Musician/actor/producer David Cassidy has performed for some 40 years -- after first breaking into the big time as a singing teen heartthrob on the 1970s ABC show "The Partridge Family."
He returns for a concert as part of the Davis Arts Council's Summer Nights With the Stars series at the Kenley Centennial Amphitheater on Monday, July 2.
"I have looked forward to coming to Utah and playing for fans since the early '70s," said Cassidy, calling from Florida. "I have gone back and been there every few years and am excited to return. I really love the audiences there."
Cassidy promises to deliver all of the hits that made him famous, such as "I Think I Love You," as well as favorites by The Beatles and others. But he also pays special tribute in this program to the music of a fallen friend.
Davy Jones, who held his own heartthrob status as part of the The Monkees TV show and band in the late '60s, was originally slated for the Kenley date. He was struck down unexpectedly by a heart attack at age 66 on Feb. 29.
Cassidy and Jones had performed together several times over the years and were close friends. Thus, after Jones' death, his agent contacted Cassidy and asked for his help to fulfill four dates -- the Kenley show, and three others later this summer in Las Vegas.
"A month after he passed away, we were actually scheduled to do a show together," said Cassidy. "We were working out the details shortly before he died. So when that happened, I was glad to help. Other than having Danny (Bonaduce) open for me a couple times, Davy is the only one I'd shared a stage with. And his fans and my fans are very supportive of each other."
In their previous performances, Jones had always opened for him.
"This time, I said to him, 'Listen, man, why don't I go on first, then you do your set, and I'll join you for the last couple of songs?' I felt weird about always closing for him, because of me being more famous or whatever, because he was insanely talented. And the venues we were going to play were OK with it, and we were set to go. And then he was gone. So when his agent called and asked me to do this, to rehearse a tribute to him, I didn't hesitate."
Knock at the door
A few years younger than Jones, Cassidy was a fan of Jones and his work on The Monkees' television series and albums.
"Those memories are very special to me," said Cassidy. "I can remember driving in a car, as a teenager in L.A., and listening to their music on the radio -- great music. It is an amazing thing to perform this music, have this connection with this music from my early years, before I became a professional myself. The whole thing is really very emotional for me."
Cassidy first met Jones when one day, completely out of the of the blue, Jones knocked on Cassidy's door. This was in the early 1970s, when Cassidy's own fame was in full blush, but after Jones' mega-stardom was waning.
"His career was really in a frustrating place then," said Cassidy. "So he just wanted to come in and feel me out and see what I was about, who I was."
Jones told Cassidy that he had written a song for him.
"Well, I was stunned, flabbergasted, having been a fan myself. I welcomed him in. I think he understood we would have a connection. We did, of course. He understood what I was going through then -- and also knew the kind of frustration I would go through after 'The Partridge Family' went away. "
More than a Monkee
Cassidy said that Jones, a serious actor and musician, struggled with his Monkee identity. The very name of the band was something that chafed.
"That word -- Monkee -- it connotes something kind of silly, or clownish. And of course, they were fun and funny, but they made some great music that still holds up. Individually, I thought they were all talented, but together? Amazing. And they had some comeback shows later that showed what they were really made of. It is a tribute to them that they finally got the respect they deserved.
"But back then, before the comeback happened, Davy was hurting. He told me, 'The Monkees were great, but they ruined my acting career.' He was a very good theatrical actor when he was young -- played on the West End as the Artful Dodger, a fantastic role, and in many others. But he couldn't go back to that, after The Monkees. He was too closely identified with that role. And of course, not too many years after that day he first came to see me, I went through something very similar. His friendship helped me deal with it."
Cassidy and Jones stayed close over the years, sharing an interest in thoroughbred breeding and racing, as well as music and acting. During the last five years, as they performed shows together, they grew even closer.
"I have nothing but great memories of knowing him. He was able to let down a lot of his barriers, and that helped me to do the same. We could share it all."
A combined band
Cassidy has great affection for his touring band, which has been with him for about eight years.
"They are remarkable," he said. "These are not just hired musicians, they are my friend and my family on the road. They are invested in what we do together. You will see this when you watch us. They are all in. It is the best band I have ever played with live."
But after Jones' death, Cassidy decided he would draft one of Jones' longtime band members, David Robicheau, into his own outfit. Robicheau is the husband of Jones' longtime manager, the one who asked Cassidy to do the tribute shows.
"He was Davy's guitar player for 14 years. So I spoke to my guitar player then, an amazing talent who plays with many outfits, and said, 'I know you have other jobs available, but this family, with a 12-year-old son, has just lost all of their income.' We worked it out.
"And he (Robicheau) is brilliant -- having him there with us really adds something to it. And the Monkee fans and Davy fans are really thrilled he is now a part of what I do. It's a whole lot of fun. But then, I really love working with audiences -- I just generally like people. I love connecting with them, and lifting them up and celebrating the now, and also taking people on a musical journey."
THE CASSIDY FILE
Family business: David Bruce Cassidy was born in 1950 to actor Evelyn Ward and singer/actor Jack Cassidy. After the marriage dissolved, David lived with his maternal grandparents from about age 5 to 12. From there, he moved in with his father and stepmother, singer/actress Shirley Jones.
Musically, Cassidy said, he was driven to follow in his family’s footsteps. “My father was a brilliant vocalist – an Irish tenor. And then everyone on his mom’s side, too, were musical. My grandmother’s side all played instruments, and she was a pianist and opera singer, and also taught piano. They said I would sing myself to sleep at night when I was really small — which I remember doing.
“And Shaun (Cassidy, a half-brother) had tons of hits of his own, of course. His voice has just matured and gotten even better, too — a great singer. And his mother, Shirley, was — is — amazing. Now my son is amazing, too.”
Cassidy’s son Beau, 21, leads Beau Cassidy and the Fates. He is currently co-writing songs for an album with a number of heavy hitters in the business.
Early acting: “I became an actor, I think, when I first saw my father act,” he said. “I was really young, and we lived in Manhattan. And I can remember in the cab ride going back home after the play, saying, ‘That’s what I want to do, too.’ And my parents both told me, ‘You can do it, but not until you graduate from high school.’
“So the last two years of my high school experience I spent preparing to do that, working in drama, going to classes — I worked with the L.A. Theater Company as the only non-professional they had at the time. And two weeks after I graduated high school, I moved back to New York. I started studying, and took a part-time job in a mail room in a textile company.”
The Partridge Family: After working onstage in New York, and guest-starring in television series, Cassidy was cast alongside his stepmother in the ABC TV show “The Partridge Family.” The program, which debuted in 1970, followed a widow and her children who form a family pop band. It was loosely based on the real-life family band, The Cowsills.
Cassidy became a huge teen idol as a result of the hit series. He was one of the first personalities to be merchandised and marketed worldwide, and recorded 10 Partridge Family and five solo albums during the show’s five-year run. He continued performing and recording, and scored several other hits post-Partridge, including the adult contemporary hit “Lyin’ to Myself” in 1999.
Cassidy also returned to series television in 2009, alongside brother Patrick and Alexa Vega (“Spy Kids”) in the ABC Family series, “Ruby & the Rockits.” Shaun Cassidy executive-produced and wrote the program and their youngest brother, Ryan, did the set design.
Broadway/touring: Cassidy has performed many roles on Broadway and in touring companies. He has played the West End as well. In 1993, he took over for Donny Osmond in the original Broadway run of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”
In 1994, he broke box-office records in the highly acclaimed production of “Blood Brothers” on Broadway, working for the first time with half-brother Shaun. They also took the play on a North American tour that played to standing-room audiences. “It was a great experience for both of us,” said Cassidy of his lauded work in that drama. “Really for me, it was the highlight of my career in many ways, to play that fine role, and to work with my brother.”
Vegas: Cassidy has worked as a performer and producer in Sin City as well, scoring big first with a revamp of the extravaganza “EFX” in 1996 with sellout shows. He has also earned honors and performance awards for his work in “The Rat Pack Is Back!” and “At the Copa.”
Cassidy debuts his Davy Jones tribute show at the Kenley Centennial Amphitheater on Monday, July 2, with three subsequent tribute appearances in Vegas later this summer.
Sources: Standard-Examiner interview with David Cassidy, www.davidcassidy.com, www.allmusic.com