Monkees Frontman Davy Jones Dead at 66

10:22 AM PST 02/29/2012 by Mike Barnes
Dave J Hogan/Getty Images

The singer and actor died of a heart attack in Florida.

Davy Jones, the pint-sized, mop-haired English frontman of the Monkees, the 1960s group created for television to capitalize on the pop-music craze fueled by The Beatles, has died, TMZ reported. He was 66.

Jones died Wednesday at Martin Memorial Medical Center in Stuart, Fla., after suffering a heart attack, according to TMZ, which confirmed the death with an official in the medical examiner's office in Martin County.

The onetime teen idol and Tony Award nominee continued to perform long after the Monkees’ demise, appearing as recently as Feb. 18 at B.B. King’s club in New York and the following night at a casino in Thackerville, Okla.

The Monkees — Jones and Americans Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith and Peter Tork — were put together by Screen Gems executives Bert Schneider and Bob Rafelson, who were inspired by The Beatles' 1964 film A Hard Day’s Night. The two execs formed Raybert Prods. in 1965 and got The Monkees on NBC the next year. The series, about the misadventures of a struggling band with a mix of pop music and psychedelia thrown in, started out as a big hit but lasted just two seasons and 58 episodes.

Despite being savaged by critics, who labeled them the "Pre-Fab Four," the Monkees turned out a number of hit records, including their show's title song, "(Theme From) The Monkees," as well as “Last Train to Clarksville," “I’m a Believer,” “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone,” “Pleasant Valley Sunday” and “Daydream Believer,” with reported sales of more than 65 million worldwide.

“Clarksville," “I’m a Believer” (both in 1966) and “Daydream Believer” (in 1967) each reached No. 1 on the Billboard chart. Their songs were covered by such bands as Coldplay, and Smash Mouth's version of “I’m a Believer” was featured in the first Shrek film.

How popular was Jones in his heyday? David Bowie changed his name from David Jones in 1966 after the Monkees' frontman achieved stardom.

“Everybody loved Davy’s smile, the way he came across and his incredible presence,” said Andy Kim, who wrote the No. 1 hit “Sugar, Sugar” for the Archies in 1969 and a year later co-wrote “Oh My My” for the Monkees in 1970 (when they were down to just Jones and Dolenz). “He was a phenomenal ambassador for a band that didn’t really start off a band but quickly became a force.”

The 5-foot-3 Jones, who was born in Manchester and as a teen trained to become a jockey, got his start at age 11 on the British soap opera Coronation Street. He earned a Tony nomination in 1963 for his role as the Artful Dodger in Oliver and went on to star in stage productions of The Boyfriend and Harry Nilsson’s The Point and as Jesus in Godspell on London's West End.

Jones famously played himself in a 1971 episode of The Brady Bunch, “Getting Davy Jones,” in which Marcia (Maureen McCormick) boasts that she can get him to perform at a school dance, then begins an all-out effort to actually get him there.

Jones and the Monkees also starred in Head (1968), a weird period piece that was written by Rafelson and Jack Nicholson.

The band reunited several times. A second leg of a tour slated for this past fall was canceled in August. Jones recently completed the second edition of his autobiography, Davy Jones: Daydream Believin'.

He is survived by his wife, Jessica, and daughters, Anabel, Talia, Sarah and Jessica, from two previous marriages.

E-mail: Mike.Barnes@THR.com.

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