Inside the caff five pairs of Manfred Mann eyes and ears are focussed on the telly

When you watch Manfred Mann loading their band van with their instruments and equipment, you really appreciate that old saying about trying to get a quart into a pint pot.

Manfred Mann, in case you don’t already know, is the name of the upcoming rhythm and blues group as well as the name of its spokesman.

I went out to Kilburn last Friday evening to meet them after a rehearsal at a church hall. I got there in time to witness the pantomime of loading up the van.

“We have got a system for this, you know,” Manfred assured me. “Trouble is, it’s so complicated that we always forget it!”

“The van’s a wee bit dirty, isn’t it?” I ventured , trying to peer through the mud and grime caking the rear window.

“It’s absolutely filthy,” agreed Manfred brightly. “We keep meaning to do something about it, but we never seem to get the time. Anyway, we don’t particularly want anyone to look through the windows and to be to see all our gear.”

“How did the rehearsal go?” I asked tall Paul Jones, the singer-compere-harmonica player and wit of the group.

“Quite splendidly,” he told me. “Only thing was we sounded like a load of rubbish.”

These random remarks give you a fair idea of the easy, light-hearted attitude towards life adopted by Manfred Mann. But they’re deadly serious about their music in actual fact, as I discovered later, and rising disc sales and popularity are causing the pop trade to take them very seriously and with great interest too.

Telly tune

They finally loaded the van and set off for a Kilburn caff with the van tyres almost invisible beneath the combined weight of gear and four Manfred Mann. The fifth Manfred – Paul – took the easy way out by travelling with me.

Inside the caff five pairs of Manfred Mann eyes and ears focused on the telly. It was almost 6.15 and it was the first occasion that “Ready Steady Go” was to feature their “5-4-3-2-1” as its regular signature tune.

“That’s marvellous,” said Manfred when the tune and Keith Fordyce’s generous plug had finished. “The way they presented it, I mean. And only nine months ago we were practically nowhere.”

Manfred comes from South Africa and plays the organ and piano. He founded the group with drummer-vibist Mike Hugg. Paul Jones, bass guitarist Tom McGuinness, and Mike Vickers (guitar, alto-sax and flute) joined later.


“The two Mikes and I are modern jazz enthusiasts,” said Manfred, “And that’s what we started out to play. But you just can’t live by playing that alone, and we sort of gradually drifted into rhythm and blues, which Paul and Tom dig. Paul especially persuaded us into our present groove.”

“5-4-3-2-1” has all the makings of a hit about it, and Manfred Mann are worried!

“We don’t want to base our career on one or two hit records, and then vanish, Manfred explained.

“That happens to so many groups and artists. We’d sooner make a steady climb and keep going playing what we want to, the way we want to, than have records in the charts. If we can do that and have hits as well, we’ll be very happy.”

Manfred Mann – they write all their own material for recording – are constantly aiming for a rhythm and blues sound which is different.

“And that’s not easy,” declared Manfred feelingly. “Fortunately we play about ten instruments between us, and that helps.

All equal

The group agree that the sound on a record is seldom the same as that heard on stage at a one-nighter. But they take the opposite view on the matter compared with most people.

“Certainly records sound different to live performances,” said Manfred. “We just wish we could get our records to sound more like our live performances!”

Manfred Mann were due for a one-nighter at seven that evening, and began to move back towards their van to pack themselves in amid the equipment.

I must make one thing clear before we leave,” said Manfred. “The group’s name and mine are the same, but there’s no leader. We’re all equal, we all have our say about everything, and that’s the way we want it to be.”

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