Friday, 1 February 2013
Bob Manning born 1 February 1926
Bob Manning (b. Manny Levin, 1 February 1926, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA – 23 October 1997). A highly accomplished, but underrated ballad singer, whose career has probably suffered because his voice bore an uncanny similarity to that of the more popular Dick Haymes.
As a boy Manny underwent major hip surgery and was to spend the next two and a half years of his young life in bed with not even bathroom privileges, both in traction and braces. Outside of a baseball board game which he devised himself, this greatest companion was his radio which literally kept him company twenty-four hours a day. Realizing that his great dream of one day being a baseball "Hall of Famer" was never to be fulfilled Manny started making plans for his future in another direction. He knew from all the attention he always received from the family and friends that he could sing and sing well. So a new dream was starting to unfold. He became conscious of the fact that merely singing was not enough but phrasing the lyrics was the major key to being a great singer as opposed to being just a good singer.
Influenced by the singers and bands of the "Swing Era", He started singing along with the bands on the radio, working at trying to perfect a style that was right from him, and being a perfectionist and his own severest critic, he knew he could never settle for second best. One of the first things he realized was that "Manny Levin" was not a real eye-catcher on a marquee, so he decided then and there that "Bob Manning" had a better ring to it and would be more fitting for the great booming sounds that started to come forth with the months and years. He was later to change his name legally to avoid nnecessary confusion.
At age eighteen, he started singing with Joe Frasett's band around Philadelphia. His next break came at age nineteen singing on radio on station WIP in Philadelphia before joining the newly formed Ziggy Elman outfit in 1947. He then worked for short periods with Art Mooney and Tommy Dorsey, and made an impressive appearance on the Arthur Godfrey Talent Scouts programme. Unable to secure a contract with a major record company, Manning persuaded a friend to finance a recording session, out of which came "The Nearness Of You", a classic performance, and reportedly composer Hoagy Carmichael's favourite version of his song. It was picked up by Capitol Records, and entered the US Top 20 in 1953.
Bob started hitting the charts in a big way and was rewarded by being voted most promising singer by Downbeat, Metronome, Billboard, Cash Box and Variety. The Disc Jockeys loved him and his talent. Outside of performing in leading night clubs around the country and taking time out to have more operations to correct his ever painful hip condition, Bob managed to do some great T.V. spots. Among them were the Colgate Comedy Hour, Jackie Gleason, Ed Sullivan, Dick Clark, Joey Bishop and a host of others.
The singer had further success with "All I Desire" and "Venus De Milo", and also released a tasteful collection of standards entitled Lonely Spell. Most of the tracks on that album were re-released in 1994. Manning appeared in one feature film, an episode of the long-running Penny Singleton-Arthur Lake series of Blondie films.
Like so many other classy singers, Manning was overtaken by the advent of rock 'n' roll in the late 50s, and faded into the background.
Manning died of pneumonia on October 23, 1997, at the age of 71. (Info various mainly All Music)