The Fluffy Jackets - In Memoriam - Manny Charlton.
In Memoriam: Manny Charlton, songwriter, guitarist and producer
Born in La Linea, Spain 25 July 1941, died in Fort Worth, Texas USA 5 July 2022
Manny Charlton; outside Sun Studio, Memphis in 2011, during sessions for The Fluffy Jackets' debut "Fighting Demons" (2014). *
This webpage is dedicated to the loving memory of my dear friend, mentor, songwriter, guitarist and producer Manny Charlton, who passed away on the 5th July 2022. His gentle soul, kindness, guidance and inspiration will live with me for the rest of my life.
I was devastated by the news of Manny's passing. He was my friend, mentor and an inspiration both in my music and in private life, so it is has taken me some time to digest the news, and to be able to find the words.
When I think about Manny Charlton, my thoughts will inevitably stray to the time we spent together. So, for me, Manny will live on via the memories we shared and the music created together on the The Fluffy Jackets records. He produced and played guitar on the "Sun Studio" session on The Fluffy Jackets' debut "Fighting Demons" from 2014. He also played guitar and produced the follow-up Fluffy Jackets' album "Something from Nothing" in 2019.
The Something from Nothing album was recorded over 3 years (between 2016-2019) at his Madmento studio located in Cordoba, Spain. This release included a 2-hour long making-of documentary, and Manny graciously contributed a lot to the DVD release. He did interviews about his studio equipment and his guitars in Cordoba and also did in-depth interviews during his last tour of Scotland with Linton Osbourne in 2017.
Already during the making of the "Something from Nothing" documentary, I knew that those interviews would be of historic significance. I have always felt that Manny never got the recognition he deserved, so those interviews was my way of contributing to the public awareness about him.
I have been a fan of Manny Charlton's guitar playing since I was a little kid. I think I must have been 6 or 7 years old when I heard Nazareth for the first time. So, for me it was just an honor to meet Manny, let alone playing music together. Therefore, making the "Something from Nothing" documentary was a labor of love for me. Besides, who would not want to meet their hero, and ask all the questions you have always wondered about?
I will never forget the first time I met Manny. I was picking him up at Memphis Airport TN in a Ford Mustang. We drove down to Sun Studio, where we would record our first songs together for The Fluffy Jackets' Fighting Demons album.
In the studio, he could be a hard taskmaster, as he would stop at nothing to produce the result he wanted. This could sometimes lead to heated discussions, but he would always find a way to get the best out of the performer. He would get you to do stuff you did not think you were capable of. This is what a truly great producer does. And, that is what Manny did, when he had his "producer hat" on.
I learned so much from my time with him in the studio. Without it ever being said, over the last 10 years, he became my mentor and guiding light. At one point, he said: "I am not going to be around forever, Helge, so it is important that you understand what I am telling you now".
Manny gained a lot of knowledge from his lifetime in music. He was a professional guitarist, songwriter, producer and engineer and had truly mastered the art of song arrangement. He was a self-confessed gear-head and was always looking to get more equipment. At 80, he knew more about digital music technology than most producers half his age.
Manny never tired of listening to music. Often, I would come into the studio in the morning, and he would already be at the desk with a new track that he wanted me to listen to. Manny was like a walking music encyclopedia. He was a big fan of music and would have insightful answers on just about anything. As a seasoned professional, he was always mindful about his own role. If he had his "producers' hat" on, he would say: "You play guitar on this track Helge, it is your record".
On another song, when it was agreed that he would play guitar, he would slip into "guitar-playing-mode". He would waste no time in setting up the gear he required, then play the solo quickly and efficiently. And it always sounded great. Each solo he did was unique, and he never played the same thing twice. His solos never sounded over-produced or overly "thought about". For all his talent as a producer, I think his talent for playing the guitar was even greater. He knew exactly what sound and feeling he could get out of an instrument, and the solo would always sound spot on for the song.
But - for all of Manny's undoubtable talents as a guitarist, producer and songwriter - he was first and foremost a dear friend. After that first meeting at Sun Studio, we connected on a personal level. He invited me to his house in Texas, we spent time in Norway and Spain together. And, in-between, we would have chats on Facebook and online meetings during the Covid lock-down periods in 2020-2021. It was always a pleasure speaking to him. He was always kind, considerate and his kind words never failed to hit home.
Manny was a citizen of the world, a gentleman who cared about his fellow man. He was one of the kindest and most interesting people I have ever met. He was well-travelled and well-read. He took an active interest in current affairs and he wanted to make the world a better place. And he did make the world a better place, by writing and performing music that touched us all. He led a rich and rewarding life. He saw the world several times over. He lived to tell the tale, and he became a legend in his own lifetime.
In his private life, as in his professional life, I found him to be absolutely fearless. For example, when he relocated from the US to Spain, I asked him if he was not worried about moving to the new country all by himself? After all, he was well over 70 years of age at that point, and did not even speak the language (!). His answer was; "Helge; when you stop learning is when you stop living" or something in that nature.
The last time we physically met was in March 2022, when I took the opportunity to travel to Cordoba (the Covid-19 travel restrictions had just ended). As we sat talking in the studio, he told me that he was looking forward to visit Texas to spend time with his wife Julie in the summer of 2022. We agreed for him to guest on two tracks on the forthcoming Fluffy Jackets record, and we even recorded a couple of ideas.
Manny died suddenly of heart failure in the middle of the night, 5th July 2022, in Fort Worth, USA.
I knew his music long before I knew the man. My childhood guitar hero and friend has passed away. I will miss him dearly.
Rest in peace Manny.
Manny Charlton Born 25 July 1941 - Died 5 July 2022
In loving memory: On the remainding part of this webpage, I will add pictures, music and videos in order to honor the memory of our dear friend. The objective is to have a place to visit for quiet complementation and rememberance. May this page be a place of solace for people, fans, musicians, family and friends who want to remember Manny Charlton and his life.
The news of Manny Charlton's passing at the age of 80 was confirmed by his grandson, Jamie Charlton, who shared this photo on social media with the caption "RIP Grandad". The photo shows (L-R) Manny Charlton, Tony Charlton and Jamie Charlton. The above picture was taken 12 March 2017 outside P J Molloys pub in Dunfermline after we had attended The Manny Charlton Band homecoming concert (feat. Linton Osborne). This turned out to be the last time Manny performed in his hometown. Sadly, Manny's son Tony preceeded him in death six months.
The last picture I have of Manny Charlton, March 2022, sitting in the Madmento Studio, in Cordoba, Spain. I was always impressed whenever we were in the studio - not only by his incredible guitar-skills - but the knowledge he had about production techniques, mixing or even the very latest software plugins! *
During the interviews for The Fluffy Jackets‘ "Something from Nothing" album and DVD (2019), Manny reflected on Nazareth’s inception in Dunfermline:
“I knew Pete [Agnew] and Dan [McCafferty] because we were both playing in the Kinema Ballroom with the resident band.”
“They played on one stage and we played on the other.”
“We used to walk up the road after the gigs with our fish suppers; we always spoke about trying to do something together one day.”
“They had a pretty good guitarist who left to go to university.”
“They asked me to take his place, and I said sure, but only if we do originals.”
The Fluffy Jackets' interview with Manny Charlton, Part 1, recorded in Scotland, 2017. Originally released as part of The Fluffy Jackets' Something from Nothing album (CD + DVD release).
The Fluffy Jackets' interview with Manny Charlton, Part 2, recorded in Scotland, 2017. Originally released as part of The Fluffy Jackets' Something from Nothing album (CD + DVD release).
In 2021, The Fluffy Jackets joined forces with The Halloween Project and Ronni Le Tekrø (TNT) to record a tribute to Manny Charlton on his 80th birthday (25 July 2021). I am very grateful that we did this while Manny was still alive to see it. *
The video for Telegram was released in celebration of Manny Charlton. on his 80th birthday. PS: I note that several online news sites are quoting that Manny appeared on this song "Telegram". However, this is an error. Telegram was recorded at Ronni Le Tekrø's (TNT) Studio Studio Nyhagen in Løten, Toten (Norway) in 2021 with overdubs recorded at The Fluffy Jackets Sound Studio in Bergen (Norway). The musicians involved were Odd Gunnar Nergård (Guitar),
Leif Knashaug (Vocals),
Rune Nergård (Drums),
Frode Nergård (Bass), Helge Rognstad (Vocals), Ronni Le Tekrø (Guitar) and Markus Klyve (Keys). The song was co-produced by The Halloween Project and Kjartan Hesthagen.
For Manny's 80th birthday, The Fluffy Jackets also recorded a second Nazareth-cover together with The Halloween Project. "Ship of Dreams" had a special meaning to Manny; as he originally wrote it about his mother and the journey from Spain to Scotland. (Manny was born in the Andalusian city of La Línea de la Concepción in Spain. During the second word war, when he was two, his parents relocated to Dunfermline in Scotland). The single artwork for Ship of Dreams was created by Flynnt Biggar (UK).
It was a true honor to have Manny Charlton appearing on The Fluffy Jackets' debut album from 2014. *
Manny Charlton (Nazareth), Rob Hall (Jerry Lee Lewis' Killer Band), Helge Rognstad (The Fluffy Jackets) and Neil Murray (Whitesnake) outside the legendary Sun Studio in Memphis TN, gathered for a recording session for The Fluffy Jackets' debut Fighting Demons (2014) *
Helge Rognstad and Manny Charlton (Nazareth) at Sun Studio, Memphis TN, 2011. *
Manny Charlton (Nazareth) at Sun Studio, Memphis TN, 2011. *
"Why don't you smile" was the first single from The Fluffy Jackets' Fighting Deamons album (2014). It features an amazing guitar solo by Manny Charlton.
By the way: Manny would never add a guitar solo just for the sake of it.
In fact, it was very humbling to find that my guitar hero would take his time to study my song so seriously, even looking at the lyrics and suggest changes. He would sit back, listen to the demo and then think about what instrumentation which could make the melody to stand out. Manny was not one for showing off his guitar skills - he always played the guitar in service of the song. But on this song he let it rip!
While I was in Manny's studio recording The Fluffy Jackets' "Something from Nothing" album (released 2019), Manny was just finishing his last solo record, simply called "Solo" (released 2016).
One day, he played me a track which just was incredible - it is a song called "She Dances in Cordoba" which features a Spanish singer Randy Lopez. In my opinion, it is one of the best tracks he has ever recorded; a wonderful production.
On my next visit, the album was completed, so I insisted to Manny that I wanted to buy a copy from him (he wanted to give me a copy). When I got home, opened the album and read the liner notes, I almost had to cry. He had listed me in his thank-you notes. It really made my day! Still does.
Of course, for most people, Manny Charlton will be remembered for the truly remarkable catalogue of music produced and released by Nazareth (1971-1989). The previous incarnation "The Shadettes" wore matching yellow suits and played cover versions of Top 30 hits, but all that changed in 1968 when they altered their name to Nazareth (inspired by The Band’s song The Weight, whose opening line is “I pulled into Nazareth, I was feelin’ about half past dead”). With guidance from their manager, Bill Fehilly, a Scottish bingo-halls entrepreneur who also went on to look after the affairs of the Sensational Alex Harvey Band, they moved to London in 1970 and released their debut album, Nazareth, the following year.
The immensurable impact that Manny Charlton had on Nazareth is beyond question. By the time of Razamanaz (1973) their hard-hitting but melodic Nazareth songs was becoming discernible, and the album reached No 11 on the UK album chart, spinning off the Top 10 UK hit singles Broken Down Angel and Bad Bad Boy. The subsequent albums Loud'N'Proud and Rampant were equally successful; where their complete re-working of Joni Michell's "This Flight Tonight" made such a stir that Joni Michell herself even started to referring to it as "a Nazareth song" shortly thereafter.
Manny Charlton with his Gibson Les Paul Custom guitar that he played throughout his Nazareth career.
Though Nazareth had several hits prior to 1975, it was not until Manny Charlton took over the production-reins for Hair of the Dog that Nazareth would break into the big-league. Recorded at Escape Studio a converted oest-house (Island Farm, Egerton) in Kent, the album spawned the global hit "Love Hurts", topping popular music charts around the world.
In an interview with Classic Rock, looking back on the platinum-seller, Manny Charlton remained surprised by its impact; “I’m still trying to understand why it was so successful,” he said. “It was the first album that I produced, so beginner’s luck, you might say.”
Love Hurts single, released by A&M Records. In an interview with Ross Muir, Manny Charlton explained the story on how he committed Nazareth's Love Hurts to tape:
"What had happened was Dan McCafferty and Pete Agnew were away at a wedding and Darrell Sweet and I were in the studio, twiddling our fingers. And I think Darrell had said "what do you want to do" to which I replied "let’s try doing a version of Love Hurts."
"So I laid down all the guitar parts and Darrell put down the drum track and when Pete and Dan came back the next day and asked what we had been up to we said
"well, we did a wee version of Love Hurts."
And I remember them saying "Love Hurts? Well, okay; what key is it in?"
"When I said "it’s in G" Pete immediately went "G! Holy shit…" [laughter].
"But Dan, trooper that he was, just said "no problem, I’ll do it" but there are some really high notes in there, especially in the bridge and the "they’re not fooling me" line. That line was just too much of a stretch for Dan so I slowed the tape down by the littlest of touches so he could hit the notes and he just made it.
"But we got it down, we finished it off and it’s become a classic
Manny Charlton purchased this Gibson Flying V guitar in Tuscon Arizona during the Hair of the Dog tour, and subsequently used it on the Nazareth albums: Play'N' the Game from 1976 and Expect No Mercy from 1977. He also used it on several TV shows including "Alice Cooper and Friends" (the live music television special recorded at Anaheim in California in 1977) and the BBC Sight and Sound TV show (1977). The latter TV show was subsequently released on DVD under the name From the Beginning (2005) and the Audio CD Live at the Beeb(1998).
Nazareth performing Hair of the Dog at the BBC, 1977 (Manny with the Gibson Flying V guitar).
The new owner Helge Rognstad: the guitar is still in use today! -I bought the guitar from Manny in 2015. *
Manny told me that he was very happy with the sound of the Play'N the Game album.
Manny produced all of the successful Nazareth albums in the late 1970's. This album featured the classic Telegram song, which became their excellent show-opener for many years.
Expect No Mercy - produced by Manny Charlton.
No Mean City (1979) was produced by Manny Charlton. This also marked the last album they made before Bill Fehilly, their first manager, died in a plane crash.
The Hair of the Dog album (1975) was the start of a prolific time as a producer for Manny Charlton:
I think people forget how over-worked Manny Charlton was at this stage. He produced an album each year with Nazareth, and even found time to produce several other bands. No wonder, Manny wanted to take a break for Malice in Wonderland (Nazareth's 1980 album, which was produced by Jeffery Baxter).
I took this picture in Manny Charlton's studio in March 2022; a Gold album presented to him for the production of Canadian rockers Steetheart - Under Heaven Over Hell (1979).
The only album Manny Charlton produced in the 1980s, was Sound Elixir from 1983, where a young Billy Rankin also contributed a lot to the song-writing.
By 1986, Nazareth had passed their record-selling peak, but they continued to command a huge fanbase. Among them was a young unknown band from California, who approached Manny Charlton to produce their debut album:
Axl Rose of Guns'N'Roses initially wanted "the guy who produced Nazareth's Hair of the Dog"to produce what would become the band's breakthrough album. Charlton got the request from Geffen Records and produced several recordings at Sound City Studios (Los Angeles) in June 1986. However, after his initial work, Manny had to rejoin with Nazareth in Europe, offering his services to GNR if they could get their schedules together. However, eventually, Guns N' Roses hired Mike Clink to produce the Guns'N'Roses album. In the interview with Classic Rock, Manny was sanguine about the experience You can read the story of Manny Charlton and the birth of Appetite for Destruction at Classic Rock Magazine.
After Manny Charlton's recording session GNR had 25 songs on tape, including "Paradise City", "Rocket Queen", "Welcome to the jungle", "Nightrain", two versions of "Move to the City", "November Rain", "Shadow of your Love" (takes one and two), and "Reckless Life". Charlton's productions are included as bonuses on the 2018 reissue of Appetite for Destruction. Read the story on How Appetite for Destruction was made here.
In 1990, Manny Charlton left Nazareth, after a dispute about song-writing credits, and a bad experience recording their Snakes'N'Ladders album. This would also prove to be a turbulent time for Manny personally, as he got divorced from his first wife Isabel around this time. He later married American-born Julie Charlton and re-located to Fort Worth (Dallas, Texas) in 1997, where they lived together for many years. He would eventually relocate back to Europe in 2015, settling in Cordoba, Spain.
After his move to USA in 1997, he formed the Manny Charlton Band, with whom he recorded a couple of albums, "Stonkin", and "Klone this". He also had a brief stint as a guitarist with Swedish project-band "From Behind" and produced their debut "Game Over" release from 2006. This album also included Nicky Moore (RIP 2022) from Samson and guitarist Michael Fassberg (RIP 2018) who would go on to join Swedish rockers "Bonafide". However, shortly after a tour of Scandinavia, Manny returned to focus his attention on his solo career.
During his time in Texas, he befriended Jim Williams, a guitarist working at a guitar store in the Fort Worth area. Jim Williams was an excellent guitarist in his own right and turned out to be a great collaborator for Manny. They wrote some great songs together, until Jim Williams sadly passed away. Jim Williams also picked out a few great guitars for Manny, including this Fender Stratocaster Custom Shop guitar, which I purchased from Manny earlier in 2022.
Manny played the Fender Stratocaster on most of his solo records, and you can also see it in the music video for The Fluffy Jackets' single "Everything must change" from 2019.
Manny Charlton's solo-career spanned from "Drool" in 1997 to "Solo" in 2016 so he released several high-quality albums since leaving Nazareth. This includes “Hellacious” from 2014, which features an all-star line-up of classic rock legends, including Tim Bogert (formerly of Vanilla Fudge, Cactus and Beck, Bogert & Appice), drummer Walfredo Reyes Jr. (Santana, Traffic, Steve Winwood and Lindsey Buckingham.), Vivian Campbell (Def Leppard), Robert Sarzo (Quiet Riot), Steven Adler (Guns'n'Roses) and a talented New York-based singer, Robyn DeLarenzo
In 2018, Atom released a "Best of" compilation Creme de la Creme, covering Manny Charlton's solo career (1997-2016). In my view, Manny's solo period produced some of the most heartfelt songs that Manny ever recorded in his life. Take his self-biographical "My Fathers Eyes" for starters. He told me that the words just came to him one day and he wrote it in two minutes (Manny never got to meet his biological father), or "She Dances in Cordoba" which is a truly wonderful piece of music featuring flamenco style vocals by Randy Lopez.
After Manny's sad passing, his daughter Vicky Charlton got in touch and kindly sent me several CD's, among them his "Creme de la Creme" album, and it was both humbling and touching to see that he mentioned me in the liner notes. I am also very grateful to her for asking me if I wanted some of Manny's gutiars, and I ended up purchasing two guitars, which holds a lot of sentimental value:
This is a Hofner Lap Steel guitar which Manny got as a present from Nazareth-drummer Darrell Sweet (RIP) and bassist Pete Agnew. They found it in a store in Edinburgh, and gave it to Manny Charlton as a gift. He used it on several Nazareth albums and live in the studio (including both The Fluffy Jackets' albums he played on). You can read more about this guitar in the Equipment feature on this webpage.
This is a guitar that Manny Charlton built himself along with guitar luthier Bob Laidlaw in Scotland. You can learn more about this in Episode 6 of the 'Something from Nothing' (2019)
documentary, where Manny told the story about this guitar and others used on The Fluffy Jackets album. I also have good memories of seeing Manny play this guitar on our first single "Why Dont You Smile" from the "Fighting Demons" album (2014).