Interview - Q&A with Paul Jones of Manfred Mann

By Jessica Durston - 13 June 2022

Arts and Culture
  • Paul Jones

    Paul Jones

Swindon Link conducted a short interview with singer, actor, and radio personality Paul Jones, ahead of his Swindon concert this July. The former Manfred Mann frontman was kind enough to take time out of his busy touring schedule to answer some of reporter Jessica Durston's questions.

I had the pleasure of seeing Paul Jones, the current Manfreds outfit, and Georgie Fame on tour last autumn. They were fantastic. 

I hope Paul would not mind me mentioning that at the age of 79 (although now he would be 80), he was the most incredible, and virile performer I had witnessed on stage in a long time. His vocal skills stand the test of time, and armed with an arsenal of harmonicas, for me, he stole the show. 

The band were all fantastic however, and played a whole host of their well-known and best-loved hits, and covered some blues favourites to boot. Imagine my excitement when learning that the 60s superstar would be visiting Swindon later this July, to perform a stand-alone concert in aid of next year's Swindon Jazz & Soul Festival!

Following this event's announcement I had the opportunity to draft up and send Paul some questions for him to answer ahead of his visit to the town. Our online interview exchange can be found below:

 

You're going to be performing at, and lending your profile to the Swindon Jazz & Soul concert towards the end of July, and supporting a local cause.

Why is this so important? Why are independent festivals like the Swindon Jazz & Soul Festival so important, to not just the local communities, but to the music world or industry in general?

Well not everyone gets to play, or even attend, The Royal Albert Hall or Love Supreme, but as long as there are arts centres and local festivals, everyone can get to play and hear music.

There are many levels in between, of course - and that is of crucial importance to the music industry and everyone in it, because if the bottom rungs of a ladder aren't there, no-one can reach the middle or upper ones.

As long as the scene is generally healthy, there's top class musicianship at every level.

 

What were the key records and who were the key artists that got you into blues and jazz music from a young age?

"Dippermouth Blues" by King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band with Louis Armstrong, and then "Play On Little Girl" by T-Bone Walker with Junior Wells on harmonica.

Live, The Modern Jazz Quartet in - I think - Southampton, and Memphis Slim in Paris.

 

What artists would you recommend to people who are looking to explore the blues genre?

Sometimes the genre and its sub genres can be overwhelming as the music is age old, and the back catalogue or canon is so vast. Where would be a good place to start?

It depends where the person is coming from as a listener. If from Jazz, I would recommend Jimmy Witherspoon and T-Bone Walker.

If from Folk, it would be Mississippi John Hurt and Big Bill Broonzy.

If from Rock, Bo Diddley and Howling Wolf.

 

Your upcoming Swindon gig is going to be hosted at the local church on Cricklade Street, Christ Church.

I remember reading somewhere that you had found solace in religion over the years - especially again later on in your life. Could you talk a bit about your connection with the Church?

Nowadays I probably wouldn't use the word 'solace', but rather 'conviction'; and I don't see it as 'religion' either, but a relationship with the Creator, God.

My relationship with Christianity started as a child, was severed as a teenager, restored in my early 40's - and will never be severed again.

 

Leading on from this, do you think music is a spiritual medium?

If so, why? For some people, do you think the blues could be considered akin to religion?

In my opinion, any kind of music, from worksongs to symphonies, can be spiritual or not.

As far as blues is concerned, I would far rather listen to Eric Bibb's "Don't Ever Let Nobody Drag Your Spirit Down" than some of the darker manifestations of blues music.

I have heard people say that the blues is their religion - but others say that's a contradiction in terms. I stay out of that argument!

 

The band that will be joining you for this Swindon performance will include Denny Ilett, Dave Newton, Joe Pettit and Pete Cater.

What is your working relationship like with them? Do you enjoy performing together?

I'm a part of this event at the invitation of Denny Ilett - a musician, arranger, composer and bandleader for whom I have the highest admiration.

I'm eagerly looking forward to working with him again, and with the other top-flight musicians, most of whom I've played with before.

 

How have you fared through lockdown and how did the pandemic affect you?

Do you feel when on stage, that your concert experiences are more or less ‘back to normal’?

As horrible and sad as covid was, the lockdown proved to be a time which enabled me and my wife to sell our home and buy a new one.

The lack of concerts also gave me the opportunity to compile an album of the last six decades of my blues recordings, which will be released in September.

I would say yes, things are back to (almost) normal, and I'm very grateful - not just for me, but everyone.

 

Aside from preparing for the release of your new blues compilation album and this Swindon gig you will be treating a local audience to, what else are you up to this year? 

Looking at the future, The Blues Band's final tour will have finished in early July, but I'm really looking forward to The Manfreds' tour we will be embarking on in the autumn.

More information can be found at www.themanfreds.com.

My wife and I will also be hosting a Gospel charity event with some of the UK's biggest names in gospel and worship music at Kensington Temple, London, on 30 October.

More information can be found at www.paulandfiona.co.uk.

[ENDS]

 

Members of the public can find tickets for this special Swindon concert online at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/paul-jones-in-concert-tickets-325087634867 

Those wishing to find out more information can email jazzknightswiltshire@gmail.com

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