THE DAYS OF MANFRED MANN
The 1960s were in full swing. Life was a crazy roller-coaster ride for the stars of the bands. But one of them, Paul Jones, could re-charge his batteries by relaxing with his family in Norwich. Derek James reports.
Singer Paul Jones has so many connections with Norwich
His name is Paul Pond and his Norwich-born father was a highly regarded captain in the Royal Navy who was the manager of the historic Assembly House in the city.
You will remember him as Paul Jones, a brilliant musician and broadcaster who is still entertaining us after more than 50 years and is heading back to the region again with the magnificent Manfreds.
Captain Norman Pond spent 38 years travelling the world, serving with the Navy before becoming manager of the Assembly House in 1965.
When Paul, lead singer with the Manfreds, made one of his visits to Norwich Theatre Royal after the fire which badly damaged the fine building next door in 1995, he said: “Looking at it now ... I’m sure my dad would have been heartbroken.
“I always love coming back to Norwich. I have such fond memories of the city and the Theatre Royal.”
The former Oxford undergraduate, who left the band in the mid-1960s to embark on a solo career, recalled working with the flamboyant Theatre Royal boss, the late, great Dick Condon.
“Anyone remember The Fantasticks? There were more of us on stage than in the stalls,” he laughed.
His father was 54 when he took over running the Assembly House, a city gem, which is now famous for fine dining and hosting numerous events. There is nowhere else quite like it.
He had been a signal expert who served on Admiral Vian’s staff during the Normandy landings. He went on to command the headquarters ship for the Royal Navy during the Korean War.
In 1956, as commander of the 20,000 ton repair ship, Ranpura, he led a convoy of 31 ships to Port Said for the Suez Operations.
And he was captain of Devonport Dockyard and Queen’s Harbour Master in charge of some 900 dockyard workmen before retiring
to Norwich and becoming manager of the Assembly House.
Meanwhile his son Paul was making a name for himself in the fast-moving, ever-changing world of the swinging 1960s when Manfred Mann were one of the biggest groups in the land.
Always regarding as a talented singer and musician, rumour has it he turned down the chance of becoming lead singer with a group who became known as The Rolling Stones.
He admits he turned down a request from the late Brian Jones to front a band he was forming.
“I thought he was being wildly optimistic, because he said ‘I’m going to form a band and become rich and famous.’ I thought ‘Brian, no-one’s ever going to become rich and famous playing the blues, don’t be ridiculous,” said Paul.
He joined a dance band in Slough with great musicians and was working regularly. “I wasn’t earning any money at the time and I learned a lot working with that band.”
Manfred Mann came along in 1962 with a string of classic hits which have been passed down from one generation to the next. They were a class act. Do Wah Diddy, Pretty Flamingo, Sha La La, 5-4-3-2-1 and the one I hated at the time ... Semi-Detached Suburban Mr James. Paul also went on to present a popular blues programme on BBC Radio Two for 32 years. He also had a show on Jazz FM, BBC World Service and Radio London. When his show was axed recently it caused an outcry, but Paul says: “I couldn’t go on working six days a week, week in, week out; hardly ever having holidays and all that sort of stuff. It was the right time for me to stop.” It’s strange but many of us don’t think about how our teen heroes age like the rest of us. We hear the music and imagine them the way they were ... Paul is, believe it or not, now 76 and sounding better than ever.
The band heading our way, The Manfreds, reformed in 1991, and is one of the best in the business. Apart from Paul, there is his original replement Mike d’Abo, founding members Mike Hugg, Tom McGuinness (McGuinness Flint), Ron Townsend and Simon Currie. They are also joined by the fantastic Georgie “Yeh Yeh”
The Manfreds Maximum Rhythm and Blues tour plays Southend’s Cliffs Pavilion (01702 351135) on October 20 and the Ipswich Regent (01473 433100) on November 13.
Members of the group Manfred Mann and singer Paul Jones signing autographs.
Paul Jones jumping for joy.
Paul Jones performing in Norwich in the 1960s.