It was the winter of 1968 and aside from the Beatles, nothing on earth was bigger than The Monkees. In my house, however, The Monkees were everything. I didn’t really catch up to how life-changing The Beatles were until later. I think I knew the words to “Daydream Believer” and “I’m Not Your Steppin’ Stone” before I could speak in complete sentences. I….freaking….LOVED…The Monkees. I watched their show on TV every Saturday and begged my parents to buy me every record. One Christmas I even got the Matchbox car version of the Monkeemobile.
My father was friends with a guy in Chicago who did radio promotion, and that winter of ’68 he called my dad and said, “Isn’t your son a huge Monkees fan? I’m doing a radio event with them tomorrow. Would he want to meet them?” So my dad, God bless him, got me out of my first grade class and brought me downtown to the station. Peter Tork had just left the group but the other three were performing a concert the next night and doing radio to promote the show. I walked down a hallway and spotted Mike Nesmith first. My heart pounded a little faster. He was busy signing album covers but squeaked out, “Hey, kid,” with a smile. Around the corner came Mickey Dolenz, who actually spent 90 seconds talking to me and was very friendly. This was exciting for me, too, but I recall that I looked right at Mickey and said, “Where’s Davy?”
Davy Jones was, aside from Elvis, my boyhood hero. I loved The Monkees, yes….but it was all about Davy. He was so cool. His clothes, his moves, his voice, and he ALWAYS got the girl. I wanted to meet Davy more than anything.
You know that thing about meeting your heroes and how it can often be a total letdown? This was the polar opposite. The radio guy brought me into another room at the station and there sat Davy Jones, alone. He was only about 5′ 4 but when he stood up he seemed 6′ 6. He was handsome and had this big smile on his face. This was one of the most famous people on the planet and it was just me and him. He’d been told I was a big fan (how unique!) and he asked me lots of questions about myself and my family and what I liked at school, etc. Davy sat and talked to me for about 15 minutes. He drew a picture on a piece of paper and signed it for me, and put his arm around me as I left, giving me a hug.
He couldn’t have been more who I wanted him to be in that moment.
About 3 years ago I played a show in Pennsylvania outside Philly. I landed at a regional airport and was at baggage claim waiting for my bag, and one of the eleven people standing there waiting with me…was Davy Jones. He was as handsome as ever. I walked up to him and said, “Excuse me, Mr. Jones?” He looked at me and got this huge smile and before I could say another word he said, “Wow! Richard Marx!!! Man, I love your stuff!!!” I forced my brain to put that on hold and I said, “I’m so glad to see you because I have a story for you.” I told him every detail about how sweet and kind he’d been to me 40 years before, and he was genuinely happy to hear it. He told me about his kids and the farm he lived on in Pennsylvania and that he was all about horses. (I remembered he’d almost become a professional jockey in his youth.) And he said he still loved to perform. He said, “We’ve just got to keep doing it, right, man? It’s who we are.”
We said goodbye and that we both hoped we’d meet again. Hearing of his passing today from a heart attack has made me so sad, but so grateful to have a story like this about him to share. Just a few months before I met him in 1968 I was in my first grade class and it was “Show and Tell” time. The teacher called on me even though I wasn’t volunteering, and I said I didn’t have anything for her. She said, “Your parents told me you that you like to sing. Will you sing a song for the class?” I didn’t want to, but my legs somehow got my body to the front of the group, and everyone got quiet. I was brutally nervous and wasn’t even sure what to do. And then I just went with the one song I knew by heart: “I Want To Be Free” by The Monkees, sung by Davy Jones. It was the very first song I ever sang in front of anyone. I haven’t sung it since that day but I wanted to sing it today…for Davy.
God rest his sweet and kind soul.