HAMPSHIRE born Paul Jones is the original frontman of The Manfreds, who are celebrating their 50th anniversary by re-releasing their highly acclaimed album, The Five Faces of Manfred Mann.

They are also hitting the road with a nationwide tour, taking in the south coast, which is where it all started for one of the iconic bands of the 60s.

The group, which has changed its name over the years, started off as Manfred Mann with a residency at The Concorde.

It was then squeezed into the backroom of the Bassett Hotel, Southampton, before moving to its current home in Stoneham Lane, Eastleigh.

Manfred Mann were unknowns until a catchy number, 5-4-3-2-1, became the signature tune for the ground breaking pop show Ready Steady Go and rocketed them to fame and chart success on both sides of the Atlantic.

The Manfreds’ Five Faces Tour rocks into the Ferneham Hall, Fareham on September 25, just along the M27 from where Paul Jones lived, and he spoke to Duncan Eaton ahead of the tour.

Q: The Five Faces album marks the 50 th anniversary of Manfred Mann. Does it seem all that time ago and did you think you would still be singing the band’s hits today.

A: It’s been a busy 50 years, so yes – it does seem all that time ago. I thought I would always be playing and singing, but not necessarily Manfred Mann hits. In fact there were times when I was sure it would not be !

Q: Has the line-up changed much over the years?

A: When we re-formed 20 years ago, we had the entire original band from the early ’60s except for Manfred, but including Mike D’Abo from the later ’60s. Since Tom McGuinness was now playing guitar (his original instrument) we had to get a bassist, first Benny Gallagher but now Marcus Cliffe. Mike Hugg had also moved, from drums to keyboards, so on drums we brought in Rob Townsend (Family). The only other change was when Mike Vickers left and we replaced him with Simon Currie on saxophones and flute.

Q: Which musicians have inspired you?

A: The list is huge, but a significant selection includes Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson, Ray Charles, Bobby Bland, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Dinah Washington, Sam Cooke and Percy Sledge.

Q: Do you remember the band’s first gig?

A: No. I remember the band’s first gigs, but only foggily as a general mayhem of sweat and excitement.

Q: What is your favourite track on the album?

A: Most of them are my favourites! If I have to pick one out, I’ll go with the audience response, and choose Smokestack Lightning.

Q: What is the most requested Manfred hit?

A: I’m fairly sure that Pretty Flamingo leads the field. It’s ironic, because I didn’t like the song much when we recorded it. Over the years, though, I’ve learned to love it.

Q: Do you enjoy touring and how do you fit it all in with your radio shows and appearances with The Blues Band?

A: With difficulty! Yes, I still enjoy it, but to describe fitting it in, words like ‘juggling’ and ‘plate-spinning’ come to mind.

Q: How do you keep fit and relax between touring?

A: I like to walk, and get a swim when I can; but relaxing for me means being with my wife Fiona – whatever we’re doing.

Q: Do you regret not joining the Rolling Stones, and do you think your life would have been much different if you had?

A: I don’t do regrets, really, and anyway I’ve hugely enjoyed my career, so far.

But yes, it certainly would have been different; not perhaps as much so as people might think, because if I had joined the group Brian Jones was forming, it wouldn’t – let’s face it – have become The Rolling Stones as we know it.

Q: You were born in Portsmouth. Do you ever go back to the area?

A: Yes, increasingly often, it seems. Portsmouth University generously made me a Doctor of Music a few years ago, and I’m involved with the exciting renaissance of the Theatre Royal. I enjoy being in the city, whether at The Guildhall or the Cellars at Eastney.

Q: You have had a very varied career but are there any unfulfilled ambitions?

A: Yes, I want to get my next solo album out. I’ve been working on it for the best part of two years!