APRIL - JULY 1964
Davie Jones: Vocals, Tenor Saxophone
George Underwood: Rhythm Guitar, Harmonica, Vocals
Roger Bluck: Lead Guitar
Dave "Frank" Howard: Bass
Bob Allen: Drums
Liza Jane | Got My Mojo Working | Hoochie Coochie Man | Louie, Louie Go Home | Can I Get A Witness
David was still working as a commercial artist at Nevundy-Hurst when he and George Underwood formed their next band. Continuing to experiment with stage names, David briefly considered calling the group Tom Jones and the Jonahs (the release of "It's Not Unusual", and the meteoric rise of its then unknown singer, lay several months in the future) before settling instead on Davie Jones and the King Bees. The name derived from the Louisiana blues singer Slim Harpo's composition "I'm A King Bee", then recently covered on The Rolling Stones' debut album. Legend has it that David met the three members while waiting to have his hair cut. "Before you could say 'short back and sides', they decided to join forces," chirped the band's first press release. "I can't actually remember their names," David confessed in 1993. "They were from North London and were virtually professional. Quite scary." Nevertheless, he and George soon assumed control: "We inflicted our tastes on the others," Underwood later said.
In the spring of 1964 David made his first overtures to a potential manager. With a little help from his father, he wrote a letter to the wealthy washing-machine entrepreneur John Bloom to suggest that he might like to consider becoming the next Brian Epstein, with the King Bees his Beatles. Impressed by David's audacity but hardly knowledgeable about the music business, Bloom passed the letter on to his friend Leslie Conn, then manager of the Denmark Street publishing company Melcher Music. Conn secured The King Bees a gig at Bloom's wedding anniversary party at the Jack Of Clubs in Brewer Street, Soho, where the guests included Adam Faith and Lance Percival. It was not a success. "It was all a bit embarrassing," David recalled years later. "The party was very posh, with many guests in evening dress, and we all turned up in out T-shirts and jeans, ready to play rhythm & blues." Conn later said that "The noise was deafening...people had their hands over their ears." Apparently the band got through two numbers before Bloom yelled, "Get 'em off! They're ruining my party!"
As it turned out, the band's failure to secure John Bloom's patronage was probably a blessing in disguise. When David wrote his letter, Bloom was one of Britain's best-known millionaire businessmen: a familiar face on television, he was 1964's equivalent of Alan Sugar or one of the Dragon's Den stars. However, behind the scenes Bloom was already in trouble, and just a few weeks after The King Bees ruined his party, his business empire collapsed in a headline-making scandal from which Bloom, subsequently declared bankrupt and widely suspected of malpractice, never fully recovered.
Meanwhile, The King Bees' audition with Decca was more successful and led soon afterwards to the recording of "Liza Jane". Another of Conn's contacts, the music publisher Dick James, was reportedly unimpressed by young Davie Jones but nonetheless agreed to publish "Liza Jane". At around the same time Conn introduced David to another of his protégés, Mark Feld - the future Marc Bolan. "We met each other firstly painting the wall of our then manager's office," David recalled in 1999. "Hello, who are you?" "I'm Mark, man." "Hi, what do you do?" "I'm a singer." "Oh yeah? So am I. Are you a Mod?" "Yeah, I'm King Mod. Your shoes are crap." "Well, you're short." So we became really close friends."
David would later endorse Bolan's opinion of his sartorial tastes at the time. "I've always hated the way I looked when I was with The King Bees," he confessed in 2002. "It was that coalman's jacket I used to wear, the leather kind of waistcoaty affair. It was very long and it had no sleeves. It was what coalmen used to wear to put their sacks over their backs, but I thought it was an interesting fashion item! My hair was none too clever either."
With the release of "Liza Jane" in June 1964, David somewhat precipitately left his job at the art studio (it's possible that he was fired; he later described it as "a bust-up"), and threw his enthusiasm behind the Dick James Organisation's publicity campaign: "Davie's favourite vocalists are Little Richard, Bob Dylan and John Lee Hooker," proclaimed the press release. "He dislikes Adam's apples, and lists as his interests baseball, American football and collecting boots. A handsome six footer with a warm and engaging personality, Davie Jones has all it takes to get to the showbusiness heights, including talent." To promote the single, Conn secured The King Bees a succession of live engagements, notably clocking up David's first appearances on television, reacting to the Juke Box Jury's verdict on "Liza Jane" on June 6th before going on to perform the song for Ready, Steady, Go! on June 19th and The Beat Room on July 27th.
"We were a very typical Americanised London rhythm and blues outfit," David later recalled. "We were quite influenced by The Downliners Sect and we did a lot of pub work." However, the chart failure of "Liza Jane" spelled the end of his involvement with the band. "The King Bees weren't very good, and we weren't going anywhere," admitted Underwood many years later. "We weren't blues people. We didn't want someone who could finger-pick like Chet Atkins; we wanted dirt and distortion." Without David, The King Bees released another unsuccessful single, "You're Holding Me Down", before splitting.
Meanwhile, David's band allegiances were once again overlapping. By the time The King Bees performed "Liza Jane" on The Beat Room in late July, Leslie Conn had already introduced their singer to another act on his books: a six-piece Kentish group tipped to be in the vanguard of "the Medway Beat". Davie Jones had found his next band.