LEGENDARY pioneers of British rhythm and blues, The Manfreds, will be touring once again this autumn, featuring special guest Georgie Fame.
The tour, which takes in Sheffield, was originally planned for 2020, but due to the pandemic all the dates have been rescheduled with all original tickets remaining valid.
Both The Manfreds and Georgie will be performing their hits, along with some of their choicest R’n’B cuts.
Manfred Mann originally formed in London in 1962, quickly finding success with their breakout single 5-4-3-2-1, which was the theme to the hit TV pop show Ready Steady Go! Following this, the band went on to score three number one hits in the UK, as well as 13 more in the top ten.
Several more hits followed including Pretty Flamingo, and Bob Dylan’s Mighty Quinn, and Dylan himself said that Manfred Mann was one of the best interpreters of his songs. The group even survived the departure of frontman and singer Paul Jones in 1966, continuing their run of hits with Mike D’Abo until 1969 when the band all went their separate ways.
Fast forward 20 years to 1991, when several original members of the band reformed as The Manfreds, in celebration of guitarist Tom McGuinness’ 50th birthday and they haven’t looked back since.
The all-star line-up features the original Manfred Mann singer Paul Jones alongside founding members Mike Hugg and Tom McGuinness. Also joining is Paul Jones’ 1966 replacement D’Abo, responsible for penning the classic tracks Build Me Up Buttercup, and Handbags & Gladrags, most famously covered by Rod Stewart, Chris Farlowe and The Stereophonics. Completing the line-up are Simon Currie on woodwind, Marcus Cliffe on bass, and drummer Rob Townsend, formerly of rock band Family.
As well as the Manfred Mann gems, D’Abo will also be performing his solo work, as well as Paul Jones singing I’ve Been A Bad Bad Boy’, as well as the McGuinness Flint classic When I'm Dead and Gone. which, as Tom McGuinness ruefully says, was kept off the top of the charts by Clive Dunn’s Grandad.
Paul Jones says: “Not only is it exciting to think that The Manfreds might actually be able to play together on tour again at last; that the great Georgie Fame will be back with us as well; that our friends and fans, starved of live music from us for so long, will refresh their memories with the real thing once more; but also that these loved, cherished and much-missed venues — and the people who work in and look after them — will once again host us and make us welcome!”
Mike D’Abo also commented: “I’m looking forward to being part of The Manfreds’ Maximum R&B Tour featuring our special guest and old friend Georgie Fame. To think that, between us, we topped the charts on no less than six occasions in the 60s — with both Manfred Mann and Georgie Fame each notching up three number one hits — that’s an achievement I’m ‘Mighty’ proud of!”
Joining The Manfreds is the iconic Georgie Fame. First shooting into the charts as the founding member of Georgie Fame & the Blue Flames, he went on to achieve three UK number one singles with Yeh Yeh, Get Away (which started life as a petrol commercial) and The Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde.
With his much-loved blend of jazz and rhythm & blues, Fame has consistently worked in the highest musical circles and has become an icon of the British music scene, having collaborated with the likes of Van Morrison and Bill Wyman.
I caught up with Mike D’Abo and asked him what he’d been up to during lockdown.
He tells me: “Well at the start of the first lockdown, our manager asked some of the band to post messages on social media for our fans, which we did for quite a few weeks, taking it in turn to chat and play some music. Nobody expected the pandemic to last as long as it did; mind you, back in Shakespeare’s time, the Globe Theatre closed for about two years because of the plague!
“For the first couple of months, the weather was gorgeous, so I was able to do some landscape projects in my garden. I missed cricket though as it’s my passion.
“It was really annoying having to cancel all the shows as everything was booked so we’re doubly looking forward to getting out there.
“I’m also a creative person, so I haven’t been idle; I’ve been writing a lot of music. I’m always writing songs and I’m also working on a musical project which I can’t tell you about yet.”
In 1966, Paul Jones announced that he was leaving Manfred Mann, but agreed to stay on until a replacement was found and Mike was that man.
“They spotted me on a TV show when I was with the group A Band Of Angels. I wasn’t the singer; I was the keyboard player but was singing this particular song and the cameras seemed to linger on me. Manfred Mann himself asked for my number and we went out for lunch. He swore me to secrecy about Paul leaving and he told me that he thought I’d be a good fit.
“Then Paul saw me and said, ‘He looks good, he could replace me.’ The rest of the band looked a bit sheepish as they’d already asked me to join.” Mike laughs at the memory and adds: “But I’m forever grateful to them.
“The thing is that the band had been dealt a bad hand and they were sort of overshadowed. They were the vanguard of R’n’B but the music had to be watered down and needed to be hits. They had become a ‘pop’ band and were being told what to sing.”
But Mike had more in him that just being a singer and songwriter.
“Yes, I wasn’t having much input, so I wrote for and produced the likes of Chris Farlowe and Rod Stewart as an outlet for my creativity.”
Like Mike Hugg and Manfred Mann (the keyboard player), Mike D’Abo also wrote advertising jingles, arguably the most famous being A Finger Of Fudge.
“I did loads of jingles, but I’m very proud of A Finger Of Fudge. I got about £500 for it, and it was on the air for 14 years.”
So, what can we expect to hear during the show?
“Well, it’s a case of how much can you fit in? There’s just not time for everything.
“We are duty bound to play all the Manfred Mann hits. I sing seven of them and Paul eight, then there’s my couple of songs and Paul’s, plus Tom McGuinness’ brace. So that’s about 20 and then Georgie’s hits too.
“It’ll be great playing with Georgie again, he’ll have plenty of jazz-tinged R’n'’B and we do some improved arrangements.”
Despite their ages, the members of the band are quite hale and hearty as Mike tells me.
“I’ve been quite happy with my voice recently, although I may have to drop it a semi-tone or so. Paul is in great form, he doesn’t drink or smoke and has tons of energy.”
And what about Tom McGuinness, who never stops smiling when on stage?
“Well, the day before the last show will be Tom’s 80th birthday. His dream is to die on stage. He loves playing and takes the travelling in his stride. That’s unusual as getting to and from gigs these days can be a nightmare. Tom’s great with timetables for when he doesn’t want to drive. Me, I drive everywhere, but due to roadworks I usually get to the soundchecks in a frustrated mood. No, Tom genuinely loves it and he’s got better as a guitarist too.
“It’s going to be a great evening.”.
The Maximum R’n'’B Tour with The Manfreds and special guest Georgie Fame will grace the stage of Sheffield’s City Hall on Thursday October 14.
Tickets are available from all the usual agencies.