Mike d'Abo

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Mike d'Abo
Mike d'Abo in 1967
Mike d'Abo in 1967
Background information
Birth nameMichael David d'Abo
Born (1944-03-01) 1 March 1944 (age 78)
Betchworth, Surrey, England
GenresRock, pop, folk
Occupation(s)Singer-songwriter, musician
InstrumentsVocals, piano, guitar
Years active1960s–present
WebsiteOfficial website

Michael David d'Abo (born 1 March 1944) is an English singer and songwriter, best known as the lead vocalist of Manfred Mann from 1966 to their dissolution in 1969, and as the composer of the songs "Handbags and Gladrags" and "Build Me Up Buttercup", the latter of which was a hit for The Foundations. With Manfred Mann, d'Abo achieved six top twenty hits on the UK Singles Chart including "Semi-Detached Suburban Mr. James", "Ha! Ha! Said The Clown" and the chart topper "Mighty Quinn".[1]

Early years[edit]

D'Abo was born in Betchworth, Surrey,[2] the son of Dorothy Primrose (née Harbord) and Edward Nassau Nicolai d'Abo, a London stockbroker. The d'Abo family were landed gentry, of West Wratting, Cambridgeshire.[3] He was educated at Wellesley House Prep School in Kent, then at Harrow School and Selwyn College, Cambridge. He is 5 ft 11 in (1.80 m), and has eyes "that honestly seem to change from blue to brown to green, depending on the light" (Pete Goodman, music journalist). D'Abo's original intention at Cambridge was to read theology and become a priest but, faced with "everything to learn" (not least Classical Greek and Hebrew), and a disconnect between the "strange, impractical philosophy" he was being taught and his idealism about "bringing comfort to people" and spreading "understanding in the world," he "became wholly disillusioned" (Rave, November 1966). He switched to economics, also unsuccessfully, and left Cambridge with "a first class jazz collection" but without completing his studies.

Band of Angels[edit]

His musical career began while he was still at Harrow School. He had minor success with a group of Old Harrovians, A Band of Angels,[2] that had their own comic strip in a UK pop music weekly, Fab 208. A Band of Angels did not make the big time and d'Abo later reflected on what had gone wrong for them: "We weren't right for each other. We weren't a group. They didn't want me to be too outstanding, a thing that happens naturally in most groups.... Also we looked old-fashioned when we started. I knew I looked wrong but I didn't want to change, I looked like me and what I am. It is just lucky that fashion now agrees with me" (Rave, November 1966).

Manfred Mann[edit]

In July 1966, after leaving A Band of Angels, D’Abo joined Manfred Mann, an established chart-topping group, as a replacement for lead singer Paul Jones, who was leaving to start a solo career.[2] Comparisons between d'Abo and Jones (whom d'Abo physically resembled) became a media preoccupation at the time of the switch, but d'Abo wasted little time dwelling upon it. "I enjoy being with the group," he told Pete Goodman. "We really do have an enormously wide range of musical tastes among us."

D'Abo's first big hit with Manfred Mann was "Semi-Detached Suburban Mr James".[2] It was nearly recorded with "Mr Jones" in the title before it occurred to the group that it might be interpreted as being an implied reference to Paul Jones. D'Abo first recorded the As Is album (with the attaching single Dylan's "Just Like a Woman"). All of the UK Fontana and US Mercury releases featured d'Abo.[citation needed]

He composed and produced Chris Farlowe's "Handbags and Gladrags",[2] a hit single (which was also notably recorded by Rod Stewart and Stereophonics and subsequently became the theme music to the BBC television show The Office) and "The Last Goodbye". He also wrote two songs recorded by Rod Stewart on Immediate Records: "Little Miss Understood" and "So Much to Say (So Little Time)". With d'Abo fronting, Manfred Mann enjoyed numerous hits, including "Ragamuffin Man", "Ha Ha Said the Clown", "My Name is Jack" and the Dylan-penned number one hit, "Quinn the Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn)", which they retitled as simply "Mighty Quinn".[2] Manfred Mann subsequently disbanded in 1969.[2]

Post Manfred Mann[edit]

In 1968, he and Tony Macaulay co-wrote "Build Me Up Buttercup",[2] which was recorded by The Foundations and sold over four million copies by April 1969, including one million discs in the United States.[4][5]

In December 1968, d'Abo played the lead in Gulliver Travels (subtly, not Gulliver's Travels) at the Mermaid Theatre, Blackfriars, London and he also portrayed Herod on the original recording of Jesus Christ Superstar. He had a short role on the original recording of Evita. He also wrote "Loving Cup" for The Fortunes and "Mary, Won't You Warm My Bed" for Colin Blunstone.[citation needed] In 1970, he composed and performed the music for the Peter Sellers film, There's a Girl in My Soup, and played John Lennon in No One was Saved at the Royal Court Theatre Schools scheme. D'Abo also worked with Mike Smith, the former keyboard player of the Dave Clark Five.[2] In 1976, they released an album on the CBS (UK) label, Smith & d'Abo.[6]


In 1997, d'Abo presented a programme on BBC Radio Bristol, "The Golden Years", playing music from the 1950s onwards; it broadcast on Saturdays on BBC Radio Gloucestershire. BBC Wiltshire Sound subsequently added the programme to their schedules.[7]

During the 1990s, he also presented "Late Night West", a popular weeknightly programme on west-of-England local radio for five nights a week, that included music, competitions, and a listener phone-in. In the late 1990s he contributed to The Mike d'Abo Story, a documentary written by Geoff Leonard, narrated and produced by Phil Vowels, and broadcast on BBC Radio Bristol and BBC Radio Gloucestershire.

He also presented a number of programmes on BBC Radio 2 in 1986 and 1987.[8]


D'abo has been married three times. His first marriage was to model Maggie London in 1967. They had two children: Ben d'Abo (born 1967) and Olivia d'Abo (born 1969). His second wife was Karen and they had one son, Bruno d'Abo. His third marriage was to Lisa Weaver in 1996, which produced twins Ella and Louis in July 2007. He is a first cousin of actress Maryam d'Abo. His sister Carol is widow of the late Conservative MP and minister Sir Nicholas Baker.[9]


Year Album Label
1970 Jesus Christ Superstar Decca/MCA/Decca Broadway
Year Album Label
1970 d'Abo UNI
1972 Down at Rachel's Place A&M
1974 Broken Rainbows A&M
1987 Indestructible President
1988 Tomorrow's Troubador President
2001 The Mike D'Abo Collection, Vol. 1: 1964–1970 – Handbags & Gladrags RPM
2003 A Little Miss Understood: Mike d'Abo Collection, Vol. 2 RPM
2004 Handbags and Gladrags: The Mike D'Abo Songbook President
2004 Hidden Gems & Treasured Friends Angel Air


  1. ^ "Manfred Mann | full Official Chart History". Officialcharts.com. Retrieved 11 June 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Colin Larkin, ed. (1997). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Sixties Music (First ed.). Virgin Books. p. 138. ISBN 0-7535-0149-X.
  3. ^ Burke's Landed Gentry, 18th edition, vol. I, ed. Peter Townend, Burke's Peerage Ltd, 1965, pp. 181-182
  4. ^ "Build Me Up Buttercup – The Foundations: Listen, Appearances, Song Review". AllMusic. Retrieved 2 January 2013.
  5. ^ Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London, UK: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 240. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
  6. ^ "Smith & D'Abo". Amazon.com. 15 July 2003. Retrieved 27 October 2017.
  7. ^ "Geocities.com". Webcitation.org. Archived from the original on 20 October 2009. Retrieved 5 April 2011.
  8. ^ "Search Results - BBC Genome". Genome.ch.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 11 June 2021.
  9. ^ M Patrick Cosgrave (28 April 1997). "Obituary: Sir Nicholas Baker – People – News". The Independent. Archived from the original on 14 May 2022. Retrieved 4 January 2013.

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