Davy Jones 1945-2012

By | Published on Thursday 1 March 2012

Davy Jones

Manchester-born singer-songwriter Davy Jones, best known of course as a member of 60s US pop group The Monkees, died yesterday at Martin Memorial South Hospital in Florida from a heart attack, his publicist of 50 years Helen Kensick has confirmed, adding: “It is quite a shock”.

Born in 1945, Jones’ first television role came as a teenager when he played Colin Lomax, Ena Sharples’ grandson, in ITV soap opera ‘Coronation Street’. Though only a brief appearance, it led to more work in BBC police drama ‘Z-Cars’, where he played small roles in three episodes.

When his mother died in 1960, Jones gave up acting and returned to his chosen career path, training as a jockey. However, his retirement from show business was only temporary, and in 1963 he was chosen to play the Artful Dodger in West End musical ‘Oliver!’, subsequently moving with the rest of the cast to New York when it transferred to Broadway.

In 1964, the cast of ‘Oliver!’ appeared on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’. An edition focussing on British culture, a then new pop group called The Beatles were also invited to perform. This was a major moment for Jones, who later said that it was seeing the reaction to the band (particularly by female members of the audience) that made him want to be a pop star.

Now a Tony Award nominated actor, he signed a deal with Columbia Pictures’ television division Screen Gems and took a number of guest roles in TV shows, as well as launching a brief solo career as a singer. At the time, Screen Gems was developing a new programme for children, which would follow the lives of a Beatles-inspired pop group called The Monkees.

Invited to audition to be one of the “four insane boys” who would make up the cast, Jones was chosen along with folk guitarists Peter Tork and Michael Nesmith, and fellow child actor Micky Dolenz. Although the others were American, Jones had the benefit of a Manchester accent, which was easily mistaken for Liverpudlian by most of the show’s US audience, who were hungry for anything vaguely Beatles-related.

When it was decided which instruments the band members would play, faced with three accomplished guitarists and bassists, Jones was initially put on drums. But his short stature meant the camera couldn’t see him behind the kit, so he was replaced by Dolenz. This left Jones free to take lead vocals on many of the band’s songs (not an especially popular choice amongst his bandmates), including their biggest hit ‘Daydream Believer’.

The show aired from 1966 to 1968 and spawned a number of albums and tours. After it was cancelled, the band made a film, ‘Head’, which was produced by a then relatively unknown Jack Nicholson. A psychedelic, often confusing movie it was not a commercial success, though it still has a cult following and its soundtrack, particularly ‘Porpoise Song’ written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King, is considered by many to be one of the band’s finest moments.

Tork and Nesmith quit after the release of ‘Head’, while Jones and Dolenz recorded one more album as The Monkees, ‘Changes’, in 1970, before throwing in the towel themselves the following year.

Despite tensions within the band (furthered, in part, by Nesmith and Tork’s sometime resentment that the pop venture had derailed their previously more credible musical careers), they reunited at various points in subsequent years, both to record and tour. Most recently they embarked on a 45th anniversary tour of the US last year, but called a halt to it early. No clear reason was ever given for this, though both Dolenz and Tork have hinted at issues with management.

Following The Monkees’ original split in 1971, Jones continued to work as a solo performer throughout the rest of his life, as well as occasionally acting in film and TV.

He is survived by his third wife Jessica, and four daughters from his previous marriages.