Michael Ochs Archives/Getty ImagesFifty years ago today, The Monkees debuted on TV and — decades before shows like Glee — proved that a fictional music act could get great ratings and sell millions of records.

After answering a casting call for “4 insane boys,” Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork and Mike Nesmith were selected to portray The Monkees, whose similarities to The Beatles were entirely intentional. Surprisingly, the fictional band soon ended up outselling the Fab Four.

Dolenz tells ABC Radio that when the show started out, “nobody knew if it was gonna be successful,” while noting that it didn’t hurt to have songwriters like Carole King, Neil Diamond and the duo of Boyce & Hart contributing tunes.

The Monkees TV show ran for two seasons, while winning a pair of 1967 Emmys, including Outstanding Comedy Series. Its most enduring legacy, though, has to be the music, including pop-rock classics like “I’m a Believer,” “Daydream Believer,” “Last Train to Clarksville” and “Pleasant Valley Sunday.”

While most of The Monkees’ songs were written by established songwriters and strictly controlled by the TV show’s producers, the band members eventually gained creative control of their own records. Following the TV show’s demise, the band has continued, off and on, as a recording and touring act.

Still, it was the series that first introduced the boys to the world, and while it was a wacky comedy show, Dolenz notes that it actually had an important social impact.

The Monkees [brought] long hair into the living room and [made] it OK to be a kid with bell bottoms and have long hair,” Micky tells ABC Radio.

In honor of The Monkees‘ 50th anniversary this year, the surviving band mates released a well-received new studio album, Good Times!, while Dolenz and Tork also have mounted a commemorative tour.

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