Though he started his career as a performer on stage and screen, Davy Jones gained enormous popularity as the lead singer and tambourine player of the late-1960s pop sensation, The Monkees. Initially formed by producers Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider for the short-lived sitcom, "The Monkees" (NBC, 1966-68), the band battled to gain control of their own musical destinies, while continually facing a barrage of criticism from fans and critics over questions about their legitimacy. Regardless, The Monkees were a big hit and topped the charts with a number of singles and best-selling albums. While they continued recording after the show went off the air, the band soon split, leaving Jones to pursue an array of solo projects over the ensuing decades. Having largely left acting behind, Jones spent the remainder of his career pursuing music, leading his solo effort, the Davy Jones Band, while periodically collaborating with fellow Monkees Mickey Dolenz and Peter Tork in a number of reunions. The full band reunited for their 30th anniversary, leading to a massively successful tour, but old tensions resurfaced and future plans were perpetually left in doubt. Despite attempts to reform in the new millennium, all hopes for any further reunions were squashed following Jones' unexpected death in 2012. Despite a constant struggle to gain respect, in the end Jones left behind a lasting legacy as a legitimate frontman and pop icon.
Born on Dec. 30, 1945 in Manchester, England, Davy Jones began his acting career at 11 years old by originating Colin Lomax in a 1961 episode of "Coronation Street" (ITV, 1960- ). He went on to play three different roles on the long-running cop show, "Z-Cars" (BBC, 1962-1978), but was forced to abandon acting altogether following the death of his mother from emphysema. He trained to be a racing jokey for a short time, but returned to acting with a turn as the Artful Dodger in a 1963 London production of the musical "Oliver!" Jones reprised the role in his Broadway debut and earned a Tony Award nomination for his performance. At the time, Jones appeared on "The Ed Sullivan Show" (CBS, 1948-1971) with the cast of "Oliver!" on the same night as the famed 1964 appearance by The Beatles, which inspired him to want a piece of the action. He went on to sign a contract with the television division of Columbia Pictures, appearing in episodes of the medical drama "Ben Casey" (ABC, 1961-66) and the sitcom "The Farmer's Daughter" (ABC, 1963-66), before landing the role that would make him a star.
In 1965, Jones was cast as the lead singer of "The Monkees" (NBC, 1966-68), a sitcom that centered around a Beatles-like pop group of the same name. More than just a show, The Monkees was also put together by producers Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider as a pseudo-musical act featuring Jones on vocals and tambourine, Micky Dolenz on drums and vocals, Michael Nesmith on guitar, and Peter Tork on bass. They recorded their first single, "Last Train to Clarksville," a month before the show debuted in 1966, while their debut album, The Monkees (1966), topped the charts a month later. While Nesmith and Tork were already accomplished musicians, Jones and Dolenz had to learn their respective instruments between takes on the show. Soon the band began to gel for real and managed to play real live shows in Hawaii, despite initial protests from the show's producers. The results were better than expected, with some of the live shots being incorporated into the show. Still, as a band, The Monkees had a hard time earning the respect of some critics, who derisively dubbed them the "Pre-Fab Four."
Even though they were dismissed by critics as a cheap knockoff, the real Beatles greatly admired their show and their music, even going out of their way to praise them in interviews. Meanwhile, tensions mounted between the band and the show's producers over how far they were allowed to go musically, and whether or not they were even allowed to play their own instruments. They recorded their second album, More of The Monkees (1967), which topped the charts again and featured their most famous song, "I'm a Believer." They quickly following up with their third record, Headquarters (1967), which was recorded primarily by the members themselves, rather than studio musicians. By the time they released their fourth album, Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. (1967), The Monkees were at the height of their popularity and were exerting far greater control over their music, though conversely anti-Monkees sentiment had also reached a fever pitch. The band stumbled the following year, however, particularly after they began experiencing tensions amongst themselves over their musical direction. The show was canceled in 1968, while the band released their fifth album, The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees (1968) - their first to not reach No. 1 on the charts. It did feature another classic Monkees' song, "Daydream Believer," which did top the singles charts.
Following the show's cancellation, The Monkees made the psychedelic adventure, "Head" (1968), which was directed by Bob Rafelson and failed at the box office, largely due to the subversion of their previously well-groomed image. With tensions at an all-time high between band members, Tork left the band in 1969 following their successful Far East tour. Nesmith followed the next year, leaving just Jones and Dolenz to record their ninth album, Changes (1970). By the following year, the band was disbanded, but Jones continued to perform solo, and later formed the short-lived group, Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart, which put out a self-titled album in 1976. Meanwhile, Jones was still performing on stage and screen, logging episodes of "Here Comes the Brides" (ABC, 1968-1970), "The Brady Bunch" (ABC, 1969-1974) - which famously featured Jones as Marcia Brady's main crush and prom invite - and "Love, American Style" (ABC, 1969-1974). In the mid-1980s, "The Monkees" was aired in syndication on cable, sparking a renewed interest in the band that led to a reunion of Jones, Dolenz and Tork for the new song, "That Was Then, This Is Now." The band - minus Nesmith, who had previous engagements - embarked on a number of lucrative tours, though friction between members erupted over performing newer material.
In the 1990s, Jones and Dolenz continued writing and recording together, which lead to a full reunion with the band for their 30th anniversary, complete with sold out performances at Wembley Arena, their 11th and final album Justus (1996), and the television special, "Hey, Hey, It's the Monkees" (ABC, 1997). But once again, internal tensions forced the band to split. Jones went on to make TV appearances on such shows as "Boy Meets World" (ABC, 1993-2000) and "Herman's Head" (Fox, 1991-94) and cameo as himself in the feature send-up "The Brady Bunch Movie" (1995), as well as tour with his solo group, the Davy Jones Band. Jones and Dolenz reunited in 2002 for a brief tour of the United Kingdom amidst accusations from Tork that he had been fired from the band. Around the same time, Jones fanned the flames of resentment by badmouthing the other three Monkees in a pair of interviews in 2008 and 2009, which dovetailed with Yahoo Music's declaration of Jones as the "No. 1 teen idol of all time" in 2008. He brought his legend to a younger audience by memorably adding his voice to an episode of "SpongeBob SquarePants" (Nickelodeon, 1999- ) in 2009.
Two years later, Jones, Tork and Dolenz put aside their differences for a set of performances that marked their 45th anniversary, only to cancel a North American tour due once again to internal conflicts. All hope of any further collaborations was completely lost when Jones suddenly died of a massive heart attack in Florida on Feb. 29, 2012. He was 66 years old. News quickly spread of the pop star's unexpected demise, leaving fans both old and new beside themselves. Peter Tork issued a statement, saying "It is with great sadness that I reflect on the sudden passing of my long-time friend and fellow adventurer, David Jones. Adios, to the Manchester Cowboy." Dolenz simply stated, "The time we worked together and had together is something I'll never forget. He was the brother I never had and this leaves a gigantic hole in my heart. The memories have and will last a lifetime."
By Shawn Dwyer
Cast (Feature Film)
Music (Feature Film)
Made TV acting debut on the "BBC Sunday-Night Play" presentation "Summer Theatre: June Evening"
Cast as the Artful Dodger in the Broadway production of "Oliver!"
Performed with the Broadway cast of "Oliver!" on "The Ed Sullivan Show" (CBS), episode also marked first appearance of The Beatles
Cast alongside Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork, and Michael Nesmith as The Monkees; the pop-rock group was assembled by filmmakers Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider after watching The Beatles' 1964 film "A Hard Day's Night"
Co-starred on NBC series "The Monkees"; sitcom followed adventures of the band as they pursued rock and roll stardom
The Monkees released its self-titled debut, the first of four consecutive No. 1 albums in the U.S.; included the hit "(Theme from) The Monkees"; sang lead vocals
Released third album Headquarters, which marked the first one written and recorded primarily by the four members of the group
Group released signature hit "Daydream Believer"; song topped the Billboard charts
Made feature acting debut with The Monkees in musical comedy "Head," directed by Rafelson and co-starring Jack Nicholson
Made a memorable guest appearance on "The Brady Bunch" (ABC)
Reprised the Artful Dodger with a voiceover role in animated "Oliver Twist"
Following Tork's and Nesmith's departures (in 1969 and 1970, respectively), Jones and Dolenz continued to record and tour; released the album Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart
Appeared with Dolenz in Harry Nilsson's play "The Point" at the Mermaid Theatre in London
MTV revived "Monkee-Mania" with a marathon airing of the TV show
Reunited with The Monkees on stage at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles, CA
With The Monkees, received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
Released eleventh and final studio album with four original members of The Monkees, Justus to celebrate 30th anniversary
Co-starred in the ABC movie "Hey, Hey, It's the Monkees," written and directed by Nesmith
Recorded the single "Your Personal Penguin," written by children's author Sandra Boynton
Named the No.1 teen idol of all time by Yahoo Music
Released solo album She, a collection of standards from the 1940s through the 1970s