Davy Jones, vocalist for the Monkees, the TV-generated pop band of the ’60s, died Wednesday of an apparent heart attack in Stuart, Fla. He was 66.
Fronted by diminutive Englishman Jones, the Monkees rode the tuneful sunniness of their NBC series to the top of the pop charts, logging three No. 1 singles and six top-five hits from 1965-68.
Produced by Bert Schneider and Bob Rafelson, “The Monkees” featured Jones, Mike Nesmith, Peter Tork and Mickey Dolenz. While some mocked the group as the “Pre-fab Four,” the antic series launched several big hits — most of them penned by the pro songwriting team of Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart — onto the charts.
The act’s No. 1 hits for Colgems Records were “Last Train to Clarksville” (1966), “I’m a Believer” (1966) and “Daydream Believer” (1967); they also reached the top five with “A Little Bit You, A Little Bit Me,” “Pleasant Valley Sunday” and “Valerie.” Their first four albums all reached No. 1 on the U.S. chart.
The Monkees toured successfully (with Jimi Hendrix employed briefly as an opening act), but the group began to chafe at the show’s formula and their label’s reluctance to let them record their own material.
Following the 1968 cancellation of “The Monkees,” the group appeared in the feature film “Head.” The trippy pic, which played with the group’s pop-star image, was co-written by director Rafelson and Jack Nicholson, then in the early days of his career.
After the exits of Tork in 1969 and Nesmith in 1970, the Monkees limped on into the ’70s with Jones and Dolenz fronting various configurations, including one with Boyce and Hart.
Jones played himself in a popular episode of “The Brady Bunch” that aired in late 1971. In the episode, Marcia Brady, president of her school’s Davy Jones fan club, promised she could get him to sing at a school dance.
Jones was born in Manchester, England. Acting from the age of 11, he appeared on the popular British TV series “Coronation Street” and “Z-Cars.”
After working briefly as a jockey, he was cast as the Artful Dodger in the original London production of the hit musical “Oliver!” He re-created the performance on Broadway; prophetically, he appeared in a number from the show on the Feb. 9, 1964, airing of “The Ed Sullivan Show,” which also featured the U.S. TV debut of the Beatles.
Jones recorded as a solo artist and appeared on U.S. TV skeins like “Ben Casey” and “The Farmer’s Daughter.” He was under contract to Screen Gems’ record label Colgems when he was drafted for Columbia Pictures’ TV arm for a new show inspired by the Beatles’ films and music.
Thanks to exposure on MTV and Nickelodeon and a reissue campaign by Rhino Records, the Monkees enjoyed renewed popularity in the late ’80s and undertook a reunion minus Nesmith in 1986. Jones and Dolenz continued to tour under the Monkees handle into the new millennium.
In later years, Jones toured with his own band and made cameo and voice appearances, often as himself, on such series as “Here Come the Brides,” “SpongeBob SquarePants” and “Sabrina the Teenage Witch.”
Jones is survived by his wife Jessica and four daughters from two previous marriages.
(Associated Press contributed to this report.)