Celebrating a remarkable 60 years together... The Manfreds

Paul Jones by Judy TottonPaul Jones by Judy Totton
Paul Jones by Judy Totton
Celebrating a remarkable 60 years together, The Manfreds, formerly known as Manfred Mann, play Eastbourne’s Congress Theatre on Friday, November 24 at 7.30pm.

The tour is the last opportunity for fans to see both original frontmen, Paul Jones and Mike D’Abo, on tour together. Joining Mike and Paul is original guitarist Tom McGuinness along with long-standing Manfreds members Rob Townsend on drums, Marcus Cliffe on bass and Simon Currie on saxophone/flute. And yep, Paul, at 81 years young, really can't believe that it all started 60 years ago: “it seems like yesterday and then you think of all the things that happened since and then you realise yes it must be 60 years!”

“Manfred and Mike Hugg were working together playing jazz, and they discovered that jazz was better musically than financially so they decided doing rhythm and blues would be a better idea. The most famous person in British blues at the time was Alexis Korner with Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated. Manfred and Mike thought it would be a good idea, and they knew a few musicians but they didn't know any singers. They went to the Marquee Club and said ‘Do you know any singers?’ and somebody, one of MCs, said ‘What about this boy Jones?’ He said ‘Jones gets up and sings with Alexis sometimes.’ Alexis was wonderfully generous to young hopefuls back then including people like Mick Jagger. And it was directly because Alexis Korner was so encouraging and always got one of the big range of wide-eyed young hopefuls up and singing that this chap thought of me. I was asked to audition and I did and I got the job.

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“I had dropped out of university about a year before with the intention of making a life in music and I had turned down the offer of a band that Brian Jones was forming. I had two good reasons. I thought Brian Jones was being ridiculously optimistic in thinking that he could make a living from blues. I knew perfectly well that Alexis wasn't. Everybody in his band had other jobs. One of them was working for Hoover. So I just said ‘Good luck, Brian.’ My other reason was that I had successfully auditioned for a band that played for dances, playing the current pop hits and standards. I just thought I would stay with them.”

Of course Brian’s band became The Rolling Stones: “But I don't regret saying no one bit. If I had joined the band Brian was forming it would certainly never have become The Rolling Stones as we know them. All I can say is that I didn't do it and you can be jolly grateful for that, folks!

“Brian and I were friends. We played together and made a tape together with a pianist and a drummer that I sent to Alexis in the hope that he would, want us as his support bearing in mind how generous and encouraging he was to everyone but we actually never heard back about that. Many years later I ran into Ian Stewart and he said he had heard that tape at one time. I asked him about it and he said ‘Well, it was a bit grim!’

But the future Stones’ loss was Manfred Mann's gain, for around three years and nine months from the end of 1962 – though it was more than a year before they had their first hit in January 64: “And that seemed like a long time but we were just so so busy. We were working from very early on three or four nights every week so really I'd say that to have a hit after about a year was actually par for the course. But things did change a bit after that. The money went up to some extent but before we had that hit our agent had booked us onto a tour with Joe Brown and the Bruvvers and there was also Johnny Kidd & the Pirates and The Crystals. We were hired to do our own slot and also to accompany some solo artists that didn't have their own bands and we were also backing The Crystals. But between signing the contract and the start of the tour we had a hit with 5-4-3-2-1, and we said to our agent ‘Now we have had a hit record we shouldn't have to be backing some unknown hopefuls’, and our agent got in touch with the production people who said ‘You are quite right!’”