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 www.sixtiespop.com 1960s British 
            Pop Culture and here is that interview.

            I spoke to Mike about his roots. He originally comes from Gosport, 
            near Portsmouth 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.
             
            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."

            He certainly 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 40th 
            year."

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