The cute Monkee is gone. OK, they were all cute. But Davy Jones was the acknowledged first among equals, the crush of millions of girls during the 60s and beyond — including an adolescent Marcia Brady — and still capable of drawing screams during concerts as recently as last month. Yahoo! Music named him the top teen idol of all-time in 2008. “The women just go CRAZY for him, still — and so do their daughters and granddaughters,” Monkee mate Micky Dolenz noted during the group’s 45th reunion tour in 2011.
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Jones died on Wednesday at Martin Memorial Hospital in Stuart, Fla., at the age of 66, after suffering a heart attack. Jones last performed on Feb. 19 in Oklahoma, and during 2011 he toured with Dolenz and Peter Tork to celebrate the 45th anniversary of The Monkees — the TV band that became the real deal, selling more than 50 million records worldwide and in one year (1967) out-selling both the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.
“It was an acting gig,” Jones once said of his tenure on the show, which lasted two seasons on NBC and endured even longer thanks to syndication and a batch of hit singles such as “I’m a Believer,” “Last Train to Clarksville,” “Daydream Believer” and “Pleasant Valley Sunday.” “It was a TV series about a band, and then it became a band that toured and recorded and everything. It was a little surreal — definitely more than I signed up for.”
Jones is survived by his fourth wife, Jessica, and by four daughters: Talia and Sarah from his first marriage, to Linda Haines, and Jessica and Annabel from his second marriage, to Anita Pollinger.
Dolenz issued a statement on Wednesday saying, “Can’t believe it…Still in shock…had bad dreams all night long. My love and prayers go out to Davy’s girls and family right now…”
| “Daydream Believer”
In a long and philosophical message on Facebook, the fourth Monkee, Michael Nesmith, wrote, “That David has stepped beyond my view causes me the sadness that it does many of you. I will miss him, but I won’t abandon him to mortality…David’s spirit and soul live well in my heart, among all the lovely people, who remember with me the good times, and the healing times, that were created for so many, including us. I have fond memories. I wish him safe travels.”
And Tork posted on his Facebook page, “It is with great sadness that I reflect on the sudden passing of my long-time friend and fellow-adventurer, David Jones. His talent will be much missed; his gifts will be with us always. My deepest sympathy to Jessica and the rest of his family. Adios to the Manchester Cowboy…”
Jones, who hailed from Manchester, England, was already on the acting path before he started Monkee-ing around. He began his career at the age of 11 on the British soap opera “Coronation Street” and then in the police action series “Z-Cars.” Jones took a break to train as a jockey, but he returned to acting for a role as the Artful Dodger in the West End cast of “Oliver!” He later moved to the Broadway production of the musical, where he was nominated for a Tony Award, and appeared with the cast on the same Feb. 9, 1994 episode of “The Ed Sullivan Show” that featured the Beatles’ first appearance.
Neil Diamond, who wrote “I’m a Believer” and other songs for the band, said on Twitter he was “thrilled” to have had a connection with the group.
I’m sad to hear about Davy Jones. The Monkees were such a sensation that it was a thrill for me to have them record some of my early songs.
– Neil Diamond (@NeilDiamond) February 29, 2012
“Oliver!” led to a deal with Screen Gems and appearances on the TV shows “Ben Casey” and “The Farmer’s Daughter.” Jones also released an album, “David Jones,” that included the singles “Dream Girl,” “What Are We Going to Do?” and “The Girl From Chelsea.”
Jones was something of a lock when Screen Gems created “The Monkees,” but he still auditioned as part of the cattle call for “Folk & Roll Musicians-Singers for acting roles in a new TV series.” “I was an actor who could sing. So was Micky,” Jones recalled. “Mike (Nesmith) and Peter were musicians. It was an interesting mix. I think Micky and I had an easier time of it than the other two.”
Dolenz concurred, noting that “Davy and I, I think, acclimated pretty easily to what (the producers) wanted. But the chemistry was good between the four of us.”
Despite taking some heat from rock ‘n’ roll purists who dubbed the Monkees “the Prefab Four,” the show was a hit and won two Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Comedy Series, in 1967. The group’s first four albums, meanwhile, hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and were certified multi-platinum, with 10 Top 40 hits between 1966-68. “When we started, the songs were part of the show,” Jones recalled. “We didn’t think we were making records, you know? Then (‘Last Train to Clarksville’) goes to No. 1, and we’re, like, a band.”
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The band — which pushed to exert more creative control over its music — continued after the series was canceled. The Monkees made a trippy film, “Head,” in 1968 and continued to record and tour, though by the end only Jones and Dolenz remained. “The Monkees changed my life but ruined my acting career,” Jones told Britain’s Daily Express. “Once you get into something so big, people think of you in one way. I’ve played Vegas, Disney World and TV shows across America. The country has been the bedrock of my career. I don’t get offered acting jobs in Britain. Or if I did, I can’t wait around for a few (pantomime holiday) appearances.”
Nevertheless, Jones was happy to take part in subsequent Monkee business. He and Dolenz joined forces with songwriters Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart from 1975-77, and he, Dolenz and Tork got back together when MTV and Nickelodeon began airing “The Monkees” and launched a new wave of Monkee mania. The trio recorded an album, “Pool It!,” and worked together on and off ever since, with Nesmith joining again for the “Justus” album an ABC TV special called “Hey, Hey, It’s the Monkees” and a U.K. tour. The reunions were marked by personal differences, however; Jones in particular was openly critical of his group mates and their relationships, calling them “very difficult to be with” and once branding Tork as “a psycho.” But he also allowed that, “I’ve been Davy Jones from the Monkees for a long time…That’s a good association to have, and I’m proud to have it.”
Jones kept himself busy outside of the Monkees, however. He appeared in episodes of TV’s “Love, American Style,” “Here Comes the Brides,” “My Two Dads,” “Boy Meets World,” “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” and others. He joined companies of “Oliver!” again, this time playing Fagin. He hosted the A&E documentary “Meet the Royals.” He also maintained horse-racing interests in England, Pennsylvania and Virginia. He collaborated on projects with children’s author Sandra Boynton, and the last of his several solo albums was “She,” a set of Great American Songbook standards and pop hits, in 2009.