Mickey Jones, who began his career as a drummer, touring with Bob Dylan and recording with Kenny Rogers, before becoming a character actor in movies and on television shows like “Home Improvement” and “Justified,” died on Wednesday. He was 76.
His death was announced by his publicist, Cherry Hepburn, who did not specify the cause or say where he died.
Mr. Jones was born on June 10, 1941, in Houston to Edward Jones, an officer in the Navy, and the former Frances Marie Vieregge. He became a professional musician as a teenager, working with Trini Lopez, Johnny Rivers, Mr. Rogers’s band the First Edition and, most notably, Mr. Dylan, before leaving music for acting in the mid-1970s.
He said in an interview with the website cultfilmfreak.com that he had dreamed of being an actor since he was 8 years old but did not pursue acting as a career until he got “tired of going to the airport every day on concert tours.”
“I just had to get off the road,” he added, “so I gave up a great career to try and get in a business that I loved, but starting at the bottom.”
Big and bearded, he was usually cast in small but memorable roles as bikers, tough guys or good old boys. His numerous television credits included “The Dukes of Hazzard,” “Charlie’s Angels,” “The Rockford Files,” “The Incredible Hulk” and “M*A*S*H.” His most recent television role of note was as a pot dealer in several episodes of the crime drama “Justified” on the FX channel.
He was also seen in “National Lampoon’s Vacation” (1983), “Starman” (1984), “Total Recall” (1990), “Sling Blade” (1996) and many other movies.
On “Home Improvement,” the hit 1990s sitcom starring Tim Allen, Mr. Jones had a recurring role as Pete Bilker, a construction worker. The part gave him the opportunity to relive his early performing days: His character played a makeshift drum kit in a construction-company band whose members used the tools of their trade as instruments.
Mr. Jones was the drummer on Mr. Dylan’s storied 1966 world tour. It was Mr. Dylan’s first with an electric band, and Mr. Jones had a close-up view of audiences divided between cheering and booing Mr. Dylan’s new direction. The other four musicians on that tour — Robbie Robertson, Rick Danko, Richard Manuel and Garth Hudson — would go on to achieve fame as the Band, with Levon Helm, whom Mr. Jones had temporarily replaced, returning as the drummer.
In 2007, Mr. Jones published his autobiography, “That Would Be Me: Rock & Roll Survivor to Hollywood Actor.” The title was his character’s catchphrase on “Home Improvement.”
He is survived by his wife, the former Phyllis Jean Starr, with whom he lived in Simi Valley, Calif., as well as a number of children and grandchildren. A sister, Cheryl, died in 2006.
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