Singer Paul is main Manfred Mann ahead of Sheffield show

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Paul Jones had some of the biggest hits of the Sixties as the voice of Manfred Mann – but turned down what could have led to him fronting the Rolling Stones.

The Do Wah Diddy Diddy star was asked by Stones founder Brian Jones to be the lead singer of a band he was forming with Keith Richards.

He said no and they signed up Mick Jagger.

But 74-year-old Paul got his own satisfaction after making his name with the Manfreds – as they are known today, almost 55 years later – with hits also including Pretty Flamingo, Sha-La-La and 5-4-3-2-1.

Mighty Quinn was their other massive hit, but sung by Mike d’Abo, who replaced Paul as frontman in 1966.

Now the two are back on stage together with former bandmates to celebrate the sounds of the Manfreds on a 29-date Maximum Rhythm & Blues tour.

They will be singing their respective hits, while backing one another on songs associated with the other, and are promising other great tunes from their careers.

Mike penned Build Me Up Buttercup, as well as Handbags and Gladrags, a hit for Rod Stewart and Stereophonics.

Paul went on to have a major solo career as a singer, actor and radio and TV star, appearing in everything from The Sweeney and films to stage musicals, including Guys and Dolls and Cats.

He is also regarded as one of the world’s greatest blues harmonic players.

In 1976, he performed the role of Perón on the original album of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical Evita.

And Paul does not have any regrets about turning down Jones, who went on to form the Stones before he drowned in 1969, aged just 27.

“Brian and I were good chums,” says Paul. “He called me one day and said he was going to take this thing more seriously than we had been doing and was going to start a band.

“He asked if I wanted to be his lead singer and I turned him down. If I had taken the job I still wouldn’t have been Mick Jagger.

“Whatever Mick and Keith did would have been the Rolling Stones, if you see what I mean.

“The thing is I don’t know what sort of career I would have had if I had said yes to Brian, but all I know is the next time somebody called me and said we are starting a group do you want to be the singer I said yes.”

Paul has no plans to retire while he still enjoys performing and recording.

He has worked with big names such as Eric Clapton and played with the Royal Ballet Sinfonia and the London Symphony Orchestra.

But he remains relevant and contemporary, singing the praises of young blues artists he has been privileged to work with, such as Laurence Jones and Malaya Blue.

Guests on the tour include soul star PP Arnold, famed for The First Cut Is The Deepest and organist bandleader Zoot Money, whose big hit was Big Time Operator.

He says the hit songs they perform still get the same fan reaction as they did six decades ago, but with a little less screaming.

Paul says: “The highlight of the Sixties for me was just being on a stage playing music.

“I was also going to say listening to the other guys, but some of the time that wasn’t possible – there was so much screaming going on.

“These days it’s terrific. You get complete silence while you are playing, which is wonderful, except, of course, when the audience joins in, which they will do on Mighty Quinn and Do Wah Diddy.

“Now people actually sit and listen and then applaud wildly at the end of each song.”

* The Maximum Rhythm & Blues with The Manfreds is at Sheffield City Hall on Sunday, November 27. For tickets, call 0114 278 9789,

* AUDIO: Listen to Paul Jones’ full interview with Graham Walker at www.thestar.co.uk