THE MANISH BOYS

JULY 19th 1964 - APRIL 24th 1965

Musicians:

  • Davie Jones: Vocals, Saxophone

  • Johnny Flux: Lead Guitar

  • Paul Rodriguez: Guitar, Tenor Saxophone, Trumpet

  • Woolf Byrne: Baritone Saxophone, Harmonica

  • Johnny Watson: Bass Guitar, Vocals

  • Bob Solly: Organ

  • Mick White: Drums

Repertoire included:

Liza Jane | I Pity The Fool | Louie, Louie Go Home | Take My Tip | Last Night | I Ain't Got You | Duke Of Earl | Love Is Strange | Mary Ann | Watermelon Man | Hoochie Coochie Man | Don't Try To Stop Me | Little Egypt | Night Train | If You Don't Come Back | Big Boss Man | James Brown Medley | Stupidity | Can't Nobody Love You | Hello Stranger | You Can't Sit Down | Believe To My Soul | What'd I Say | You Really Got Me

​When David met them in July 1964, Maidstone's Manish Boys had already been together for four years and had undergone several changes of name (including Band Seven and The Jazz Gentlemen) before settling on a moniker derived from Muddy Waters's 1955 classic "Mannish Boy". Organist Bob Solly told Record Collector in 2000 that there was resistance within the band to the addition of David: "Initially we said no, but Conn said, 'He's got a recording contract, he's just made a record and he could be to your advantage.'" On  July 19th David met the band for an audition at saxophonist Paul Rodriguez's house at Coxheath. "He had a hell of a good voice and he was a very good sax player," Rodriguez later said. "He was a better musician than any of us." David rapidly assumed a governing role, steering the band towards R&B with his prized copy of James Brown's LP Live At The Apollo. On July 25th he played his first gig with The Manish Boys, at the Chicksands US Air Base in Bedfordshire, while the following day saw the band perform at the famous Eel Pie Island jazz club in Twickenham. The Manish Boys were quick to capitalise on the fact that David had already released a single, and on August 18th the Chatham Standard announced that "...other news from the boys is that they are now backing Decca recording star Davie Jones, whose group, The King Bees, are no longer with him."

Davie Jones with The Manish Boys 1965

By the time of his association with The Manish Boys, David had begun dressing á la mode. "A popular thing was to go down to the back of Carnaby Street late at night and raid the dustbins," he later said. "You could pick up the most dynamite things down there!" Not only did David indulge his own love of clothes - something that never deserted him - but he oversaw a sartorial makeover for the band. Within a month of his arrival, The Manish Boys were following David's example in clothes and hairstyles.

October 6th saw David's first studio session with the band, recording three demos at Regent Sound Studios. A month later came David's first substantial television interview, although unlike his previous appearance on Juke Box Jury, it had little to do with his music. In a shameless attempt to court publicity David, whose thick blond hair now hung below his shoulders, claimed to have founded a society called The International League for the Preservation of Animal Filament, and it was in the guise of "president" that he found himself talking to novelist Leslie Thomas for the November 2nd edition of the London Evening News and Star. Headlined "FOR THOSE BEYOND THE FRINGE", the item saw David claiming common ground with such hirsute greats as P J Proby, Screaming Lord Sutch, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. The story was pounced upon by BBC Television's Tonight, which on November 12th featured the celebrated interview with David Jones, now spokesperson of the equally nonexistent Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Long Haired Men. Flanked by The Manish Boys, David explained to Cliff Michelmore: "For the last two years we've had comments like "Darlin'" and "Can I carry your handbag?" thrown at us, and I think it's just has to stop now." Bass player John Watson added that the Society was contemplating CND-style protest marches, at which David quipped, "Baldermaston." The episode apparently netted David the princely sum of five guineas.

​Another piece of history in the making had occurred a few days earlier on November 6th when a Manish Boys gig saw David make the first of many appearances at London's Marquee Club. On December 1st The Manish Boys, now signed to the Arthur Howes Agency, began a six-date, two-shows-a-day tour of the north, playing support to Gene Pitney, The Kinks, Marianne Faithfull and Gerry & The Pacemakers. This package had already been touring for some time, and The Manish Boys were drafted in for the final six dates to replace the original support act, Bobby Shafto with the Roofraisers. Although David's single "Liza Jane" was added to their repertoire, The Manish Boys' act leaned mainly on American-influenced blues and soul, including a James Brown medley and covers of Ray Charles, Solomon Burke, The Coasters and The Yardbirds. David's stage persona was developing noticeably camp mannerisms, which in addition to the band's notoriously long hair would lead a promoter in Cromer to tell them they were "obscene". They had to flee after a gig in Luton where, according to Rodriguez, "The general feeling of the audience appeared to be that the trumpet player was all right but the rest were a lot of fucking poofters." Bob Solly recalled that when, in January 1965, The Manish Boys auditioned at the London Palladium for a residency at Hamburg's Star-Club, David attempted to secure the job by assuring the German promoter that he was gay: "That was common in those days. People would say anything in order to get on." There is every indication, however, that David's alleged homosexuality during the period had been much exaggerated: it was at the Marquee gig on November 6th that he first met 14-year-old Dana Gillespie, who became a girlfriend and remained in his circle into the 1970s. "My parents thought he was a girl," Gillespie later revealed. "He looked like Veronica Lake. His hair was much longer than The Beatles'. On stage, he wore these Sheriff of Nottingham type boots, a Russian peasant's shirt and a waistcoat. If you wore knee-length suede boots with long straight hair, you weren't the normal person on the street. He was always an outsider in that regard."

Davie Jones and The Manish Boys 1965 at BBC Television Centre
Davie Jones and The Manish Boys 1965

Not long afterwards The Manish Boys' recording career resumed in association with producer Shel Talmy, whose offer to take the group into the studio meant scrapping the Hamburg season. On January 15th 1965 they cut their Parlophone single "I Pity The Fool", and when Leslie Conn secured a performance on BBC2's March 8th edition of Gadzooks! It's All Happening, David found himself involved in a second hair-oriented publicity stunt. The show's producer Barry Langford insisted that David cut his hair before the broadcast, which led to a preposterous demonstration involving the band's small coterie of fans picketing the BBC with placards reading "Be Fair To Long Hair". The Daily Mirror ran the story on March 3rd with the headline "ROW OVER DAVY'S HAIR", and the following day's Daily Mail reported that the band had been dropped from the programme, quoting David saying "I wouldn't have my hair cut for the Prime Minister, let alone the BBC." The Mirror was back on the case on March 6th with the news that the band would be appearing after all, and would donate their fee to charity if viewers complained about David's locks. On the day of the show the Evening News published a photograph of the week's most publicised pop singer having his hair cut for the show after all. The Mirror wrapped up the saga the day after the TV show with an editorial lamenting that the existence of long-haired men was "nauseating", proof of "a sickness in the air".

Langford, of course, was a willing party to all this nonsense - certainly the publicity didn't do the programme any harm. Then again, it didn't do "I Pity The Fool" much good, and within two weeks of the broadcast David had parted company with the band after a dispute over billing. "I Pity The Fool" had been credited simply to The Manish Boys, despite an earlier agreement that it was supposed to have been "Davie Jones and The Manish Boys", the name under which most of the band's live dates had been advertised. As early as May 1965 Paul Rodriguez would admit to the Kent Messenger that there had been "a furious row" over David's billing. In any event, the failure of the single put paid to any plans to record another. Bob Solly recalled meeting David in Shel Talmy's office in early May: "We said to him, 'What about the next record?' And he said, 'What makes you think I wanna do another record with The Manish Boys?'...I think he was a nice fellow who sometimes had to be nasty in order to get on. He had no other thought in his head than success."

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For his part, David would later recall that he had never been comfortable with The Manish Boys. "I didn't really like that band at all," he said in 1987. "It was rhythm & blues, but it wasn't very good. Nobody ever earned any money. The band was so huge and it was dreadful. And I had to live in Maidstone."

By mid-May David was fronting his next group, The Lower Third, and the remaining Manish Boys disbanded not long afterwards. Guitarist Johnny Flux would later enjoy some unlikely successes under the name John Edward - he wrote and produced Renee & Renato's notorious 1982 smash "Save Your Love", and designed, built and voiced the early 1980s ITV robot Metal Mickey. As a final footnote, Kenneth Pitt points out in his memoir that Mirabelle magazine's "Local Group Top Ten" voted The Manish Boys its sixth favourite band in the very same week that The Rats, a little-known Hull group who would later employ one Michael Ronson, were voted third.