Nancy Carol Lewis Jones, a publicist for groundbreaking classic rock acts The Who, Jimi Hendrix, the Rolling Stones and Joe Cocker before becoming Monty Python’s American manager during the group’s film heyday of Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Life of Brian, died December 20, 2019 in New York City after a short illness.
Her death was announced by New York theatrical publicist Adrian Bryan-Brown.
Raised in Detroit by a religiously strict father – he burned her record collection after she sneaked out of the house to watch Elvis Presley’s Ed Sullivan appearance on a friend’s television – Jones became enamored of the British Invasion music scene after reviewing The Dave Clark Five for her college newspaper.
After landing a post-college job at a London music magazine, Jones was approached by the now-legendary Chris Stamp and Kit Lambert, co-managers of The Who, and hired as director of public relations for their management company and record label Track Records.
“She provided a civilizing and calming sense of sanity that balanced their lunacy and audacity,” The Who’s Pete Townshend has said. “She worked valiantly in the first ten years of The Who’s unfolding career, then quietly in the background. Without her I am certain we would not have done so well.”
In addition to The Who, Jones promoted Jimi Hendrix, Marsha Hunt, Thunderclap Newman, and The Crazy World of Arthur Brown before moving to New York in 1967 to set up an American office for The Who. She coordinated the group’s first U.S. Tour.
During a subsequent, brief stint at publicity firm Rogers, Cowan and Brenner, Jones added The Rolling Stones, The Doors, The Supremes, Jefferson Airplane and others to her promotional efforts. She then joined the London promotions staff of Island Records, handling such artists as Traffic, Joe Cocker, Jimmy Cliff, and Free.
By 1969, though, she was back with Track Records as General Manager for The Who’s American operation, negotiating to present the band’s rock opera Tommy at New York’s Metropolitan Opera House in June 1970. At Buddah Records in 1971, Jones arranged a distribution deal with the British label Charisma Records, launching the band Genesis in the U.S.
“Her quiet way, her determination, armed with that chuckle, would allow her to make many wonderful things happen for us, at a time when we most needed it,” said original Genesis singer Peter Gabriel.
In the same distribution deal, Buddah acquired two albums by the little-known (in the U.S. anyway) Monty Python’s Flying Circus comedy group, and Jones was determined to break the troupe into the FM radio circuit and American broadcasting. She became Monty Python’s American manager and worked to make successes of Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Life of Brian.
In 1975-76, Jones led the troupe’s successful legal efforts against the ABC network for severely editing episodes of Monty Python’s Flying Circus; the lawsuit, Gilliam v. American Broadcasting, is considered a landmark case in protecting the copyrights of writers/performers.
Her association with Monty Python changed her personal life as well as her professional career: During the filming of 1983’s The Meaning of Life, she met cast member Simon Jones. She married the actor that year, and they later had a son, Timothy. Both husband and son survive her.
Donations in Jones’ memory can be made to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
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