In a nod to his Minnesota connections, Peter Tork introduces himself on the phone as Peter Halsten Thorkelson — adding that it’s a Swedish spelling, though his grandfather was of Norwegian descent.
Thorkelson, better known as the lovable goofball in the 1960s TV boy band the Monkees, has more than a Scandinavian heritage linking him to the Land of Lake Wobegon. He spent "two and a third" years at his father’s alma mater, Carleton College in Northfield.
"I didn’t graduate," Tork admits. But he returns to the state with fellow Monkees Micky Dolenz and Mike Nesmith for the Minnesota Zoo’s concert series on June 2.
There was talk of all four Monkees hitting the road just before lead singer Davy Jones died suddenly at age 66 in 2012, Tork said.
Peter Tork (Courtesy photo)
"It was sad and shocking to see him go."
Dolenz, Nesmith and Tork started performing together again that year — setting aside part of each show as a tribute to Jones. The three have toured off and on since.
Tork is pleased with this tour.
"There’s a quality of appreciation for the music," he said, including a "low-key swing" to the the Monkees’ classic No. 1 hit "I’m a Believer."
"I really believe the Monkees have the third-best songbook in rock history," Tork said. Behind, of course, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. (At their peak in 1967, the Monkees outsold both those groups.)
Though the group was formed for a TV show in an attempt to cash in on the popularity of the Beatles and the members didn’t play their own instruments at first, Tork said the Monkees improved as a group through "time and attrition."
The TV show, which aired 1966-68, followed the antics of four guys trying to make it as a pop band. And outside the television, that’s just what happened. They toured, recorded four No. 1 albums and made a movie, "Head," which has become a quirky cult classic.
The current tour is centered on music from "Headquarters," the Monkees third album and the first on which they played their own instruments, said Tork, who played bass guitar, keyboards and banjo.
Tork quit the Monkess after the TV show ended. The remaining three went on, and eventually became a duo with Dolenz and Jones. Configurations of the group continued through the years, all without Nesmith until the four reunited in 1986 for a 20th anniversary tour and a new album, "Justus."
"There are four possible trios with the Monkees, and Micky’s been in every one," Tork said.
Tork, Jones and Dolenz played the Minnesota Zoo on a tour in 2011 that included their trademark silly walk, bad jokes and video clips from the TV show.
Is this show more serious?
"I don’t know about serious," Tork said. "Sedate."
But he says his fellow Monkees are singing better than ever.
"Everybody’s singing better. We have a good time."
This tour wraps up in mid-June, but Tork says the three are poised to hit the concert circuit again in the fall.
Tork wrote the iconic piano introduction to the Monkees’ hit "Daydream Believer," which became Jones’ song. The remaining Monkees didn’t sing the song for a year after Jones’ death.
"We would get somebody from up from the audience to sing," Tork said.
Expect to hear it at the Zoo on Monday, though.
"Micky and I start in unison, then Micky and Mike sing it," Tork said. "It’s really to show no one of us should be doing this song."
Still, Tork is a believer.
"I like this show. I really do."
Kathy Berdan, who is now three-fourths of the way to her lifetime A&E journalist goal of interviewing all four Monkees, can be reached at 651-228-2096. Follow her on Twitter @KathyBerdan.
Who: The Monkees
When: 7:30 p.m. Monday
Where: Weesner Family Amphitheatre, Minnesota Zoo, 13000 Zoo Blvd., Apple Valley
Tickets: $82.50-$70; 800-514-3849 or suemclean.com/zoo.concert, movie, music, singer, television, tour, tv