I’m a Monkees fan by osmosis. My older sister loved them, I shared a bedroom with her, she controlled the record player, therefore I heard every one of their albums over and over and over again. It was understood that Davy would one day be my brother-in-law (although I was young enough that I thought that was really weird). Eventually--as it almost always happens--my sister moved on to more “suitable” boyfriend material and we both forgot about that mad crush of hers.
When I reached adulthood, I knew I loved ‘60s pop, and specifically the music that came out of the Brill Building. That’s a natural path (back) to the Monkees. Over time I bought all the CDs, including the “missing links” (i.e., outtakes) CDs. When they reunited (well, almost) for the 20th anniversary tour I insisted my sister go with me. We stood on our seats and screamed like we were 12. It was one of the most fun concerts I’ve ever attended.
When they toured again (10 years later?) we went again, this time with my friend Iris. Again we screamed, and laughed, and sang along. The shows didn’t make us feel young so much as carefree. The Monkees had started before we (as kids) were even aware of the Vietnam War. The year they ended, antiwar protests had become common. It was a totally different world.
Last week the world changed again. A friend emailed me with the subject line “Davey Jones” (yes, she spelled it wrong). I thought she was going to tell me he was scheduled to make another appearance at Bland Park (outside Altoona) this summer, where her sister-in-law and nieces had once had lunch with him. Instead she broke the news that he had died. I took it harder than my sister did. I’m sure everyone else thought the same things my sister and I said: he was the youngest, he just did a rock-n-roll cruise, he couldn’t have gone before we met him, how could it be?
Usually when a celebrity dies, thoughts of attending the funeral or memorial service pass with a “I wish I could be there.” I knew that Davy’s home was in Beavertown, just an hour north of me. But he had a home in Florida as well, where he was when he died, and his wife was not from Pennsylvania. Then Altoona-area DJ Michael Shoenfelt got this idea in his head to host a memorial for Davy—for Davy’s fans—in Beavertown. With help from the mayor and the town’s fire and police, some volunteer musicians, and a whole lot of good vibes, the Davy Jones Memorial was held.
I may have missed a chance to meet Davy, but I didn’t miss the memorial. Iris and I drove up for a day that was sunny and cold, funny and sad. The musicians were great—playing both Monkees’ and Davy’s solo songs, riffing quite well on “Gonna Buy Me a Dog” and bringing a tear with “I Wanna Be Free.” Two adorable teens in mod clothes wandered through the crowd. One of them, Alexandra, brought the biggest laugh of the day when she said that she discovered the Monkees when a teacher said, “If you like the Beatles, you’ll really like the Monkees.”
Notes from Peter and Micky and Alan Green (Davy’s collaborator on his autobiography) were read. Some of the best stories came from the locals—Davy riding his horse to the recording studio, needing a truck to haul furniture, or getting his house rewired. Over and over again they said what a regular guy he was, except that he had strangers coming to his door just to meet him.
After the program was over, the crowd walked through town to the church Davy had planned to convert into a museum. When I had first heard about his plans, I was writing my first book on small museums. I tried to contact him about it, but didn’t hear anything. Then he stopped mentioning it in interviews and I thought that like so many others he had come to realize the commitment a small museum takes. Turns out it was just taking a while. He had the church renovated, he was collecting items. I don’t know what will happen now, but I hope someone else can carry it through.
Iris and I walked back to the fairgrounds, put our chairs in the car, and followed the crowd to Davy’s house. The front yard was in the midst of getting landscaped. We saw Christmas lights hanging in a tree at the end of the driveway. Someone behind me said to his companions, “You know how he put up Christmas lights? He took them out of the package and threw them up in the tree and said, ‘Plug 'em in.’” That's exactly what it looked like.
Again and again I heard people say that the area around Beavertown reminded Davy of England, but what I saw yesterday was the embrace of a Central Pennsylvania community. This was the kind of memorial celebrities should hope is given for them. It was funny, tearful, loving, full of thanks for the gifts shared and good wishes for the journey he is now on.
Note: People who want the commemorative candy bar (partial proceeds to the Beavertown Historical Society) should email firstname.lastname@example.org and put “Davy Jones” in the subject line for order details. Davy’s family requested donations be made to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.