael in 1967, the guitar was a used 1954 Gibson (with some 1953 parts). Michael's son Christian sold it to the original Guitar Center in Los Angeles, California a few years ago.
Rehearsing for the Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour 1969
Nez plays the Gibson with the First National Band circa 1970
Playing the Gibson at the Troubador 1970
Solo in the early 1970s
Los Angeles 1986
Gretsch counter top display
Peter's Burgundy Gretsch Bass Guitar (Model 6073)
Memphis, Tennessee 1966
Peter's Gretsch bass is instantly recognizable from its countless appearances on The Monkees television series. After being used onstage during the group's first concert appearances in late 1966 and throughout the spring of 1967, it was never seen again in a live setting. A quick browsing of the internet will find some bass players who took issue with this particular model in regards to having feedback problems. A user on a Gretsch internet discussion forum claimed to have spoken to Peter about why he stopped using the Gretsch bass and Peter apparently confirmed that it was prone to feedback, but only Peter knows for certain.
The Model 6073 survives today and is currently for sale online at Gretsch Guitars.
On the set of the TV show (Mike's Gretsch Model 6123 can be seen in the background)
The Gretsch Bass (Model 6073) today
Late 1966/early 1967
Peter's Guild Jetstar Bass Guitar
Salt Lake City 1968
Sometime in 1967, Peter moved from the burgundy Gretsch bass to a Guild model. This was the bass guitar that Peter used during the 1967 Monkees summer tour that visited the United States and Great Britain. It also was famously documented in the group's film Head as Peter is seen playing it during the "Circle Sky" live performance. Fans of The Monkees television series will recall the Jetstar's many appearances in the music videos filmed during a break on the 1967 summer tour in the "Rainbow Room" in Chicago, Illinois. It should also be noted that Davy Jones was often seen playing this bass in concert in 1967 and 1968 when Peter would move to keyboards. Peter was last seen using the Jetstar while on tour with The Monkees in Australia and Japan in late 1968.
A representative from Fender Guitars (who currently manufactures Guild instruments) relayed that Peter's Jetstar bass was manufactured sometime after 1966 as this is when the headstock changed to the 4 in-line. The Fender representative also noted that some referred to this Jetstar bass as the 'JS1 Model." However, Fender does not have any official documentation of that reference. This particular model was discontinued in 1970.
Peter with the Guild in the Rainbow Room in Chicago
Davy with Peter's Guild bass in St. Louis 1967
Peter's Vox Continental Organ (and other keyboards)
Peter used a variety of keyboard models when performing live with The Monkees between 1966 and 1968. In the picture to the left he is playing a Vox Continental in late 1966/early 1967.
A Fender Rhodes Bass Piano is seen onstage in the picture (below to the left) taken in Winnipeg, MB, Canada in April 1967. It is unknown which type of keyboard Peter used during the Australian/Japanese tour in late 1968 (below to the right).
Peter's Fender Rhodes Bass Piano in Winnipeg, MB, Canada 1967
Peter's Ode Banjo
During Monkees concerts in the 1960s, Peter often played the banjo on songs like "Cripple Creek" and "Cindy." He continued this tradition once The Monkees reunited in the mid-1980s, using the instrument for performances of "You Told Me," "Sweet Young Thing," "What Am I Doing Hangin' 'Round?" and his own rendition of Jackie Wilson's "Higher and Higher."
Peter owned this Ode brand banjo before The Monkees. It's the same one seen on the 1967 "Monkees on Tour" episode and has also been featured at Monkees concerts from the 1980s to the present.
1981 photo session
In this video clip below, The Monkees perform "Circle Sky" live at the Valley Auditorium in Salt Lake City on May 17, 1968. Michael can be seen playing his Gibson guitar, Micky is using the Slingerland kit, and Peter's bass is the Guild model. Davy is playing maracas and the organ.
Micky's Gretsch Broadkaster Drum Kit with Champagne Sparkle wrap finish
Memphis, Tennessee 1966
Micky's first exposure to drums came through Gretsch when the company entered into an endorsement deal with The Monkees. Originally a guitarist, Micky took a crash course in playing drums throughout 1966. In the process, he was aided and abetted by some of music's finest drummers, with Micky using members of the famed Wrecking Crew and others for guidance. "My first teacher here in Los Angeles was John Carlos," Micky told Modern Drummer. When I was in the studio during the early Monkee sessions, I would get pointers from Earl Palmer and Hal Blaine, and guys like Buddy Miles would come over to my house. Before we went out live, I had a great deal of practice time." In an interview with Music Radar, Micky was emphatic about seizing the moment when being surrounded by such pros. "Absolutely, I was watching what they were doing. Hal and Earl, I learned from the best...Over the years, I've taken it very seriously." Micky is often asked about his rather unconventional style when setting up his drum kit to play. "Yeah, half-right, half-left," Micky told Modern Drummer. "The bottom half is left-handed and the top is right-handed. I know it’s bizarre: I play the kick with my left foot and the snare with my left hand." It turns out that a childhood illness contributed to Micky's unique setup. "When I was a kid I had a leg disease called Perthes. My right leg was, and still is, weaker than my left. So when I went to play conventional-style, it hurt. But since I was just beginning, John Carlos said, "Hey, change it around." He put the kick on my left and the hi-hat on my right—which I still do to this day—and it worked!"
The Champagne Sparkle kit was seen on The Monkees television series throughout its run on NBC, and Micky played this particular kit while on tour with the group in late 1966 and into 1967. "I had those drums for years," Micky told Classic Drummer. "And when I moved [from his Laurel Canyon home in California], I didn’t take them with me. I wish I still had that set."
(Read an in-depth interview where Micky talks drumming here.)
Phoenix, Arizona 1967
Davy sits at Micky's Gretsch kit on the set of the TV show
Micky played a Gretsch New Classics kit on the 2012 and 2013 Monkees tours
Micky's Black Rogers Drum Kit with various components
By the time The Monkees' 1967 summer tour rolled around, Micky had moved to a Rogers kit. This drum set was also used on The Monkees television series during its second season as well as for filming the music videos in the "Rainbow Room" in Chicago. Based on research it appears that the Rogers kits that Micky used were made up of several different single components and it may have started out as a Rogers 'Londoner' model.
Did Micky have a preference between the Gretsch kit he started with and the Rogers one he used later in 1967? "No, not really," Micky told Music Radar. "The Gretsch was the first kit that was promoted for the show. When the [1967 summer] tour came along, I played the Rogers on the road. I still have that set." Micky also reflected on the changes he has seen over the years in the make-up of his kits. "It's so funny, boy, back then the hardware was so flimsy. The cymbal stands and the hi-hats…and the kick drum had this leather strap holding it together."
On the road in 1967
Soundcheck at Wembley 1967
Micky's Black Slingerland Drum Kit
Salt Lake City 1968
Another Monkees instrument made famous by its appearance in the movie Head was Micky's Slingerland kit. With its customized 'DRUM' logo on the bass drum, the Slingerlands were also used on the concert stage when The Monkees visited Australia and Japan in 1968. While filming "Circle Sky" live in Salt Lake City, Utah for Head, a double bass drum set-up was configured. Micky continued to use the Slingerland kit throughout 1969. In an appearance with Davy and Mike on The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour (Peter had left the group by this time), he can be seen playing it during a live medley of Monkees songs that included "Last Train to Clarksville," "I'm a Believer," and "Salesman." The Slingerland drums also traveled with Micky when The Monkees conducted a yearlong tour of North America with Sam & The Goodtimers in 1969.
One of the original 'DRUM' drum heads survives and is in the collection of Ryland Allison (son of Keith Allison, a friend of Michael's from Texas who was featured as a session musician on several Monkees recordings). It was sold to him by Davy with a drum set when he was very young.
Salt Lake City 1968
Micky behind his Slingerland kit in Virginia 1969
Davy's 3/4 Scale Red Gretsch Custom Bass Guitar
In 1966, Gretsch produced a bass guitar especially for Davy. Rarely used, it made its first appearance on The Monkees television series in the episode "Son of a Gypsy" in late 1966. During the group's inaugural live concert appearance in Honolulu, Hawaii on December 3, 1966, Davy played his Gretsch bass when Peter moved to keyboards, a tradition that would continue during Monkees concerts through 1968. Photographs from the 1967 Monkees summer tour, however, usually show Davy playing Peter's new Guild bass when it came time to switch off, instead of his Gretsch. Davy was last seen using this bass in concert during the 1968 Australian/Japanese Monkees tour, and for an appearance with Micky and Mike on The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour in 1969. A representative from Gretsch confirmed that there was no record of this model bass guitar ever being produced again, so it is reasonable to conclude that Davy owned the only one.
Davy kept his Gretsch bass in his possession until the 1980s when he gave it to a friend (who gave it back to Davy in the late 1990s). He made attempts to have Carvin reproduce the bass in the '90s. As to the whereabouts of Davy's bass today, it is reportedly missing.
Opening night of the 1969 Monkees tour in Vancouver, BC, Canada
Davy's bass in the "Son of a Gypsy" episode
Here's Nez with a Rickenbacker while onstage with The Monkees in 1967 (location unknown, but thought to be Detroit, Michigan). The Rickenbacker belonged to Roger McGuinn and was loaned by The Byrds for this concert when Michael's guitar was either having issues or was otherwise unavailable. He is also pictured to the right with a Rickenbacker during the Headquarters sessions in 1967. It is uncertain as to the owner of that guitar.
Peter is seen above playing his Guild acoustic guitar during filming of the movie Head. This is the same guitar Peter had during sessions for the Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. album, and it also can be spotted in the "Hitting the High Seas" episode of the television series.
"Hitting the High Seas"
In This Generation concert 2013
Peter's Guild guitar was purchased in Nashville, Tennessee in 1967 and he has had it refinished several times. It was most recently used during his 2013 In This Generation solo tour.
These pictures show both Micky and Davy sitting at the drum kit Micky used during the recording sessions for the Headquarters album. Davy is shown above during a session, and Micky is behind the kit during soundcheck at the Hollywood Bowl in 1967.
In the pilot episode filmed in late 1965, Peter used a Fender Precision bass (left) and Davy could be seen with a Gretsch Model 6118 Anniversary (above)
Screen Gems owned a Gibson Everly Brothers Flattop model guitar that turned up as a prop in some episodes of the television series and even in shots from Head. Still photos of Mike, Micky, and Peter all exist with this guitar, including the one above of Micky taken during the filming of Head.
Nez plays a Vox acoustic guitar on the set of Head
Peter's Hohner clavinet as seen on the 33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee television special in 1969
Pictured above is Michael with a Gretsch Monkees Signature Guitar (Model 6123). It could be seen on several episodes during the second season of The Monkees.
This is Davy’s Vox acoustic guitar from the back cover of the Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. album. This guitar eventually broke which led Davy to a Gibson Dove model when writing for The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees album.
Mike strums an Epiphone acoustic guitar in a scene with Davy from the pilot episode
Peter used a Gibson J-160E acoustic/electric guitar during the Headquarters sessions. Here, Micky is playing it.
Mike is seen above with his Gibson acoustic guitar during the "Naked Persimmon" segment on 33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee. This same guitar was used during a spoof of his song "Joanne" on Elephant Parts in 1981. He has also used a Guild twelve string that can be seen below. This Guild model was used on recordings in the 1960s and also turned up when Michael was a guest on Later with Greg Kinnear in 1994. Today, Nez plays a Martin J-40 twelve string acoustic guitar.
RCA Studios January 1969
Micky owned one of the very first production models of a Moog synthesizer. He was fascinated with the keyboard instrument after seeing it on display at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. Micky would later play the Moog on Michael Nesmith's "Daily Nightly" in 1967. "It was actually a pretty difficult thing to use," Micky later said, recalling how those first-generation synthesizers had to be physically rewired for every different sound the musician might want to use. "I threw a party for John Lennon one night, and he sat there at the Moog for four hours making flying saucer sounds. It was great for flying saucer sounds."
Michael has owned a few pedal steel guitars over the years and currently owns one. He had a custom model made by Sho-Bud in 1968 when he recorded in Nashville, Tennessee. Here Nez tests what looks to be a Fender pedal steel during soundcheck at the Hollywood Bowl in 1967. It is thought that this might be the first pedal steel he ever owned.
In this photo from November 1966, The Monkees, with their Gretsch instruments, rehearse for their first concert tour.
Mike is shown above playing a 12-string Fender acoustic guitar (to sub for the usual Gretsch) while on tour with The Monkees in the summer of 1967. This guitar was used for one show - which was one of the four concerts officially recorded that summer.
Note the blonde Fender Stratocaster on the riser next to Micky during the filming of the "Circle Sky" scene for the movie Head. It is unknown whether or not this was Mike's standby guitar that day.
The iconic Monkees Guitar Logo, designed for Screen Gems by artist Nick LoBianco