Annabel Jones was still numb with shock when what should have been a routine petrol stop took a surreal turn.
Just a few hours earlier she’d received a phone call from her sister, Sarah, in America. Their beloved dad – forever remembered by the rest of the world as the ever-youthful Davy Jones, musician, child star and lead singer with ’60s super-group The Monkees – had died.
As his youngest daughter made her way from London to the family home in Hampshire, she pulled into a garage forecourt and saw her dad’s face staring back at her from the front cover of every national newspaper.
For 24-year-old Annabel, it was a very public outpouring at a time of intense personal grief.
‘I never thought about the public side of losing dad,’ she says. ‘I was absolutely flabbergasted by that.
‘Dad was so self-deprecating, he was the most humble guy ever. He wouldn’t have expected that. I think that’s why we were so shocked. If we’d told dad he would never have believed it either.
‘We were blown over by it, it cushioned the blow. It was like falling from a great height and landing on a feather pillow.
‘All these people were calling and fans were telling us all the things he’d done for them. It made me feel like I was getting a big hug.’
She adds: ‘When I’m feeling bad and I think about all that love and support that’s there it really does make it easier.
‘Some people might have found the public side of things difficult, but I’ve found it a help.’
Davy was just 66 when he passed away at his home in Florida on February 29. With his boyish good looks and obvious talent, being an entertainer brought him fame and fortune. But in order to make his way in the world, young Davy had needed to overcome an impoverished background.
Annabel believes it was her dad’s humble beginnings that kept him grounded, winning him the loyalty of fans long after The Monkees’ heyday had passed.
But although the outpouring of grief from fans was a comfort, for his family, nothing could take away the trauma of losing him so suddenly.
‘It was a real shock,’ adds Annabel. ‘He’d been racing around the track doing what he always did in the morning, riding the horses.
‘He got off his horse, said he didn’t feel too well, went and sat in the car he’d always wanted – he’d just bought a Thunderbird – and he had a heart attack.
‘Dad didn’t want to get old. If he could have chosen a way to go that would have been it.
‘It really was so shocking. Sarah called me and my heart has never beaten so hard. I could feel my heart coming out of my chest.
‘I’m really starting to miss him now. There were lengths of time when I wouldn’t see him for a year but we would talk and write letters. It’s got to the point now when I realise he’s gone.
‘I always knew he was on the earth somewhere, roaming around, doing his thing, I could picture that. But we’re not sharing the same sky anymore and that’s starting to sink in.’
Davy married Anita Pollinger in 1981 and the couple had daughters Annabel and Jessica together before they divorced in 1996. The singer also had daughters Sarah and Talia from his first marriage.
Anita and Davy bought Grenville Hall, in Droxford, together and that’s the place Annabel will always cherish as the family home. A passionate horseman, Davy even set up his own racing yard at Grenville.
This Christmas, Annabel will throw open the hall doors for a festive fair (see panel) and as she sits at the large kitchen table, memories of the time she spent with her dad here come flooding back.
‘One day he told me we were going to build a camp at the bottom of the field where there was a kiln,’ she remembers.
‘I was so excited. I packed a bag with bread and a tin of beans but I hadn’t packed a tin opener.
‘He said “Don’t worry, I’ve got an axe”. He prised open the tin and the beans exploded everywhere.
‘We could have gone back to the house for a tin opener but he wanted it to be a mini adventure. The toast was burnt but we ate the beans on toast and I loved the whole experience.
‘Another memory I have is of us coming back from a ride. He used to plop us on the back of these huge horses. We were tiny little girls – I must have only been about five or six.
‘There we were bumping along for miles. When we got home we had to put our feet and hands in warm water because we were so cold. He’d take us out for long walks, he loved being outdoors and we’d do normal stuff.’
Although Annabel would tour with her dad, the fact he was famous didn’t really hit home until she was in her 20s.
‘I don’t know what it’s like for other kids who have parents who are well known but for me, sharing my dad has never been a major thing, it’s always been very joyful.
‘Of course there were times when I wondered how he dealt with it but he’d never grumble. I remember this one time we were on a plane and someone woke him up to ask for an autograph. I remember being utterly shocked by that but he was completely fine.
‘He was so good with things like that. He was so appreciative of his fans because he really understood. That’s why he was where he was and that’s something he passed on to us. It was never a burden.’
When he died, Davy left behind 14 horses he’d rescued or taken in for one reason or another. His daughters joined forces to set up the Davy Jones Equine Memorial Fund to raise enough money for the animals to be rehomed and cared for.
Now a singer/songwriter herself, Annabel also took to the stage at a memorial gig at BB King’s club in New York in March.
‘All dad’s band members and a couple of The Monkees were there,’ she explains.
‘We were there for hours, playing music and talking. The whole night was very emotional. All of the proceeds went to the horses’ fund and we raised $11,000.’
She adds: ‘It was difficult but it was also really important because dad’s band members – his touring band that he played with and who we grew up with – were all there and that was my chance to see them. I didn’t go to the funeral in America so that was my moment with them.
‘Seeing dad on stage was always my happiest times. I was so happy watching him. He was such a good entertainer and such a good showman.
‘We would tour with him when we were children and I’d never get bored watching him. It was definitely inspiring to watch him and his band and that definitely gave me a taste for it, we definitely shared that.’
Annabel’s band, Bluebell, are in the middle of making their first EP and hope to head out on tour.
Although Davy always wanted Annabel to use his connections to her advantage, she was never interested in trading on the famous name.
That sometimes caused friction between her and Davy but she believes he’d accepted her decision to go it alone before his death.
‘I’m so proud of dad, he was an inspiration to me,’ adds Annabel.
‘He really did build on nothing. He did it his way and he worked so hard. How could I not be proud of that?
‘In the last year of his life we came to an understanding because he could see that I was making my own way. He could see I had that thing he had – that love for it.’
GRENVILLE HALL OPENS FOR FESTIVE FAIR
Coming to terms with her dad’s death has been hard for Annabel.
So to help her through the Christmas period, she’s thrown herself into a project she knows Davy would have liked.
On Sunday, December 2, the doors of Grenville Hall will be thrown open for a Christmas fair from 10am until 6pm.
It will be free to attend and attractions will include stalls, a visit from Santa, mince pies and music.
‘We just had this idea and I got carried away with it,’ explains Annabel.
‘I love Christmas so much and I just thought it would be a really nice thing to do to make Christmas nicer.
‘We’ve got the Hampshire Youth Band coming and I can’t believe they said yes.
‘Dad was a child star, he came from a deprived area and his youth group was his light in the dark and gave him all his training. It all started with a youth group and that was something he was so passionate about.
‘That was something I really wanted to build on. I would love to turn the barn into a studio. That’s my dream. We’ve got all this room to do things and I’d like to show the community this is a great place to have an event and to get more people involved.’
She adds: ‘I just wanted to do something that’s happy. When you’re grieving it’s good to be busy and keep living life.
‘It’s like stepping on to a conveyor belt – everyone else is moving and life is carrying on and you’ve just got to get on. That’s why I’ve thrown myself into this head-first.
‘Mum and dad bought this house together. When I first came back after he’d died I did feel weird. Even though he hadn’t lived here for years I could feel him here.’