Manfred Mann was both a person and a band. The person Manfred Mann was born Manfred Lubowitz in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1940. He studied music at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and played jazz piano in the clubs in the evening. He was strongly opposed to apartheid and so moved to England in 1961. There, he wrote a jazz column for a magazine and changed his name to Manfred Manne after the jazz drummer Shelly Manne. That was later shortened to just Mann.
He got together with Mike Hugg and formed a jazz band called the Mann-Hugg Blues Brothers. Playing in various clubs in London, they eventually got a recording contract with EMI Records. As they added members to the group, their sound shifted from a jazz model to more a rock and roll model. Their producer, John Burgess, thought they should record more commercial sounding records. More people bought rock and roll than bought jazz. They recorded several records before hitting gold with “Do Wah Diddy Diddy.”
“Do Wah Diddy Diddy” was first recorded by an American doo-wop group called the Exciters. The song title had one less “Diddy,” just being called “Do Wah Diddy.” The Exciters had a number four hit in the States with “Tell Him” in 1962. It was their only hit, however, as “Do Wah Diddy” did not chart for them. “Do Wah Diddy” was written by Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, a songwriting team who had penned the song “Da Doo Ron Ron” (#3) for the Crystals in 1963. They seemed to be good at writing nonsense words (actually, they are called “riff words”) and so “Do Wah Diddy” was written. It was originally written for girls to sing, the words going “There he is, walking down the street.” but Manfred Mann changed it to a male perspective.
“Do Wah Diddy Diddy” was number one both in the states and in England, cementing Manfred Mann spot in rock and roll history. The guy we hear singing on the record is not Manfred, however, it is Paul Jones. Jones’ real name is Paul Pond and just before he joined Manfred Mann, he was asked by Keith Richards to be the lead singer in a new band he was forming. Jones turned him down and went with Manfred Mann instead. Big mistake. Keith Richards was, of course, putting together the Rolling Stones and Mick Jagger would get that lead singer role that Jones turned down.
Manfred Mann went through many many personnel changes throughout the Sixties and then quietly disbanded in 1969. The person, Manfred Mann, kept playing, although not as a group until 1971, when he formed a new group called Manfred Mann’s Earth Band. They had a number one hit in 1976 called “Blinded By the Light,” which we will get to when we cover 1976.
“Do Wah Diddy Diddy” debuted on the pop charts in America on September 12, 1964 and spent two weeks at number one.