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 with the catchy refrains of The Monkees, died Wednesday. He was 66.
His publicist, Helen Kensick, confirmed that Jones died of a heart attack near his home in Indiantown. Jones complained of breathing troubles early in the morning and was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead, said Rhonda Irons, spokeswoman of the Martin County Sheriff’s Office.
In a 911 call released Wednesday night, an unidentified woman anxiously pleads “Ambulance, please, hurry!” His home was about 27 miles from the hospital, and a fire rescue unit rushed him to the hospital.
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, a success that brought him to the attention of Columbia Pictures/Screen Gems Television, which created The Monkees. Hundreds turned out for auditions, but the young men who became the Monkees had no idea what ultimately awaited them.
“They had an ad in the newspaper,” Jones recalled on NBC’s “Today Show” last year, “and then we all showed up.”
“The Monkees” was a band clearly patterned on the Beatles film “A Hard Day’s 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 was by far the shortest member of the group — 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.