Fifty years of Mann made hits and super group still going strong

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With hits like Doo Wah Diddy Diddy, Mighty Quinn and Pretty Flamingo, Manfred Mann was almost ever-present in the charts from January 1964 to July 1969.

The three aforementioned hits were all chart-toppers (the first also topping the US charts), and they also garnered an impressive tally of ten Top Ten hits.

The band was originally formed as The Mann-Hugg Blues Band and after the inclusion of Paul Jones on vocals, their record company named them Manfred Mann after their South African-born keyboard player.

Their first hit was 5-4-3-2-1, a song especially written as the theme to the music show Ready Steady Go.

Mike Vickers and Tom McGuinness joined and the band was complete.

McGuinness switched from bass to guitar in 1966, and another change was the departure of Paul Jones for a successful solo career and the introduction of Mike D’Abo.

In fact, Jones had announced his intention to leave in 1965 but “being the gentleman he is”, says Tom McGuinness, “said he wouldn’t leave until we had sorted out a replacement.”

The band split in 1969; Manfred Mann formed Manfred Mann’s Earthband and the other band members went on to successful solo careers.

Tom McGuinness formed McGuinness Flint with drummer Hughie Flint.

The band also included the songwriting partnership of Benny Gallagher and Graham Lyle and they had hits with When I’m Dead and Gone and Malt and Barley Blues before Tom formed Stonebridge McGuinness.

Paul Jones contacted Tom in 1979 knowing he had a love of the Blues, and they formed – just for laughs – The Blues Band.

After eighteen albums and over thirty years, they are still going.

Then for Tom’s 50th birthday in 1991, he decided – as a special celebration – to try and get the original Manfred Mann back together to play at his party.

He partly succeeded, the only band member that couldn’t make it was Manfred himself as he was away touring.

Speaking from Bath whilst on tour with The Blues Band, Tom tells me.

“We had a ball and thought that we could do something with it and so we went on the road as The Manfreds.”

One thing that the band is noted for is the fact that they survived – and indeed continued to thrive – after the departure of their lead singer in 1966.

Paul Jones wanted to have a solo career and his place at the mike stand was taken by Mike D‘Abo

The band celebrated its 50th anniversary a couple of years ago and they are touring.again.

The band consists of original Manfred Mann members Jones, McGuinness, and Hugg, along with Rob Townsend who also drums for The Blues Band, Marcus Cliffe on bass and Simon Currie playing sax and flute.

And this time round they have Mike back with the band for another 50th Anniversary tour.

“That’s right,” Mike tells me. “It’s a new 50th anniversary to celebrate 50 years since the first chart entry with 5-4-3-2-1.”

Mike hasn’t performed with the band for about eighteen months and he explains why.

“The band do more work than I want to do and the 50th anniversary tour I did with them a couple of years ago was supposed to be my last tour.”

“I’d got a couple of young children and I wanted to be more of a ‘hands-on’ dad.”

When Mike isn’t touring with The Manfreds, they concentrate on the earlier era with Paul Jones and play a more jazz/blues orientated set.

“I’m more of a blues singer really,” says Jones, so when we don’t have Mike in the line-up, we only do the earlier stuff, but we always play the Numbers Ones that Mike sang on.”

Mike chips in. “Yes, they always return to their jazz/blues roots when I’m not there. I’m more associated with the ‘pop’ chapter of the band.”

But does having two lead singers onstage cause problems?

“Paul is a more out-going performer,” says Mike. “More of a showman, but we both play to our strengths.”

“That’s correct,” agrees Paul. “When Mike sings, and we tend to do alternate songs, I like to think that he is more dominant.”

“I enjoy playing harmonica and doing the backing vocals to his songs.”

“If I’m being honest,” Mike says, “When I’m with them and we’re doing all the hits, the set has more colour and more diversity. I think my presence brings in a broader spectrum of material.”

“Also, these days, I’m not officially a Manfred – I’m more a ‘special guest’.”

“There’s definitely room for both of us and everybody’s happy.”

But this will probably be the last time we see Mike with The Manfreds though.

“Yes, I don’t intend doing any more tours. Although I am really looking forward to playing with them again. I actually think of myself as a full-time songwriter (amongst his credits are Handbags and Gladrags and Build me Up Buttercup), hoping to get another hit.”

“I’m also writing my autobiography.”

And the last word – as usual – is with Paul Jones.

“I’m really looking forward to this tour, and it’s great to have Mike back this time.”

“It’s thrilling to go through hit after hit and seeing the audience with huge grins.”

With his own grin, he says.

“You can’t beat it.”

lThe Manfreds will be appearing at The Victoria Theatre, Halifax on Wednesday, November 5. Tickets are available from the Box Office on 01422 351158 and all the usual agencies.