Digger talks to Mike Hugg, co-founder of sixties band Manfred Mann,
now currently touring again with The Manfreds
In the sixties there were a few bands that were in the
'first division' - The Animals, The Yardbirds, The Kinks, The Hollies, The Who, The Small Faces.
And, of course, there was Manfred Mann.
Originating from staunch blues and r 'n b roots, the band, named after South African keyboard player Manfred
Mann (formerly Michael Lubowitz,)
featured Mike Hugg on drums and percussion, as well as fan-mag
favourites - vocalists Paul Jones and latterly Mike D'Abo,
Tom McGuinness on bass and Mike Vickers on flute/sax/guitar.
The band scored an incredible number of chart hits throughout the decade, spearheaded by the success of TV's Ready Steady Go
and several of the band's songs being used in the opening credits.
54321, Hubble Bubble Toil And Trouble, Do Wah Diddy Diddy, Sha La La,
Come Tomorrow, Oh No Not My Baby, Pretty Flamingo, Semi-Detached
Suburban Mr. James, Ha Ha Said The Clown, My Name Is Jack. They were great exponents of Dylan's material - Mighty Quinn, Just Like A Woman,
If You Got To Go - Go Now, as well as forming a unique and distinct Manfred Mann sound.
They managed to perform some, though seemingly never enough for the members
of the band, of their beloved blues and r 'n b on albums and at live gigs. Mike also penned songs
for other groups, notably the aforementioned Yardbirds - (Mister) You're A Better Man Than I and movie scores (Up The Junction.)
He has also been responsible for many of the tunes and jingles used on
commercials, including Ski The Full Of Fitness Food!
Mike made the unusual switch from drums to keyboards and continued a solo career and various collaborations
in the 70s and 80s, reuniting with fellow 'Manfreds' (minus Mann himself) for a one-off concert and deciding they liked it so
much they just kept on touring!!!
Mike kindly agreed to talk to www.retrosellers.com
The definitive site for retro and nostalgia and here is that interview.
I spoke to Mike about his roots. He originally comes from Gosport,
on the south coast, not a million miles from
fellow Manfred Paul Jones. He tells me that he didn't come from a
particularly musical family, but that his parents were very supportive
of his drumming, where lesser mortals would have discouraged such
activity. Their only pre-condition for such support was that he
maintained his piano lessons. This was to prove useful as it required
him to learn to read music - his keyboard skills would be put to good
use later in his career as would his ability to read and write music.
He was fourteen or so when he first started bashing
on saucepan lids after hearing a jazz performance at a sixth form
concert. Ask him what he wanted to do at that stage and he
probably would have replied "Journalism or to join the family
jewellery business", but in truth his heart was set on a career
in music. He found the prospect of a lifestyle as a musician exciting
- the travel and the variety. There wasn't much scope for him to find
sheet music or teachers for his beloved jazz numbers so he had to make
do by playing along with his prized records from Miles Davis and
Thelonious Monk. So he was effectively self-taught.
Manfred Mann - Tom McGuinness, Mike Vickers, Mike Hugg, Paul Jones and
In 1962 Mike did a summer season at Butlin's Clacton on the vibraphone
and booked Manfred Mann as the piano player. Graham bond also played
covering the nights Manfred was unable to perform. Graham was also the
person responsible for Mike's move from jazz to R&B after taking
him down to the Marquee to hear him play with Alexis Korner, who also
had Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker playing with him. Mike says he had a lot of respect for Johnny
Kidd's drummer Frank Farley "who was not a great technical
drummer but played with a great rock and roll feel." Playing at
clubs in London and along the south coast, there wasn't overnight
success for the Manfreds. It took 18 months or so of
solid touring before they hit with '54321'. They would often meet-up
on an impromptu basis with contemporaries such as The Yardbirds or The
Stones at the Blue Boar overnight motorway services on the M1, they both having completed
gigs at other ends of the country. Strangely, these
get-togethers would go mostly unnoticed by fans. But at this stage
they had no roadie and had to lug all of the gear around themselves at
gigs, which did leave them rather exposed to girl groupies who often
cornered the kit-laden Manfreds. Mike recalls a "Big Buzz" at this
time but says "it seems like a long time ago."
isn't nostalgic, choosing to look to the future rather than dwell on
the past - "I like quite a lot of modern R&B and Hip-Hop,
mostly American. The British scene
seems to have gone off the boil although the American is still going
strong. There was a time in the 60s, 70s and 80s when British music
was dominant, but not so these days. I think I put it down to the
business here not taking chances and wanting a quick return. British
acts are finding it hard to crack the States. Even Robbie who is
huge here doesn't seem able to find the right formula." Even in the
Manfred's early days, Mike experienced some of the negative aspects of
the record companies. "They didn't want us to record our own
compositions for release as singles after Do Wah Diddy Diddy."
What was the relationship like with contemporary bands? "We were
very friendly with them all but there was a friendly rivalry and
nothing felt better than to blow the other bands off the stage! We
were actually a very good live band because we had several highly
accomplished musicians. That's not to put the other bands down - they
were often good writers and so on but they lacked the experience and
training that we had enjoyed."
Mike cites his musical influences as the aforementioned
Messrs Davis and Monk as well as John Coltraine and Keith
Jarrett. I ask him if he ever met Dylan. "No, we never did,
although we were told that he said we were the best exponents of his
material, which we were delighted to hear." Mike also had the
distinction of listening to the Sergeant Pepper acetate at George
Harrison's house with fellow Manfred at the time Klaus Voormann who
was, of course, a big friend and associate of The Beatles.
How did the reformation of the group (albeit minus
Manfred) come about after all those years? "It was Tom's 50th
birthday and we played a one-off at the Town & Country Club in
Kentish Town. We all enjoyed it so much we have continued ever since!
We now play a 40 date Maximum R&B tour every 18 months and
assorted gigs here and abroad as well.
It's very refreshing as we can change arrangements and focus on
particular members of the band in a way we couldn't in the past. We
can inject our preferences and personalities into the performance as
never before and these days there are not so many egos... there
are no real fall outs." I ask Mike to describe his fellow
Manfreds and he gives this a lot of thought. "I love them all.
Paul's a great front guy. Mike has a great voice and is a nice guy.
Tom plays exceptionally well and is the man who gets things done.
Every band needs one of those! Mike Vickers is on extended leave at
the moment but we are still great friends. He plays great sax."
And what about Manfred Mann himself? " We meet occasionally for
lunch, we are later this month, so we do keep in touch. After all, we
two go back right to the beginnings of the band."
His life achievement is "Having earned a good
living and not as a jeweller!" Mike finds computers an invaluable
tool in his songwriting -"It's a great way to write, saving so
much time and providing so many options." He is optimistic about
Britain's musical future -"I think the current fourteen and
fifteen year-olds in bands are working hard from what I see. They seem
very receptive to all sorts of musical styles, including sixties and
seventies music." Whether it's The Manfreds or an up-and-coming
band "Promotion is very important. People need to know where you
are performing and who you are. Equipment and acoustics are also very
important. I have seen some renowned bands who
sounded terrible because of bad sound systems and bad acoustics." I
ask him why The Manfreds don't play in America. "We had a
number one hit with Do Wah Diddy Diddy but we don't play America
because we are not allowed to call ourselves Manfred Mann and people
over there don't realize who the Manfreds are."
What is Mike listening to these days? "I prefer funky stuff. I
still listen to jazz, of course. Bands like Coldplay are obviously
talented but I prefer my music to have a bit more bite rhythmically. I
like Justin Timberlake and quite a lot of young pop/r&b acts from
the States as the songs and the production are usually pretty hot. I have been impressed with Madonna and her
famous ability to re-invent herself. But the material has always been
varied and good." One thing that Mike is not too impressed with is the
current fervour for instant fame. "These people want to be famous
for fame's sake and not necessarily to be the best at their craft. I
am worried that they are put up on a pedestal and have to deal with
all the fame and adulation for a short while and then they are
discarded with no real talent to fall back on. This must be very hard to deal with."
I asked Mike what made him laugh. "Fawlty Towers." And what
makes him angry or cry? "Wars and cruelty to children."
How would Mike sum-up the sixties? "It blew
away all the conventions and we still have some of its legacy with us
today. Martin Luther King was instrumental in huge changes and a lot
of our modern attitudes to sex and individual freedom had their basis
in the sixties."
As for the future, Mike tells me "I want to make a really good
jazz album. And we are looking at a special way to celebrate our
Music Memorabilia - The site devoted to the Bath and
Knebworth Festivals 1969-1979
Ltd was started in 1999 by Henrietta Bannister
with the express intention of reproducing posters,
programmes and T shirts etc. from the festivals
organised between 1969-1979, by her father, promoter
Freddy Bannister. The aim is to offer exact replicas
of the originals, reproduced to the highest standards
The posters are printed in limited editions and
signed and numbered by the promoter as proof of
authenticity. In keeping with Freddy Bannister's
philosophy of always giving the very best value for
money (just look at the admission price on the
festival posters) the price of the items has been kept
as low as possible and represents truly excellent
Tel: +44 (0)1954 268088
|Visit the website for details
Many thanks to Mike Hugg and to Kirsty Franks for arranging the interview
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