MANFRED MANN

Johannesburg-born jazz pianist Manfred Lubowitz called himself Manfred Mann, which also wound up being the name of the band he fronted, a notion he vetoed to no avail. Turns out the dual-purpose I.D. wasn't such an annoyance for Lubowitz, as the act racked up a string of hit records spanning more than a decade, establishing an agreeable semi-name-change along the way. Still, the question lingers: Is Manfred Mann a man, or a band...or a brand name?

By 1961, when he turned 21, Lubowitz left South Africa, its racially-segregated apartheid system that had been in effect since the late '40s unbearable to many of the country's residents. He'd previously studied classical music at Witwatersrand University and played jazz in local clubs, at one time performing with ace trumpeter Hugh Masekela. After making the move northward, he met jazz percussionist Mike Hugg (from Hampshire in South England) while playing at Butlin's Resort in England's coastal city of Clacton. The two formed the Mann-Hugg Blues Brothers, a quartet that later added a trumpeter and two saxophonists. Mike Vickers (from Surrey, south of London) joined the group as guitarist, though he also played sax and preferred flute, later working the wind instrument into recordings whenever possible; bassist Dave Richmond (from Brighton at the U.K.'s southern tip) completed the initial quartet. Soon they were performing in clubs throughout the vicinity of London.

Richmond was replaced on bass by Tom McGuinness (from Wimbledon) of short-lived band The Roosters (which counted Eric Clapton and future Rolling Stones multi-instrumentalist Brian Jones among its lineup); Tom's friend Paul Jones (born Paul Pond in Hampshire) filled the one missing spot not always necessary in a jazz band: that of vocalist (he played harmonica too). The horn section seemed to overinflate the act, so they ventured on as a quintet, gradually leaning closer to a jazz- and rhythm and blues-based rock sound. They signed with EMI in the spring of '63; producer John Burgess insisted on simplifying the group's name to Mann's name, irking the bearded, horn-rimmed bandleader in the process...but he couldn't really complain, could he?

The first single featured a pair of original instrumentals, "Why Should We Not" (a cross between blues and exotica) and "Brother Jack" (a bouncy pop take on "Frère Jacques"). Jones did the vocal on the second single, "Cock-A-Hoop," an odd phrase in many regions but a common exclamation of excitement in the U.K. Mann's band frequently mixed jazz breaks into their recordings, setting them apart from other groups of '63 and '64. It was the third single that put them on the charts and into the big leagues: ITV's teen music-and-dance show Ready Steady Go! had premiered in August '63 with Mann's "5-4-3-2-1" as its theme (though the lyrics '...uh-huh, it was the Manfreds' came off like a theme for the band as well) and the record reached Britain's top ten in February '64, just as The Beatles were breaking in America and setting the stage for the soon-to-be invasion of British acts (signals somehow got mixed up in the U.S., as Mann's disc was released by Prestige, a jazz label, an odd choice of little concern since it didn't catch on). The bonus for Manfred Mann was that the song continued as RSG's weekly theme through the end of the show's run in December 1966.

Ascot Records (a subsidiary of United Artists) picked up the band's U.S. option starting with "Hubble Bubble (Toil and Trouble)," another original; it failed in the U.S. but reached number eleven in the U.K. Taking a different approach, they covered a Jeff Barry-Ellie Greenwich song that had been a minor hit earlier in '64 for The Exciters, a mostly-female American group on UA. "Do Wah Diddy Diddy" seemed an unlikely choice until radio stations on both continents placed it in high rotation and fans started lining up buy the 45; it topped the Brits' charts in August and the Yanks' charts in October. They went right to a similar source for the follow-up, "Sha La La," a poorly-performing spring effort by girl group The Shirelles but a big one for the Manfreds, as it went top five in the U.K. and came within two notches of the U.S. top ten, a career peak for American songwriters Robert Taylor and Robert Moseley.

The band had a strong year at home in 1965, though the only notable single in America was "Come Tomorrow," a remake of a little-known ballad by Brooklyn-born Marie Knight that had been released on Okeh in 1961. Other Brit hits that year included a cover of Maxine Brown's Carole King-Gerry Goffin-penned hit "Oh No Not My Baby" and a confident reading of Bob Dylan's "If You Gotta Go, Go Now" that slid into the number two position in October. Their original version of Burt Bacharach and Hal David's "My Little Red Book," from the all-star comedy film What's New Pussycat?, failed to take off that summer; L.A. rockers Love had better luck with the song the following year. While the group had only done a brief tour of North America in late '64, they regularly performed in Europe and were much more popular there as a result. Mike Vickers, whose priority was to pursue a career as a composer and instrumentalist, signed with England's Columbia label during the summer. Several singles with his own orchestra (but no hits) over the next couple of years included catchy tunes like "On the Brink," "Eleventy One" and the theme from the award-winning 1966 film Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment.

Another defector from the ranks was singer Paul Jones, figuring to parlay his considerable exposure into a successful solo career...but plans would have to be put on hold, as he broke his collarbone in a serious auto accident in early '66. Jack Bruce (from Bishopbriggs, Scotland) came over from John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, but stuck around just a few months, jumping at the chance to join Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker in a new blues-based band, Cream. Klaus Voorman (a native of Berlin, Germany, he became famous for designing the Beatles' Revolver album cover and even won a Grammy for it) replaced him as bassist. Meanwhile, Manfred and the guys hit the U.K.'s number one spot and the U.S. top 30 (on Ascot's parent label United Artists) with "Pretty Flamingo" (written by New Yorker Mark Barkan), one of the last songs recorded featuring a lead vocal by Paul Jones.

"High Time" kicked off Jones' solo career in the summer of 1966, followed in early '67 by "I've Been a Bad, Bad Boy," both top ten U.K. smashes, though there was confusion at first as the songs sounded very similar to earlier Mann tracks. Jones made his acting debut (top-billed!) in Privllege, cast as a singing sensation with a misleading agenda (his co-star was supermodel Jean Shrimpton, "The Face of the '60s," in her only acting role). Jones had a few more hits over the next couple of years, though he fared better as an actor, working steadily at it well into the 1990s

Mike D'Abo (a Surrey-born singer formerly with A Band of Angels, who had the rare distinction of being featured in their own comic strip in the music magazine Fabulous 208) entered the lead vocalist swinging door, starting in the summer of '66 with a cover of "Just Like a Woman" (Bob Dylan's original wasn't a single in England), then "Semi-Detached Suburban Mr. James" in November and Tony Hazzard's Ha! Ha! Said the Clown" in the spring of '67, a trio of lighter-pop top ten hits that convinced them there was life, and a new musical direction, after Jones (these hits appeared on the Fontana label under a new contract that moved M.M. to Mercury Records in the U.S.). Following an unusual, jazzy instrumental take on the Tommy Roe hit "Sweet Pea," they had a chance to record an unreleased Dylan song, "The Mighty Quinn" ("Quinn the Eskimo" on some pressings). Seems Bob was a fan of actor Anthony Quinn, who'd played an Inuit Eskimo in the 1960 film The Savage Innocents, the song's somewhat abstract lyrics treating the title character as a hero. The single gave the band its third U.K. chart topper and second U.S. top ten in early '68.

In 1969 D'Abo took his leave, scoring as a songwriter with "Build Me Up Buttercup" (cowritten with Tony Macaulay), a major hit that year for The Foundations on both sides of the pond. Manfred Mann went on without a set singer (Hugg did some vocals) until 1971, when Mick Rogers (from Essex) joined Manfred Mann's Earth Band, renamed with the intent of conveying a more progressive image. By this time Tom McGuinness had quit to form McGuinness Flint (with former Mayall drummer Hughie Flint), finding immediate success in early '71 with "When I'm Dead and Gone." Chris Thompson (from Kent) joined in 1976, in time to take lead vocal duties on "Blinded By the Light," a Bruce Springsteen song that reached number one in the U.S.; Thompson left in '79 to form his own group, Night. Meanwhile, Manfred Mann kept going, the Earth Band branding far outlasting the original, shorter moniker. While Manfred himself is the only constant member, the act continues to perform...and has gone though several more lead singers

- Michael Jack Kirby

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Do Wah Diddy Diddy Sha La La Come Tomorrow My Name is Jack