Manfred Mann were an English beat, rhythm and blues and pop band (with a strong jazz foundation) of the 1960s, named after their keyboardist, Manfred Mann, who later led the successful 1970s group Manfred Mann’s Earth Band. Manfred Mann were chart regulars in the 1960s, and the first south-of-England-based group to top the US Billboard Hot 100 during the British invasion. Three of the band’s most successful singles, “Do Wah Diddy Diddy”, “Pretty Flamingo” and “Mighty Quinn”, topped the UK Singles Chart.
Beginnings (1962–1963) Edit
The Mann-Hugg Blues Brothers were formed in London by keyboard player Manfred Mann and drummer/vibes/piano player Mike Hugg, who formed a house band in Clacton-on-Sea that also featured Graham Bond. Bringing a shared love of jazz to the British blues boom, then sweeping London’s clubs (which also spawned Alexis Korner, the Rolling Stones and the Yardbirds), the band was completed by Mike Vickers on guitar, alto saxophone and flute, bassist Dave Richmond and Paul Jones as lead vocalist and harmonicist. By this time they had changed their name to Manfred Mann & the Manfreds. Gigging throughout late 1962 and early 1963 the band soon attracted attention for their distinctive sound.
After changing their name to Manfred Mann at the behest of their label’s producer John Burgess, the group signed with His Master’s Voice in March 1963 and began their recorded output that July with the slow, bluesy instrumental single “Why Should We Not?”, which they performed on their first appearance on television on a New Year’s Eve show. It failed to chart, as did its follow-up (with vocals), “Cock-a-Hoop.” The overdubbed instrumental soloing on woodwinds, vibes, harmonica and second keyboard lent considerable weight to the group’s sound and demonstrated the jazz-inspired technical prowess in which they took pride.
Early success (1964–1965) Edit
In 1964 the group was asked to provide a new theme tune for the ITV pop music television programme Ready Steady Go!. They responded with “5-4-3-2-1” which, with the help of weekly television exposure, rose to No. 5 in the UK Singles Chart. Shortly after “5-4-3-2-1” was recorded, Richmond left the band, though he would record with them occasionally later. He was replaced by Jones’ friend Tom McGuinness—the first of many changes. After a further self-penned hit, “Hubble Bubble (Toil And Trouble),” the band struck gold with “Do Wah Diddy Diddy”, a cover of the Exciters’ minor hit earlier that year. The track reached the top of each of the UK, Canadian and US charts (The Exciters’ version had only charted No. 78 in the US).
With the success of “Do Wah Diddy Diddy” the sound of the group’s singles moved away from the jazzy, blues-based music of their early years to a pop hybrid that continued to make hit singles from cover material. They hit No. 3 in the UK with another girl-group cover “Sha La La”, (originally by the Shirelles) which also reached No. 12 in the US and Canada and followed with the sentimental “Come Tomorrow” but both were of a noticeably lighter texture than their earliest output. Meanwhile “B” sides and four-song EPs showcased original material and instrumental solos. The group also returned to jazz and R&B themes on their albums: their first, 1964’s The Five Faces of Manfred Mann, included standards such as “Smokestack Lightning” while the second and last with this line-up, Mann Made, offered several self-composed instrumentals and a version of “Stormy Monday Blues” alongside novelties and pop ballads. With a cover of Maxine Brown’s “Oh No Not My Baby” began a phase of new depth and sophistication in the arrangements of their singles. The group began its string of successes with Bob Dylan songs with a track on the best-selling EP The One in the Middle, “With God on Our Side”, next reaching No. 2 in the UK with “If You Gotta Go, Go Now”. The EP’s title track reached the British top ten singles, the last self-written song (by Jones) and the band’s last R’n’B workout to do so. The run climaxed with a second UK No. 1 single, “Pretty Flamingo” produced by John Burgess