Davy Jones, Monkees Frontman, Dead at 66

Davy Jones, the face of The Monkees, has died.

Lead singer of the sixties rock band The Monkees, Davy Jones, sings on stage at the Newcastle Arena March 7 1997. Credit: Reuters/Dan Chung

Davy Jones, the face of The Monkees, has died.

Reuters (“Former Monkee Davy Jones dies at age 66 in Florida“):

Davy Jones, former lead singer of the 1960s made-for-television pop band The Monkees, died on Wednesday after suffering a heart attack in Florida, according to his longtime publicist. He was 66.

[…]

Jones, born in Manchester, England, became the principal teen idol of the rock quartet featured on the NBC comedy series “The Monkees,” which was inspired in part by the Beatles film “A Hard Day’s Night” and ran for two seasons from the fall of 1966 to August of 1968.

Although not allowed to play their own instruments on their early records, Jones and his three cohorts — Micky Dolenz, Mike Nesmith and Peter Tork — had several hits that sold millions of copies, including “Last Train to Clarksville” and “I’m a Believer.”

[…]

Jones gained stardom after answering a casting call for a new TV series being created about the zany misadventures of four Beatles-like rock musicians called the Monkees. Two members of the group, Nesmith and Tork, were actual musicians with performing and recording experience, while Jones and Dolenz were primarily actors who more or less dabbled in music.

Although disparaged by critics as the “Pre-Fab Four” for the manufactured way in which the band came together, the group proved to be adept performers who were eventually given control over their own recordings.

The TV series, introduced by its catchy theme, “Hey, Hey, We’re the Monkees,” debuted as an immediate ratings hit weeks after the group’s first single, “Last Train to Clarksville,” had topped the pop charts.

The group collaborated early on with some of the major songwriters and session musicians of the day, including Neil Diamond, Carole King, Glen Campbell and Hal Blaine.

Sad news. I watched the show, almost certainly by then in reruns, as a kid.

FILED UNDER: Obituaries, Popular Culture, Quick Takes
James Joyner
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Comments

  1. anjin-san says:

    Sad news. Jones had more talent that he was generally given credit for. I caught a Biography episode about him a while back and he came across as a pretty decent guy. It’s worth noting that some of the Monkees singles sound good to this day. His work made millions of people happy, and that ain’t bad.

    As you noted, they had some crack session guys playing on those records – “Wrecking Crew” stalwarts Blain & Campbell. There is no shame in using session guys, Blain, Campbell, & Sax wizard Steve Douglass played on Pet Sounds, one of the seminal records in rock & roll history. I had the good fortune to see Douglass a lot in local clubs in the 80s & 90s.

  2. sam says:

    @anjin-san:

    It’s worth noting that some of the Monkees singles sound good to this day.

    I’ve always thought that the Monkees’s music was pretty good. If I’m not mistaken, Michael Nesmith wrote a lot of the songs.

  3. Hey Norm says:

    This makes me sad.

  4. @anjin-san:

    Sad news. Jones had more talent that he was generally given credit for.

    Not many people know that Davy Jones was The Artful Dodger in the original Broadway run of Oliver! and was nominated for a Tony for his performance.

  5. @anjin-san:

    As you noted, they had some crack session guys playing on those records – “Wrecking Crew” stalwarts Blain & Campbell.

    Which reminds me, Wrecking Crew guitarist Billy Strange passed away last Wednesday, so you could argue the two members of The Monkees have died in the past week.

  6. anjin-san says:

    @ Stormy Dragon

    I did not know that. Douglass (best remembered for his killer “Peter Gunn” & “Da Do Ron Ron” solos, passed away over a decade ago, he was only 57 at the time. We’ve lost a lot of the folks who helped make the 60s a golden age of creativity.

    I did not know Nesmith wrote any of the Monkees tunes, but I know he was serious about music and felt being in the Monkees damaged his career in the long run. If I remember correctly, his mother was the inventor of liquid paper, and he did not really need the money from the gig.

    I have a minor Monkees connection, Peter Tork used to come by my place sometimes when I lived in Marin, it was a pretty good hangout for musicians. I more or less lost track of him years ago, I heard he lives in the LA area now and seems to be holding his own in a battle with cancer.

    One Monkeess note is that Neil Diamond wrote “I’m a Believer.” I am guessing the royalty checks for that one are still pretty decent. If the Monkees (or their managers, who were calling the shots) had simply credited the session players from day one, they would have had more credibility. The Byrds and the Beach Boys used Wrecking Crew players, and no one seemed to mind.