One of the last discoveries on Sam Phillips' legendary Sun label, piano player Carl Mann
was best known for his rockabilly reworking of the Nat King" Cole pop standard "Mona Lisa."
was never able to land another hit on the level of "Mona Lisa," despite waxing a fair amount of high-quality rock & roll, including the 500,000 selling follow up hit "Pretend".Like many early rock vets, he
eventually moved into country music when the rockabilly market dried up, but never successfully established himself in that arena, and gradually drifted out of music.Carl Mann was born in Huntingdon, TN, on August 22, 1942.He
grew up in a strongly rural area, where his
family ran a lumber business, and fell in love with country music as a child.He
began singing in church at age nine and soon moved on to performing country songs at area talent contests.He
learned guitar at age ten, and piano at 13, by which time he'd already become a regular on local radio.He
also formed a band with several other young musicians, and soon took an interest in the R&B and rockabilly records that some of his
DJ friends played on the radio, especially those of Elvis Presley.In 1957, Mann successfully auditioned for the Jaxon label and cut his debut single, "Gonna Rock and Roll Tonight" b/w "Rockin' Love"; those sides marked his first collaborations with guitarist Eddie Bush, who would become an important member of Mann's band, and assisted him on his rearrangement of "Mona Lisa."
Holland brought Mann
to Sun Records in 1959, and Sam Phillips signed him to a three-year deal.
cut his take on "Mona Lisa" early that year, and while Phillips wasn't keen on releasing it as a single, Conway Twitty heard the demo tape and quickly cut his own version, which began climbing the charts.
Phillips hurriedly issued Mann's
, which battled Twitty's all the way up the pop charts.
also wasn't helped by the fact that he'd appeared at the tail end of rockabilly's prime, or that Charlie Rich had taken his place as Sun's rising new star.
In 1974, Mann
attempted a comeback singing straight country material; he
issued several singles over the next few years on ABC and Dot, but they didn't fit in with the slick countrypolitan records then dominating the charts.In 1977, Mann
got an offer from the Dutch label Rockhouse to record for European audiences; he
issued a couple of albums on that label, 1978's half-live/half-studio Gonna Rock'n'Roll Tonight and 1981's In Rockabilly Country.Mann
is back in music full time performing in both Europe and the United States.Carl became a member of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame in 2005. and now performs monthly in his hometown of Huntingdon, TN on the "Huntingdon Hayride" at the Dixie Carter Performing Arts Center.
A new chapter in the legendary career of Carl Mann
has begun.Carl Mann's
"Mona Lisa" is a new antique, gifts and collectables store that showcases Carl's career starting at Sun Records until today.