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02 Mar 2012

Davy Jones' Monkees bandmates have led the tributes to their "long-time friend and fellow-adventurer" after the British singer died aged 66 in Florida.

Guitarist Mike Nesmith said in a statement that Jones' "spirit and soul live well in my heart among all the lovely people". Bassist Peter Tork said: "Adios to the Manchester Cowboy."

Drummer/singer Mickey Dolenz, speaking to CNN, said the band had left a tour last year "on a huge high note".

The band had huge success in the 1960s.

Manchester-born Jones died in his sleep from a heart attack at his home in Florida, his publicist told the BBC. He was taken to a hospital where staff were unable to resuscitate him.

The Martin County Sheriff's Office said he had complained of breathing troubles early on Wednesday morning.

Dolenz added: "He was the brother I never had and this leaves a gigantic hole in my heart".

Nesmith said he remembered "the healing times that were created for so many including us".

"I have fond memories. I wish him safe travels."

Tork, in his statement, said: "It is with great sadness that I reflect on the sudden passing of my long-time friend and fellow-adventurer, David Jones.

"His talent will be much missed. His gifts will be with us always."

Jones' eldest sister, Hazel Wilkinson, told BBC Radio Lancashire that Jones "was always playing the monkey right from being born".

She said he had recently been on a cruise with his daughter and grandson.

"He was on the I'm In a Boy Band programme on BBC Two at the weekend and everyone was telling me how well he looked," she added.

"He was the youngest member of the family, he was fit and there didn't seem to be anything wrong with him."

The Monkees, often described as the first manufactured pop band, were brought together for a US TV series in 1966 and were marketed as the American answer to The Beatles.

The TV show was popular in both the US and the UK, and the band had four number one albums in America within a 13-month period - as well as nine top 20 hits, including I'm a Believer and Daydream Believer - on which Jones sang lead vocals.

Three of the band's original members - Jones, Dolenz and Tork - reunited together last year to play a series of gigs.

David Thomas Jones was born in 1945 to a railway fitter and a housewife in Manchester and began his career early, appearing on soap opera Coronation Street aged 15, playing Ena Sharples' grandson.

But when his mother died of emphysema in 1960, he left showbusiness to train as a jockey.

Basil Foster, the jockey who acted as his mentor, noticed Jones' skill as a performer and encouraged him to pursue his acting career. He soon had a role in the television police series Z Cars.

A role in the West End production of Oliver! followed and after it transferred to Broadway, he built up a career as an actor and singer before auditioning for The Monkees.

Jones said he had been inspired to pursue music by the Beatles' performance on the Ed Sullivan show in 1964.

"I thought, 'I want to do that, I want all those girls screaming for me,'" he remembered.

"You know, I'd thought I was doing well with 10, 15 people outside the stage door."

Other figures from the music world to have paid tribute include The Smiths' guitarist Johnny Marr - speaking at the NME Awards - who said people would talk about Jones' legacy.

"There are a lot of musicians who have passed away who people don't remember.

"And he was from Manchester as well and he looked good and had good hair."

And The Kaiser Chiefs' Ricky Wilson said The Monkees were "just some guys having fun".

He added: "I think there's something infectious about guys looking like that and having fun. The tunes, you can't argue with them."

Music journalist Paul Gambaccini hailed Jones' "phenomenal" charisma.

"The pop world at that time loved The Beatles and that north-western English sound was something that America wanted, when they put together the so-called Pre-Fab Four," he said, referring to the nickname given to The Monkees.

He said the idea of the music industry putting together a band was previously unheard of.

"There had been individual teen idols who had been literally picked up off the street and groomed to be pop stars, but there had never been a band that was put together."

They had been assembled because two producers had enjoyed Beatles movie A Hard Day's Night, he added.

Radio presenter Dave Lee Travis said: "One of the things that people will probably be thinking about Davy Jones is the fact that he was 66.

"He always looked like a little kid. I think even in his latter years he looked very, very young."

Blur guitarist Graham Coxon said: "I used to love the Monkees."

He noted that, while many of the musicians of that era "seemed to say goodbye early", Jones was "a bit more of a clean-living chap".

"It's very sad," he added.

Jones is survived by his third wife Jessica, his four daughters, Talia Jones, Sarah McFadden, Jessica Cramer and Annabel Jones, and three grandchildren, Harrison and Lauren McFadden and Phoenix Burrows.

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