During the UK beat boom of the early 60s, spearheaded by the Beatles, a number of R&B groups joined the tide with varying degrees of achievement. Of these, Manfred Mann had the most commercial success. The band was formed as the Mann-Hugg Blues Brothers by Manfred Mann (Manfred Lubowitz, 21 October 1940, Johannesburg, South Africa; keyboards) and Mike Hugg (b. 11 August 1942, Andover, Hampshire, England; drums/vibraphone). They became Manfred Mann shortly after adding Paul Jones (b. Paul Pond, 24 February 1942, Portsmouth, Hampshire, England; harmonica/vocals). The line-up was completed by Mike Vickers (b. 18 April 1941, Southampton, Hampshire, England; flute/guitar/saxophone) and Tom McGuinness (b. 2 December 1941, Wimbeldon, London, England; bass), following the departure of Dave Richmond. After being signed by a talent-hungry HMV Records and following one unsuccessful instrumental, they made an impression with the catchy Cock-A-Hoop. The prominent use of Jones harmonica gave them a distinct sound and they soon became one of Britains leading groups. No less than two of their singles were used as the theme music to the pioneering British television music programme, Ready, Steady, Go! 5-4-3-2-1 provided the breakthrough Top 10 hit in early 1964. By the summer, the group registered their first UK number 1 with the catchy Do Wah Diddy Diddy.
Over the next two years, they charted regularly with memorable hits such as Sha La La, Come Tomorrow, Oh No Not My Baby and Bob Dylans If You Got To Go, Go Now. In May 1966, they returned to number 1 with the sublime Pretty Flamingo. It was to prove the last major hit on which Jones appeared. His departure for a solo career was a potential body blow to the group at a time when personnel changes were regarded as anathema by the pop media and fans. He was replaced by Michael DAbo (b. 1 March 1944, Betchworth, Surrey, England) recruited from A Band Of Angels, in preference to Rod Stewart, who failed the audition. Mike Vickers had previously departed for a lucrative career as a television composer. He was replaced by Jack Bruce on bass, allowing Tom McGuinness to move to lead guitar, a role with which he was happier. Additionally, Henry Lowther (trumpet) and Lyn Dobson (saxophone) enlarged the line-up for a time and Klaus Voormann replaced Bruce on bass. DAbos debut with the group was another hit rendering of a Dylan song, Just Like A Woman, their first for the Fontana label. He fitted in astonishingly well with the group, surprising many critics, by maintaining their hit formulae despite the departure of the charismatic Jones. Both Semi-Detached Suburban Mr. James and Ha! Ha! Said The Clown were formidable Top 5 hits in the classic Mann tradition.
Along with Americas Byrds, they were generally regarded as the best interpreters of Dylan material, a view endorsed by the songwriter himself. This point was punctuated in 1968 when the group registered their third number 1 with the striking reading of his Mighty Quinn. They ended the 60s with a final flurry of Top 10 hits, My Name Is Jack, Fox On The Run and Raggamuffin Man before abdicating their pop crown in favour of a heavier approach. Their albums had always been meaty and showed off their considerable dexterity as musicians working with jazz and blues-based numbers.
Mann went on to form the jazz/rock band Chapter Three and the highly successful Manfred Manns Earth Band. In the 90s the majority of the band performed regularly as the Manfreds. Without Manfred Mann they could not use the original name, in his place they recruited Benny Gallagher (bass/vocals) and ex-Family drummer Rob Townsend. Jones and DAbo perform side by side sharing the spotlight, although Jones ultimately more pushy personality makes him the star. Still highly respected, Manfred Mann remains one of the finest beat groups of the 60s.
Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.