Unmissable Manfreds are back in Rotherham

ORIGINALLY formed in 1991 to celebrate guitarist Tom McGuinness’ 50th birthday, The Manfreds show no sign of stopping.

Made up of four members of the original Manfred Mann, they are: guitarist Tom McGuinness, keyboard player Mike Hugg (who formed the Mann Hugg Blues Brothers in 1962 with Manfred Mann — the keyboard player), original singer Paul Jones, and his replacement Mike D’Abo (although D’Abo will not be appearing at every show).

The band Manfred Mann is now considered, more than ever, one of the finest and most respected bands from the 60s era. Their numerous hits were R&B-based with an undercurrent of jazz, a very unusual but winning combination of playing style and substance.

As a result, their records have a timeless quality and, some 60 years on, The Manfreds, will be performing many of their hits, including Pretty Flamingo, 5-4-3-2-1, The One In The Middle, Come Tomorrow, Mighty Quinn and Do Wah Diddy Diddy, one of the most popular and instantly recognisable songs of the 60s, and still the biggest audience pleaser at their concerts, along with a mix of jazz and blues covers and tracks from their individual solo albums.

Vocalist and harmonica player Paul Jones has been on the road for decades, firstly with Manfred Mann, then as a solo act, then in musical theatre and now as a Manfred. He also toured with The Blues Band with fellow Manfred Tom McGuinness and as a duo with fellow Blues Band-mate Dave Kelly.

With such a hectic schedule I wondered if there is a secret to keeping his voice in prime condition.

“Well I warm up before a show as one is supposed to and I’ve got exercises that I do.

“To be honest though, I only started to do that in the late 70s when I went to a vocal teacher.

“Back in the early days I sometimes misused my voice, and if that happened I just screeched my way through a show. There were so many girls screaming that nobody noticed.

“But when I went into musical theatre, I realised that there was nowhere to hide, so I started seeing this vocal teacher which lasted through to the late 80s, and I’m very grateful to that teacher."

“I also started going to a dance teacher, but he didn’t have the same success with me!”

Their Hits, Jazz and Blues Tour, sees them heading out around the country and starts the band’s 60th anniversary celebrations.

I asked Paul what we can expect to hear on the tour this year. “It will be pretty much mainly the early songs, but probably a few more obscure EP and album tracks as well as the hits.”

Even with the band's vast catalogue of hits, Paul can still pick out a few favourites.

“Well, because I wrote them, 5-4-3-2-1 and The One In The Middle. I’m very fond of those, but also Smokestack Lightnin'’, because it’s the blues and right up my street.

“I also admire Oh No Not My Baby. Mind you if we had been allowed to write more I might have had a different answer.”

The Manfreds always seem to sell out theatres everywhere and Paul thinks he knows why they are so popular after over 50 years.

“I think it’s because of the mixture of readily available, accessible, simple but refreshing, likeable songs.

“Add to that the quality of musicianship that enables us to embellish the songs and sometimes do songs we haven’t done before.

“Plus, we have an audience that listens.”

The Portsmouth-born singer is looking forward to the UK dates.

“We shall attack then with gusto and some musical expertise, especially as we haven’t been able to get out and about for a while.”

And he has this message.

“Don’t miss this. Firstly, because it’s a line-up you may never hear again and we fire off each other.

“And secondly [he laughs] because we look really stupid when there’s no-one there. What’s important is the people who are there."

The Manfreds will be bringing their Hits, Jazz and Blues Tour to The Civic Theatre, Rotherham on Thursday May 5.

Tickets are available from the box office and all the usual agencies.