SAN DIEGO, Feb 29, 2012 – Davy Jones, lead singer and teen idol of The Monkees, a made-for-TV pop band that enjoyed a run of popularity in the 1960s, died today at age 66 at his Florida home.
Jones had complained he wasn’t feeling well earlier in the morning. Fire-rescue personnel responded, taking him to Martin Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Jones, born in Manchester, England, on December 30, 1945, first became familiar to American audiences on the 1960s Emmy Award-winning television series The Monkees. The show was created to appeal to the same American fans going wild over the The Beatles in movies like “Help!” and “A Hard Day’s Night.”
Five hundred hopefuls auditions for “The Monkees” in fall 1965. Jones and fellow band member Mickey Dolenz had both been child actors; Mike Nesmith and Peter Tork had some musical experience
According to the biography on his official website, DavyJones.net, Jones began his career on the small screen at age 11, playing Ena Sharples’ grandson on the still-running British ITV soap opera, Coronation Street. He played Dickens’ mischievous “Artful Dodger” in the West End production of Oliver! Later, at age 16, Jones originated the Artful Dodger role on Broadway and was nominated for a Tony Award.
His Broadway success won Jones a contract with Columbia Pictures/Screen Gems Television, and the band The Monkees was created shortly after. Also a musical group, The Monkees’ album sales surpassed all records, and they continue to be best-sellers decades later.
Although critics dismissed The Monkees as a mere TV stunt, the group notched numerous hits including “Daydream Believer,” “Last Train to Clarksville,” ‘Steppin’ Stone,’” “Valerie” and “Pleasant Valley Sunday.”
The show caught on with audiences, but although it burned brightly, it had a short shelf life, running just two years in 1967 and 1968. The program is now viewed in retrospect as the first to pioneer the production of music videos in the modern form that eventually made MTV possible, and also the precursor to numerous “boy bands” like the Backstreet Boys, created by studio moguls who recruited singers in exactly the same way Jones and the rest the Monkees auditioned for their TV show roles. No Monkees, no MTV and no boy bands.
On the band’s hit songs, Jones traded off on lead vocals with Dolenz. While the Monkees didn’t play their own instruments initially or write their own songs, top music industry talent was recruited to support the show. The show’s original music producer, Don Kirschner, brought in the songwriting team of Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart. Boyce and Hart wrote dozens of songs for the band, including the Monkees’ first number one single, “Last Train to Clarksville.” Carole King and Gerry Goffin wrote “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” and Neil Diamond wrote “I’m a Believer.”
Musicians who played on their records included Billy Preston, Glen Campbell, Leon Russell, Ry Cooder and Neil Young. Jimi Hendrix famously played with the band on tour.
After “The Monkees” television series ended its run, Jones worked both a serious actor and a comedian on the theatrical stage; as a rock musician, composer, and artist. He also pursued a lifelong interest as a horseman. Jones rode and trained racehorses. In 1996, he won his first race in England on his prized horse, Digpast. “I’ve always thought if all the show business success hadn’t happened, I’d have been a world champion jockey. It’s in my blood. I’ve always dreamed of going back to England — riding a few winners,” he said.
Jones returned to the theater as an adult to play the role of Fagin in Oliver!, starred in productions of The Boyfriend, Harry Nilsson’s The Point, and appeared as Jesus in Godspell, which played in London’s West End.
Many American Baby Boomer women recall Jones’ appearance as himself but also a heartthrob in The “Brady Bunch” episode, “Getting Davy Jones.” Not only was he Marcia Brady’s dream prom date, but the episode is one of the most frequently aired reruns in television history. As a result, Jones reprised that role in the 1995 The Brady Bunch Movie.
Jones is also an accomplished writer of books, short stories, and poetry, and indulges in photography. Jones recently completed the second edition of his autobiography, Davy Jones: Daydream Believin’, which updates his life and career to the present.
Jones also teached motivational seminars throughout the country, addressing his diverse experiences in show business as well as techniques used in all aspects of entertainment.
A regular on the charity sports circuit, Jones said his proudest effort for charity was a successful completion of the London Marathon in three hours, forty minutes.
Jones was slated to mount a U.K. tour in honor of the group’s 45th anniversary in May along with Tork and Dolenz.
The most recent reunion was last year, when Jones, Dolenz and Tork got back together for what they called “An Evening With the Monkees: The 45th Anniversary Tour.” Jones continued to record and tour. His last album, “She,” came out in 2009. He had a full schedule of tour dates plans through 2012 including appearances in Las Vegas this summer. He performed on February 18 at the B.B. King Blues Club in New York.
In addition to his wife, Jones is also survived by four daughters.
VIDEO: Opening and closing credits for the TV series “The Monkees”
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. Read more Media Migraine in the Communities at The Washington Times. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
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