I found this picture of a casting call from the 1960s, for the TV show and musical legend that eventually became known as "the Monkees":

enter image description here

The phrase I'm asking about is "Courage to work". A friend of mine says that was 1960s American English Jargon that meant "You have to be willing to lay off the drink and the drugs during working hours". They were looking for kids who hang out at a late-nite diner called Ben Franks known as a hang-out for druggies and drunkards.

I've done a bit of google-searching and can't find any reference to the term "Courage to work". Has anyone seen this in any literature on 1960s era American slang or terminology? Got any references to this term, used in this sense, in fiction or non-fiction?

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    The following piece seems to suggest that meaning: "it helps to work," and "we always use it because of work." The question is: How is coca regarded as an aid to working? It is variously regarded as giving drive, willingness, will, strength, and courage to work. It is not ... *The International Journal of the Addictions- 1969. books.google.it/…
    – user66974
    Commented Sep 10, 2015 at 16:29
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    Courage in Britain was a brand of beer. John Courage founded his brewery in 1787. It is now owned by Wells and Youngs. But the adverts used to say TAKE COURAGE.
    – WS2
    Commented Sep 10, 2015 at 20:32
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    Having lived through that period, I call shenanigans. Commented Sep 11, 2015 at 1:02
  • Did you live in the general vicinity of Hollywood in the late 1960s?
    – Warren P
    Commented Sep 11, 2015 at 14:50

3 Answers 3


From this article by Nathaniel Rich at nybooks.com (2011):

Embedded in these lines were code phrases designed to appeal to young men with certain countercultural tendencies. “Insane boys,” for instance, meant “boys who like doing drugs.” “Ben Frank’s” was an all-night diner on the Sunset Strip where musicians would hang out after the clubs had closed and wait for the drugs to wear off. “Have courage to work” meant “Have courage to abstain from drugs while we film the series.” Finally, “Must come down for interview” was not instructing applicants to appear in person; it meant “When you come for the interview, try not to be on drugs.”

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    Being a Brit, I picked up on Courage Best Bitter (almost certainly entirely unintended), which amplified the [alcoholic] spirit allusion (possibly intended, but who can say?). The usages are all really one-offs though - searching Google Books for all occurrences of insane boys in the 25 years after WW2 only finds about a dozen - and most of them are citing this very recruitment poster. Commented Sep 10, 2015 at 17:49
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    How does the author of the article know all of these secret meanings?
    – herisson
    Commented Sep 10, 2015 at 18:03
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    Because they have extensively researched that time and place. This might be usage that was restricted to only a single community in a single city, in a certain age bracket. I'd like to know how these uncool tv-and-movie-studio execs behind The Monkees and Easy Rider were hip to this jive.
    – Warren P
    Commented Sep 10, 2015 at 18:21
  • @FumbleFingers That was also my (Brit) first reaction with the reference to courage. I know a good few folk who need a Courage or three to work. (But it's clear from the context this isn't the intended meaning of course!)
    – Dan
    Commented Sep 12, 2015 at 23:35
  • Does Nathaniel Rich ever explain why the two guys who placed the ad in the Hollywood Reporter wanted—in 1965—"boys who like doing drugs" to play members of a squeaky-clean, G-rated boy band whose main appeal was to readers of Tiger Beat magazine and whose scripted antics were to appear on mainstream TV?
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Sep 15, 2015 at 5:13

Here's the n-gram for "courage to work." Not sure what to make of it. The string of words seems unlikely except as an idiom...

enter image description here

[EDIT] You can click on the year intervals at the bottom of the linked page to check out some original texts where the phrase occurs. I haven't found any that look like the idiomatic example you gave.

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    No it doesn't either. It suggests nothing like "popularity" at all.
    – Robusto
    Commented Sep 10, 2015 at 16:29
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    @Robusto: Yeah, I completely misinterpreted it... I need to learn how to read these.
    – DyingIsFun
    Commented Sep 10, 2015 at 16:31
  • If you follow the links at the bottom of that ngram, you'll see that the words are there but not (necessarily) in the same form as in the OP. Commented Sep 10, 2015 at 16:32
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    I think you have answered the question, "Have you got any references to this term" so it's now up to the OP to analyse the results. I suggest you give a URL to the search so that others (who may not be familiar with ngram) can check what you did. The main risk with answering is that people may vote you down. It's up to you whether to delete or not. Commented Sep 10, 2015 at 16:39
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    @Silenus i'd say post the link as a comment, and delete this answer.
    – abcd
    Commented Sep 10, 2015 at 20:30

I believe you've over analyzed it! Courage to work, simply mean you cannot be shy. You must be out going and willing to be on stage.

As for coming down for a interview, simply means you have to appear in person.

Why the intense need for conspiracy or sensationalism? The principle of Occam's Razor states the simplest answer is the most likely to be correct.


Courage Goes to Work: How to Build Backbones, Boost Performance, and Get Results By Bill Treasurer

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    This is not an answer it's just "I don't know, therefore you don't either".
    – Warren P
    Commented Sep 11, 2015 at 13:53
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    I beg to differ. In my strong opinion, I strongly suggest that the poster means simply as I put it. It's "fun" to imagine innuendos but that doesn't make it so.
    – Chris
    Commented Sep 12, 2015 at 23:22
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    There is evidence in credible sources that this information has meaning. Question the sources, that's fine. But "you've over analyzed it" is not adding anything to the conversation. It's what we call an ad-hominem remark in places where logic and reason matter. Oh and the words Crazy and Conspiracy. This is not just unhelpful, it's rude.
    – Warren P
    Commented Sep 14, 2015 at 15:17

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