I am still in complete shock. I did some work with David Jones. We were discussing a little business after his performance at the Summer Pops in 2008 in this photo. Standing in the dirt behind the stage. This business is so glamorous.;-)
Davy Jones and Bonnie Vent 2008 Summer Pops San Diego, CA Photo credit: Leslie Vent
You may have read that Mickey Dolenz seemed to have experienced some sort of premonition that something really bad was going to happen. I applaud him for stating this openly and I am so sorry his feelings were correct.
I was very glad to hear that David was heading out to visit his horses when this tragedy struck. He loved his horses, they were his passion. David had always wanted to be a professional jockey and he certainly was built for it. When you shook his hand you noticed the very strong grip and the callouses. Those callouses were not from playing guitar they were from cleaning horse stalls. I had booked him on Bill O'Reilly's show The O'Reilly Factor to promote inducting The Monkees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He was so gracious thanking me again and again. David personally did not care but the fan base wanted this pushed forward and he agreed to help out.
I know people will ask me if I have heard from him. The answer is YES. He told me not to be upset that he was fine and had done everything that he had wanted to do. He said he felt free. He asked me to post the song When Love Comes Knocking at Your Door as a message back to everyone about the transition process. I was a huge fan growing up. I had many full length posters on my walls. They were all of him. I bought every record ever put out and more than once. I of course recognized the song when it started playing in my head. He wanted these words highlighted:
Throw off the chains that bind
And leave the past behind,
No need to worry anymore
When love comes knocking at your door
Thank you so much David for all the joy you brought to me personally. It was an honor to work with you and even more of an honor to fulfill your request. Happy Trails till we meet again.
How a racing-mad Monkee is repaying a debt of gratitude to a retired Newmarket trainer
Big-hearted Davy Jones is repaying the Newmarket trainer who gave him a chance as an apprentice and set him on the road to stardom.
Racing-mad Jones, the Manchester-born singer who fronted The Monkees, America's answer to the Beatles in the 1960s, has ensured that Basil Foster is looked after in his old age.
Repaying a debt: Davy Jones (left) and Basil Foster
Foster, 85, is now in a care facility in Palm City, Florida, and has his financial needs met by Jones who visits him regularly when he's not touring.
'I treat Davy like a son,' he says. 'He is just like a son to me. He's looked after me for a long time and I'm very grateful to him.'
Jones, in turn, feels indebted to Foster because if it wasn't for him the baby-faced singer may not have become a member of the world's first manufactured 'boy band' and Daydream Believer and Last Train To Clarksville may never have been hits.
Hey, hey, we're The Monkees: (L to R) Peter Tork, Davy Jones, Mike Nesmith and Mickey Dolenz
'He was like a second father to me,' insists Jones, 65, who refers to his 'well-read mentor, who can speak four languages' as 'The Guv'nor'.
'I've always confided in him and tried to do right by him. He lived in one of my homes in Florida and is now in this care facility.
'He's as stubborn as ever, but the staff here are excellent. They take good care of him and keep an eye on him, and I take him out to see the horses at the barn when I can. He's still showing me how to long-rein horses, still telling me what to do.'
Training day: Foster (right) set Jones (left) on the way to stardom
The pair first met 50 years ago and Jones said: 'My father used to take me to Manchester racecourse and suggested that when I left school, because I didn't have the height, the size or capacity to do a carpentry or plumbing apprenticeship, I should try racing.
'We actually contacted the Manchester Evening News who put us in touch with Basil in Newmarket.'
By then, Jones's acting talent had already begun to show and he'd appeared briefly in a 1961 episode of Coronation Street, playing Colin Lomax, the grandson of Ena Sharples, But Jones also wanted to star on the Turf.
Bob Hop beneficiary: Jeremy Glover got Jones' cast-offs
'I spent six weeks with Basil after I'd left school earlier than I should have done, in December 1961, and went to work for him as an apprentice,' he recalls.
'I was galloping up Warren Hill after only a few weeks and loving every minute of it. Being a cocky kid, I even went into the stable lads boxing championship. I got a good walloping from Taffy Thomas – that was an awakening – and now I can honestly say that I'm all mouth and trousers!'
Former trainer Jeremy Glover was also apprenticed to Foster at that time and remembers Jones was never backward at coming forward.
Glover recalled: 'We lived in a caravan up the yard for six months. It was evident that Davy was always going to be a star.
'We used to go down to the Bob Hop at the Memorial Hall in St Mary's Square. It was a shilling to get in and Davy was always up on stage singing. He used to attract the girls and I used to get his cast-offs.
'He wasn't a great judge though, because his cast-offs were invariably better looking!'
It was clear to all, including fellow apprentices Keith Beason (now a saddle-maker in Tampa) and Gary Cooper (who went on to become the leading jockey in Ohio for many years), that the footlights rather than furlongs would be the more beneficial career path for their young friend, and they were proved right.
Jones said: 'After four or five months, a theatrical agent who knew Basil spent the day shooting with us. In the car on the way home Basil mentioned that I was in showbusiness. I had that confidence and had spent all day cracking jokes.'
Furlongs and footlights: Racing will always be a mistress to Jones
He clearly created quite an impression. When the agent returned, Jones told the trainer that a London show was looking for someone to play The Artful Dodger in a production of Oliver! Foster suggested his young apprentice should try for the part.
'He was always a good rider,' Foster recalls, 'and there is no question he would have made a good jockey.
'But I didn't think he would have the same success that he would have in showbusiness because he was so talented. So I pushed him that way and I'm proud of what he achieved. He's a great lad.'
Jones added: 'He insisted I went, and I just cried. I wanted to be a jockey. But he said "You're going! Come back when you're famous".'
Millions of swooning teenage girls should be forever thankful for Foster's prescience.
Heady brew: Nesmith, Tork, Jones and Dolenz out-sold the Beatles in 1967
Oliver! proved a hit and soon transferred to Broadway, and in 1966 TheMonkees were created by music executives looking to launch an act on American TV.
Dubbed the "Pre-Fab Four" since they were so clearly modelled on the Beatles, The Monkees – Peter Tork, Mickey Dolenz, Michael Nesmith and Jones – sold 50 million records.
In 1967 they outsold the Beatles and the Rolling Stones combined.
Between 1966 and 1970, The Monkees released 121 songs on nine albums and eight non-LP singles. But they split after nine top 40 hits.
Still Monkeying around: Jones, Foster and Pepi the dog
Though Jones always was a believer in following his daydreams, he still has regrets.
He admitted: 'I made one huge mistake. When The Monkees finished in 1969/70, I should have got away from Hollywood and got back into the racing game. Instead I waited another 10 years. Everyone makes mistakes in life and for me that was the biggest.'
Jones purchased Grenville Hall near Portsmouth and built a 32-box facility. He eventually took out an amateur rider's licence and had his first ride at Newbury for trainer Toby Balding.
'Man, it was exciting,' he said. 'I also had a few races over hurdles, but I was riding against what I'd call "professional" amateurs – and they used to gang up on me. There were hard men like Tim Thomson Jones and Jim Wilson and I once broke my hand in a fall in a two-and-a-half mile hurdle.'
However, for all the hit records and adulation that came his way, he managed to achieve a long-held ambition on February 1, 1996.
Mr Davy Jones, sporting a beard and claiming 5lb, rode Digpast to victory in the one-mile Ontario Amateur Riders' Handicap at Lingfield.
Owned by his daughter Sarah and trained by Roland O'Sullivan, Jones timed his run to perfection on the hard-pulling six-year-old to score by two-and-a-half lengths from Four Of Spades.
Drive position: Foster has been taken care of by Jones for years
'It was a dream,' said Jones. 'I'd wanted to ride a winner since I was a kid and I was fortunate enough to realise that dream.
'The racing bug is never going to go away. It's like the Mafia. I've still got my first pair of riding breeches, which I showed Basil the other day. He was shocked I'd still got them but I remember him sending me down Newmarket High Street to buy them like it was yesterday.
Dream realised: Jones fulfilled an ambition when riding Digpast to victory at Lingfield
'I have a couple of horses, one a beautiful chestnut colt by Cat Thief, who is just turning two. He's called Bazfoster, named after Basil. I'd love to ship him to England, box him up and run him at Newbury or Cheltenham, just so people can remember Basil Foster. That would be so great.
'We've got another couple coming through; Manchester Boy and Choarse (pronounced Sea Horse) and you hope either of them could be something special. I keep dreaming, like all owners.'
Thanks to Jones and his agent Bobbi Boyce, Foster was recently reunited with his sister, Doreen Drabble, after several years.
She lives in Wales and while neither are now able to travel, Jones hopes that she will be able to see his namesake run in England.
Doncaster-born Foster started his training career in 1955 at Rectory Farm in Enfield before moving to Newmarket's Lansdown House, which was renamed Holland House in tribute to his first winner, Joe Holland.
Foster 'can't remember' the number of winners he had at Newmarket, or later at Lambourn and Middleham, before emigrating and training in Canada and later in Florida, but he says: 'I know I had a good time and trained a lot of winners, mainly over jumps.
Reunited: Foster and his sister, Doreen Drabble
'I never won many big races, we only had about 25 horses, but won a few nice handicaps with horses like Genie Michelle who won at Ascot, and we had a horse that finished third in the Lincoln one year.
'I had a lot of friends at Newmarket and used to knock around with (the late trainer) Bernard Van Cutsem. They were good times and there were some good people around.'
At least one of those good men is still a constant.
Though he remains a pop icon, Davy Jones continues to live up to a line from Daydream Believer – 'You once thought of me as a white knight on a steed...'
And for that, one former Newmarket trainer is eternally grateful.