Earl Dingman writes ....
At the start (first and second record) Mike Nesmith had permission from Don Kirshner to produce his own songs and had the ability to use Peter Tork on guitar if he wanted him (but Nesmith was NOT allowed to play on his own songs).
I suspect that Glen Campbell was the guitarist on “Papa Gene’s Blues” and played the lead guitar.
Typically there were members of the wrecking crew on the track. Carol Kaye probably played bass on “Stepping Stone” I know that Neil Diamond played acoustic guitar on “I’m a Believer” (he also wrote it), and that Louie Shelton played one of the lead guitars on “Last Train To Clarksville” and he also played the flamingo style lead on “Valerie.” (Shelton was also a producer and he produce the first Seals and Crofts album and played electric guitar on some of their cuts.)
Songwriters Boyce and Hart (who wrote a lot of the Monkees songs on the first two albums) often played guitar and organ.
On one unknown track Leon Russell played organ.
Hal Blaine probably played drums on most tracks and Carol Kaye played bass on a few.
It should be noted that these SAME musicians (the Wrecking Crew) also played on Beach Boys recordings (including Pet Sounds), Mama’s and Papa’s recordings, most of the Phil Spector Girl Group recordings, the “Righteous Brothers” recordings, in fact the Wrecking Crew played on just about every AMERICAN top 10 hit from 1956 to 1970. They did work on a lot of Herb Alpert’s recordings. On Sonny and Cher’s recordings.
The Monkees went out on tour and played live as best as they could between the first and second seasons of the TV show.
Starting with the THIRD album (Headquarters) the Monkees played on a lot of the tracks. Mike Nesmith, Mickey Dolenz, Peter Tork played guitar on many tracks. Mickey played drums on some tracks. They also use Eddie Hoe on drums. Mike Nesmith played Hammond organ and pedal steel guitar. Peter Tork played ALL the other keyboards except for one Moog solo on Star Collector (but Peter did play the Vox organ on that track).
Chip Douglas (Douglas Farthing Hatelid) from the Modern Folk Quartet and the Turtles came on board to produce and he played all the bass guitar parts. He also wrote one of their songs.
Peter Tork played piano on “Daydream Believer” and electric piano on “Pleasant Valley Sunday” Chip Douglas played bass. Mike Nesmith played guitars and also did the lead part in Pleasant Valley Sunday.
On their Fifth album, Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones they basicially did solo pieces recording in different studios and using session musicans and major contractors. They each wrote a few of their own songs. It was basically a compillation of solo pieces.
They did that bomb of a feature film “Head” and played their own instruments on that. Davy was now playing drums along with Mickey. Mickey was playing guitar with Mike and Peter was playing bass. Chip Douglas was no long with them.
Peter quit the band in the middle of recording an album. While Peter Tork played 5 string banjo, I don’t believe he ever played it on a Monkee’s record. Nesmith used a session banjo player on electric banjo for “What Am I Doing Hanging ‘Round” and for his solo instrument album “Wichita Train Whistle.”
The three of them played live in concert and started using back up musicians.
They played their own instruments on reunion albums and concerts, however they also used “sidemen” for live shows.
Mike Nesmith quit the band, but came back for ONE reunion album and TWO reunion shows. Supposedly after a bad review of his playing at a concert he left the tour.
Mike Nesmith founded the Visual Music Foundation that helped a lot of people make Music Videos in the early days of MTV.
Mickey and Davy toured with session players and appeared as guests on daytime TV.
As for songwriting, Mike Nesmith was already signed to Colgems Music before the Monkees was even thought of and Linda Ronstadt had a minor hit with one of his songs: “Different Drum.”
Mike Nesmith was the major songwriter of the Monkees, Peter Tork contributed two or three songs. Mickey contributed one or two songs. Davy did three or four songs with collaborators and session players.
Most of the other songs came from the Brill Building in New York with composers like Carole King and Gerry Goffin, Neil Diamond, Boyce and Hart, Carole Bayer Sager, Neil Sedaka, Diane Hildebrand, Jack Keller, Barry Mann / Cynthia Weil, Hank Cicalo, Harry Nilsson, and Jeff Barry.