On February 9, 1964, over 40% of America was tuned into the “Ed Sullivan Show.” There they were treated to an English musical guest that, a few years later, would become one of the biggest teen idols of all time. No, it wasn’t the Beatles (though they were on the show as well). It was 18 year old Davy Jones, who was appearing on the show along with the cast of the musical “Oliver!”
Born on December 30, 1945 in Lancashire, England, Jones began acting at the age of 11 and, in 1961, began appearing in the long running television soap opera “Coronation Street.” That was the first year of the show which is STILL running 51 years later. When his mother passed away he left acting and began training as a jockey. He was 14.
A friend of his trainer recommended Jones to a friend who was looking for young boys to appear in the musical “Oliver!” Jones was hired and soon found himself starring as the Artful Dodger. He later reprised the role when the show came to Broadway, earning a Tony Award nomination. Based on his appearance on the Sullivan show Jones was signed to a contract with Screen Gems. A few television appearances followed as did a few independently released singles.
Being under contract proved helpful for Jones when, in 1965, the studio began a search for “Folk & Roll Musicians-Singers for acting roles in new TV series.” The studio already had Jones in mind. Musicians from all over came to audition. Among those who didn’t make it: Stephen Stills and Harry Nillson. It’s also been rumored that Charles Manson auditioned but later checking showed he was in prison at the time. Along with Mickey Dolenz, Mike Nesmith and Peter Tork, Jones became a part of The Monkees, television’s attempt to cash in on the popularity of the Beatles. The show ran for only two seasons (it won the Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Program in year one) but the band kept recording, in various phases, until 1971. The Monkees sold more then 65 million albums and singles. Jones sang lead on such hits as “Daydream Believer,” “Valerie” and “I Wanna Be Free.”
After the Monkees disbanded Jones continued to act and record. He also reunited with the Monkees for several reunion tours. I saw the band, sans Nesmith, in 1986 and had the good fortune of meeting the band and having several albums signed. I also saw him on stage as Vince Fontaine in a touring production of “Grease.” Younger generations may know Jones from his vocal work on “Spongebob Squarepants” or his appearance in “The Brady Bunch Movie.” In the late 1960s another singer named David Jones decided to change his name to avoid confusion. We know him today as David Bowie.
Jones is survived by his third wife, Jessica, and four daughters.