Born in Smithon, PA, on March 31, 1934, Jones was named for Shirley Temple and started singing as a child. She made her Broadway debut as a nurse in Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific and her critically acclaimed movie debut in the lead role of Laurey in the team's Oklahoma! (1955), playing opposite her childhood idol Gordon MacRae. Jones and MacRae reteamed for the film version of the Rodgers/Hammerstein Carousel (1956). After her triumph in Elmer Gantry, Jones returned to the musical form as Marian the Librarian in The Music Man (1962).
With the movie musical a dying art, Jones switched to straight romantic comedy, playing opposite Gig Young in A Ticklish Affair (1963), Glenn Ford in The Courtship of Eddie's Father (1963) and Marlon Brando in Bedtime Story (1964). She tried black comedy -- and a black wig -- in The Secret of My Success (1965), playing a Latin American revolutionary named Marigold Marado!
Jones also appeared regularly in concerts, TV variety shows and nightclubs. She had a particular success with the television series The Partridge Family (1970-74), which co-starred David Cassidy, her stepson from her first marriage to singer Jack Cassidy. Married since 1977 to comic Marty Ingels, Jones continues to appear on television and in feature films, most recently Bathroom Boy (2004).