(Reuters) – Davy Jones, former lead singer of the 1960s made-for-television pop band The Monkees, died on Wednesday after suffering a heart attack in Florida, according to his longtime publicist. He was 66.
Jones’ death was confirmed by Christine Weekes, administrative manager for the medical examiner’s office in Fort Pierce, Florida, near the Martin Memorial Hospital South where the performer had been taken.
His publicist, Helen Kensick, said Jones died of a heart attack in Indiantown, Florida, but she had no further details.
Jones, born in Manchester, England, became the principal teen idol of the rock quartet featured on the NBC comedy series “The Monkees,” which was inspired in part by the Beatles film “A Hard Day’s Night” and ran for two seasons from the fall of 1966 to August of 1968.
Although not allowed to play their own instruments on their early records, Jones and his three cohorts — Micky Dolenz, Mike Nesmith and Peter Tork — had several hits that sold millions of copies, including “Last Train to Clarksville” and “I’m a Believer.”
Jones got his start as a young actor, at the age of 11, on the British soap opera “Coronation Street” before landing a role as the Artful Dodger in a West End production of “Oliver!” He went on to originate that role for the Broadway production and earned a Tony nomination.
But Jones gained stardom after answering a casting call for a new TV series being created about the zany misadventures of four Beatles-like rock musicians called the Monkees. Two members of the group, Nesmith and Tork, were actual musicians with performing and recording experience, while Jones and Dolenz were primarily actors who more or less dabbled in music.
Although disparaged by critics as the “Pre-Fab Four” for the manufactured way in which the band came together, the group proved to be adept performers who were eventually given control over their own recordings.
The TV series, introduced by its catchy theme, “Hey, Hey, We’re the Monkees,” debuted as an immediate ratings hit weeks after the group’s first single, “Last Train to Clarksville,” had topped the pop charts.
The group collaborated early on with some of the major songwriters and session musicians of the day, including Neil Diamond, Carole King, Glen Campbell and Hal Blaine.
The self-titled first LP topped the album charts that October, and the popularity of the group generated a wave of merchandising, including toys, games and lunchboxes. But their first and only feature film, “Head,” was a box-office flop.
After their fifth album, the group began to splinter, releasing two more albums as a trio without Tork and one last LP as a duo following Nesmith’s exit in 1969.
(Additional reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy and Christine Kearney; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Greg McCune)