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Paul Jones of Manfred Mann talks the blues ahead of his Suffolk gig at the Lavenham Open Air Theatre




When people think of Manfred Mann, the hits instantly spring to mind.

Do Wah Diddy Didd, Sha La La, If You Gotta Go, Go Now and Oh Not My Baby are just some of the tunes which caught the ears of the 60s generation and are still instantly recognisable today.

But there was a lot more going on under the surface of the band, whose roots were, and still are, firmly in the blues – and serious blues at that.

Paul Jones and the Manfreds
Paul Jones and the Manfreds

So it is little wonder their gig at Lavenham Open Theatre, Suffolk, on August 18 will be an eclectic and exciting mix of sounds.

“When people come to the gig, they will not only be regaled with hits that will make them say ‘I hardly knew I even knew that’ but all kinds of extra things that might even challenge..

“There’ll be a good selection of hits, as well as solo hits from Tom McGuinness of McGuinness Flint, but also one or two surprises.

One thing is for sure though, we so love doing these gigs because all audiences everywhere love them.

“We have never had any difficulty in really succeeding with the evening we present. It is just so great.”

The gig at Lavenham will be one of a short three-day tour for the Manfreds as they start playing again, after lockdown.

Lead singer and harmonica player, Paul Jones, himself, has played eight gigs so far since venues started to slowly reopen, but it will be the first time for the Manfreds, before embarking on a longer tour between October 14 and December 13.

Paul Jones is president of the National Harmonica League.
Paul Jones is president of the National Harmonica League.

Being able to play again has proven to be a joy for the 79-year-old, who has also recently moved to East Anglia.

“Just two weeks before lockdown I had played a huge charity gig for the Royal Marsden Hospital with a long list of stars including Tom Jones, Van Morrison, Eric Clapton, Mike Rutherfood, Paul Carrack, and Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens), to name but a few. It was big and it was loud.

“Then suddenly, everything just ground to a halt.

There were lots of positives to lockdown though, and many people have said it forced them to reappraise their lives.

“My wife and I had been talking about moving house for at least eight years, but we had always been too busy.

“Lockdown enabled us to make that move from our home in Surrey to East Anglia.

“We are not picky and choosy when it comes to looking for a house, but more, precise in want we wanted.

“It took us a long time to find the house and it was a surprise to us that it was in East Anglia to be honest.

“But now we are here, we are so happy. It’s gorgeous, it’s beautiful.”

Paul Jones joined the Manfreds, then known as Mann-Hugg Blues Brothers, after they asked around for a singer at the Marquee Club in London.

At the time, and then known as PP Jones, he was hanging around with the father of British Blues, Alexis Corner, and had earlier been asked to front a band being started by Keith Richards and Brian Jones, but he turned them down.

At first, the Manfreds, as they became known, had their roots firmly in the world of jazz, blues and soul, influenced by the a sound coming out of America, especially that of Little Sonny.

That blues influence has stayed with Paul Jones, throughout his career, later forming The Blues Band in 1979 and for more than 32 years, hosting BBC Radio 2’s Blues Show until 2018.

Paul Jones and the Manfreds
Paul Jones and the Manfreds

“The music of the blues is just extraordinary,” he said.

“It’s often seen as simplistic and basic but it is hugely profound.

It is just music without any gloss or sheen, and goes straight to the gut.

Paul Jones is currently president of the National Harmonica League and was awarded ‘harmonica player of the year’ in the British Blues Awards in 2010, 2011 and 2012. He was also named Blues Broadcaster of the year and received a lifetime achievement award in 2011.

With the harmonica he has played everything from solo gigs, to trios and quartets to large jazz bands and full classical orchestras.

In Lavenham, the Manfred’s will feature Paul Jones, Mike Hugg on keyboards, Tom McGuinness on guitar, Rob Townsend on drums, Marcus Cliffe on bass, and Simon Currie on saxophone and flute.

“Not all are original Manfreds, but become Manfreds, and are special in their own right,” said Paul Jones.

"To some extent, the gig goes back to the early days of Manfred Mann, when the music was more jazz, blues and soul.”

Paul is also working on other music projects, too.

“When I stopped presenting on radio, it was great to be able to start playing music again and concentrating on my own, rather than other peoples,” he said.

“During lockdown, I also put together a compilation I had been planning for blues throughout my career, which should be available by the end of the year.

“Music, and the blues, still is, as it has always been, a way of life.”

Event details and tickets

Date: August 18

Place: Lavenham Open Air Theatre

Bridge Street Road

Lavenham

Tickets and info: www.oeplive.com or call 01256 416 384

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