LOS ANGELES -- Peter Tork, a talented singer-songwriter and instrumentalist whose musical skills were often overshadowed by his role as the goofy, lovable bass guitarist in the made-for-television rock band The Monkees, has died at age 77.
Tork's son, Ivan Iannoli, said his father died Thursday morning at the family home in Connecticut of complications from adinoid cystic carcinoma, a rare cancer of the salivary glands. He had battled the disease since 2009.
"Peter's energy, intelligence, silliness, and curiosity were traits that for decades brought laughter and enjoyment to millions, including those of us closest to him," his son said in a statement. "Those traits also equipped him well to take on cancer, a condition he met like everything else in his life, with unwavering humor and courage."
Tork, who was often hailed by the other Monkees as the band's best musician, had studied music since childhood. He was accomplished on guitar, bass guitar, keyboards, banjo and other instruments. Michael Nesmith, the Monkees' lead guitarist, said Tork was the better of the two.
Tork auditioned for the role at the urging of friend and fellow musician, Steven Stills, a member of the rock bands Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.
When the television show debuted in September 1966, Tork and fellow band members Nesmith, Micky Dolenz and David Jones became overnight teen idols.
Nesmith was the serious Monkee, Jones was the cute one and Dolenz the zany one.
"As I write this my tears are awash, and my heart is broken," Nesmith posted on his Facebook page Thursday. "I have said this before -- and now it seems even more apt -- the reason we called it a band is because it was where we all went to play."
During its two-year run, the show won an Emmy for outstanding comedy series, and the group itself landed seven songs in Billboard's Top 10. Three -- "I'm a Believer," "Daydream Believer" and "Last Train to Clarksville"-- reached No. 1.
Initially, the Monkees was a band whose members didn't play their instruments or write many of their songs. That was something that infuriated Tork and Nesmith.
Eventually, he and Nesmith wrested control of the band's musical fate from Don Kirshner, who was the show's music producer. By the group's third album, Headquarters, the Monkees were playing their instruments and had even performed live in Hawaii.
After the show ended in 1968, the band went on a lengthy concert tour that at one point included Jimi Hendrix as the opening act.
Creative differences led Tork to leave soon after the group's 1968 movie and album Head.
For several years he struggled financially and creatively, working for a time as a waiter and a schoolteacher.
By the mid-1980s, thanks to TV reruns and album reissues, The Monkees gained a new, younger following, and Tork rejoined the others for reunion tours.
Tork begged off a Monkees reunion tour with Nesmith and Dolenz just last year to finish Relax Your Mind. Jones died in 2012.
This July 6, 1967, file photo shows Peter Tork of the musical group The Monkees at a news conference at the Warwick Hotel in New York. Tork, who rocketed to teen idol fame in 1965 playing the lovably clueless bass guitarist in the made-for-television rock band The Monkees, died Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019, of complications related to cancer, according to his son Ivan Iannoli. He was 77. (AP Photo/Ray Howard, File)
A Section on 02/22/2019
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