Once a Monkee, Always a Monkeeby M-Gillies
“Once you’re in, you’re in. It’s like the Mafia… once a Monkee, always a Monkee.” — Davy Jones of the Monkees
In August 1966, The Beatles and The Beach Boys dominated radio airwaves with singles like Yellow Submarine, Paperback Writer and Good Vibrations. Their sound of pop alternative garnered adoring fans who praised the catchy riffs and sing-along lyrics, but 1966 was also the year a new television phenomenon erupted on the screens to introduce millions to America’s answer to The Beatles. Inspired by The Beatles’ film A Hard Day’s Night, The Monkees made their small-screen debut on September 12, 1966, propelling an up-and-coming actor/musician David Thomas Jones into instant stardom.
Capturing the hearts of millions of teenaged girls with his long hair, boyish good looks, charming English accent and warm sense of humor, Jones saw continued success over the years, including a modest solo musical career, the authoring of several autobiographies and being ranked No. 2 as the 10 Best Teen Idols in 2009. However, Jones’ career as a celebrity almost never came to fruition.
Born in Manchester, England on December 30, 1945, Jones had his first taste of acting at the age of 11 after landing a role on the popular long-running British soap opera Coronation Street. Three years later, Jones’ mother died of emphysema, leaving Jones to pursue a career as a jockey, training alongside Basil Foster.
It was during this time that a friend who worked for the West End of London theatre approached Foster looking to cast someone for the stage adaption of Oliver!. As if the stars had aligned themselves to conspire to bring Jones back to the stage, Foster replied to his friend that he knew of someone.
Cast as the Artful Dodger, Jones was recognized with great acclaim for his performance, and soon was nominated for a Tony Award when he accompanied the show on Broadway.
In promotion of the show, the cast of Oliver! made a guest appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. That same night, The Beatles made their first appearance in which Jones recalled, “I watched the Beatles from the side of the stage. I saw the girls going crazy and I said to myself, ‘This is it, I want a piece of that.’”
At first, Jones landed a few television guest appearances, but his big break came when he was the first actor/musician to be selected as a member of the soon-to-be musical television phenomenon The Monkees.
As frontman, singer and percussionist, Jones attracted the attention of fans for his charm and boyish good looks, while the TV show continued to captivate audiences who adored the humorous antics of a made-for-television band. Soon the Monkees would score chart-topping singles that rivalled the Beatles with their version of Neil Diamond’s I’m a Believer and Last Train to Clarksville.
While many critics have accused the Monkees of being a “Pre-Fab Four” made-for-TV knockoff of the Beatles; the Beatles disregarded such remarks and further hosted a party for the members of the Monkees when they toured England. At one point guitarist Michael Nesmith asked John Lennon, “Do you think we’re a cheap imitation of the Beatles, your movies and your records?” To which Lennon replied, “I think you’re the greatest comic talent since the Marx Brothers. I’ve never missed one of your programs.”
With their albums selling millions and topping the billboard charts with number one hits, The Monkees soon debuted in their own feature film called Head co-produced and co-written by an unknown Jack Nicholson in 1968. Unlike the Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night, Head was a commercial box-office failure. To add injury to insult, the Monkees saw the cancelation of their series that same year, along with the departure of bassist Peter Tork.
Determined to forge ahead, Jones and the remaining members released their final album Instant Replay before Nesmith departed, leading the band to lose the rights to use the name.
Continuing to act and sing, Jones signed Bell Records and released his second solo record titled Davy Jones, which contained the single Rainy Jane. The album met with modest success with the song charting at No. 52 on the Billboard 200 in 1971. Meanwhile, that same year, Jones made his next landmark when he appeared on The Brady Bunch in the episode Getting Davy Jones. The popularity of his appearance has gone down in history as the most re-ran episode of any TV show.
For the next three decades, Jones would continue to release a small number of singles, performing numerous solo concerts and continued to make guest appearances on television programs, as well as reuniting with the Monkees for a number of reunion tours when renewed interest in the band emerged in the ’80s.
Even in his later years, Jones spent much of his time touring with the Monkees, particularly with the Here They Come!: 45th Anniversary Tour which ran from May 12, 2011 to July 23, 2011.
Much beloved, Jones made numerous personal appearances to meet up with fans and frequently participated in a number of sporting events for charity.
On February 29, 2012, it was reported that Jones had died of a heart attack at the age of 66. He is survived by his wife Jessica, and four daughters and several grandchildren.