Multi-talented performer Mickey Jones, who started out as a drummer for artists such as Kenny Rogers and Bob Dylan before segueing into a prolific career as a character actor, has died at the age of 76.

While an exact cause of death hasn't been reported for Jones, his death has been confirmed by his publicist, who, as the Los Angeles Times reports, attributed it to "a long illness." Jones' death brings an end to an impressively eclectic career that saw him present for at least one classic rock milestone — and made him a frequent fixture on television and theater screens.

Born in Houston in 1941, Jones cut his professional teeth in the late '50s, when he landed a job drumming for Trini Lopez — a gig he reacquired years later after graduating in college and realizing he still had the showbiz itch. He branched out during the '60s, drumming for a variety of artists including Dylan, for whom he was behind the kit during the 1966 tour that infamously drew boos from the crowd at the Manchester Free Trade Hall during the electric set; the following year, Jones latched on with Kenny Rogers, who recruited him to drum for his new band the First Edition.

Following the First Edition's mid-'70s split, Jones — who'd acquired the acting bug and had already appeared in the First Edition TV movie The Dream Makers — traded the music industry for Hollywood, where his imposing build made him a natural for parts like "guard number eight," "cowboy musician" and "gunman." He quickly amassed an impressive list of credits, earning a place in the pantheon of actors who become instantly recognizable to film and TV fans even without the luxury of leading roles or a lot of dialogue.

While Jones' filmography included a lot of bit parts, he was also lucky enough to land a number of recurring roles, including the character of Pete Bilker on the long-running hit sitcom Home Improvement. More recently, Jones recurred as Rodney "Hot Rod" Dunham on the Emmy-winning drama Justified, and shared his perspective on his life and career in a 2007 memoir titled That Would Be Me.

"I'd dreamed of acting since I was 8 years old," Jones recalled of his move away from music. "I had reached a point in the music business that I felt like I had done everything there was to do and I wanted to get off the road. I was on an airplane seven days a week, 10 months out of the year for 23 years. I wanted off the road. I knew that nothing would ever happen for me while I was on the road, so in 1976 I made the decision to get off the road and pursue an acting career. I did it at the right time."

 

 

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