WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Davy Jones, the diminutive heartthrob who rocketed to the top of the 1960s music charts by beckoning millions of adoring fans singing the catchy refrains of The Monkees, died Wednesday. He was 66.
Jones died of a heart attack near his home in Indiantown.
Jones' moppish long hair, boyish good looks and his British accent endeared him to legions of screaming young fans after The Monkees premiered on NBC in 1966 as a made-for-TV band seeking to capitalize on Beatlemania sweeping the world.
Aspirations of Beatles-like fame were never fully achieved, with the TV show lasting just two years. But The Monkees made rock 'n' roll history as the band garnered a wide American following with love-struck hits such as Daydream Believer and I'm a Believer that endure to this day.
Born in Manchester, England, on Dec. 30, 1945, Jones became a child star in his native England who appeared on television and stage, including a heralded role as "The Artful Dodger" in the play Oliver.
He earned a Tony nomination at 16 when he reprised that role in the show's Broadway production, and then he auditioned for what would be his hallmark role.
The Monkees was a band clearly patterned on the Beatles' film A Hard Days Night, chronicling the comic trials and tribulations of a rock group whose four members lived together and traveled to gigs in a tricked-out car called the Monkeemobile. Mike Nesmith, Peter Tork and Micky Dolenz starred with him. Each part was loosely created to resemble one of the Beatles.
At 5-feet-3 inches, Jones at one time apprenticed as a jockey. He was by far the shortest member of The Monkees — a fact often made light of on the show. But he also was its dreamboat, mirroring Paul McCartney's role in the Beatles. And as the only Briton among the four, Jones was in some ways the Monkees' direct connection to the Beatlemania still strong in the U.S. when the TV show made its debut.
In August 1966, the Beatles performed in San Francisco, playing their last live concert. The same month, the Monkees released their first album.
The first single, Last Train to Clarksville, became a No. 1 hit. And the TV show caught on quickly with audiences, featuring fast-paced, helter-skelter comedy inspired as much by the Marx Brothers as the Beatles.
Yet The Monkees came under fire from music critics when it was learned that session musicians — and not the group's members — had played the instruments on their recordings. They were derided as the "Prefab Four," an insulting comparison to the Beatles' nickname, the "Fab Four."
In reality, Jones and his bandmates had and continued to acquire musical skills, eventually playing their own instruments on the TV show. The group was also supported by enviable talent.
Carole King and Gerry Goffin wrote Pleasant Valley Sunday, and Neil Diamond penned I'm a Believer. Musicians who played on their records included Billy Preston, who later played with the Beatles, Glen Campbell, Leon Russell, Ry Cooder and Neil Young.
After two seasons, the TV series had flared out and was canceled after 58 episodes in the summer of 1968. But The Monkees remained a nostalgia act for decades. And Jones maintained that the stage was the only place he truly felt at home.