HomeEntertainment‘Happy Days’: Henry Winker’s ‘The Fonz’ Was Almost Given to a Drummer in a Pop Band

‘Happy Days’: Henry Winker’s ‘The Fonz’ Was Almost Given to a Drummer in a Pop Band

by Suzanne Halliburton
(Photo by Walt Disney Television via Getty Images)

Happy Days could’ve looked drastically different with one cast choice. So imagine a show where a Monkee is the coolest guy on set.

Rather than a guy who rides motorcycles, Fonzie could have worked the drums in a pop band. Happy Days would’ve owned a different vibe.

Seems weird, right?

But when Happy Days was retooled after its pilot, the first choice to play Arthur Fonzarelli was Micky Dolenz, the drummer in the made-for-TV band, The Monkees. Dolenz probably was the second most-popular Monkee after lead singer Davy Jones, the British heart throb.

Dolenz said he auditioned for Happy Days, even recalling the process back in 2013 during an interview with the Washington Post.

“I remember my audition,” Dolenz said of Happy Days. “I don’t remember Henry, but Henry remembers me, and he actually has talked about it, saying he walked in an saw me there and thought, ‘Oh s***! I’ll never get it. Micky Dolenz is here.'”

Thankfully, Henry Winkler Won Happy Days Role

We all know our TV history. Henry Winkler won the Happy Days role. He defined the part that initially was intended to be a recurring player on Happy Days, not the scene stealer he became. And in his first appearance, he even was wearing a windbreaker as opposed to his classic, black leather moto jacket.

Happy Days creator Garry Marshall once said Fonzie was meant to be a quiet intimidator. His name was supposed to be the Mash. In an interview with the Archive of American Television, Marshall said a network executive told him: “We need a gang, we need a bad guy.”

So that brings us to Micky Dolenz. He was one of the stars of The Monkees. And Dolenz brought both acting and music to the table. He was a child star. And by the early 1960s, he was writing his own songs for his own band. He sang “Johnny B. Goode” for his Monkees audition and won the role. He didn’t even know how to play the drums, but learned by the time the group went on tour.

The Monkees as a TV show were together from 1966-68. They stayed together as a group, too. Davy Jones was so popular he appeared on the Brady Bunch as himself. Marcia Brady had an intense teen crush on Jones and she got him to play at the school dance. Be still my heart.

Meanwhile, in the years leading up to Happy Days, Henry Winkler earned a bachelor’s degree from Emerson College in 1967 and a masters from Yale. He supported himself by doing commercials. And he even appeared as Rhoda’s date on the Mary Tyler Moore Show.

But when it came time to make a decision on Happy Days, it came down to a tape measure. The others in the cast weren’t very tall. Dolenz was 6-1. Winkler was 5-6.

And heeeeeeeey, we’re not sure anyone but Winkler could pull off the Fonz. Happy Days fans approve.