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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Tunes in Town: Tony Ingram & The Manhattan Affair

The Manhattan Affair (Tony Ingram)

WILLIAMSBURG — “Tunes in Town” is an occasional series that will catch up with some of the local musical talents that call Hampton Roads home.

Tony Ingram loved music at an early age. Recollecting his childhood and the records that his parents would play all the time, his favorite thing about music was the harmonies.
“I started listening to records when I was a kid. I wasn’t that much of a ’50s guy, but I love harmony and I sing harmony. I love singing with other people and working in a harmony setting. I kinda learned from them but I wasn’t actually that much of a fan of the music,” Ingram said.
He began buying records like crazy and really dissecting what he was listening to.
“You do a lot of listening, trying to learn phrasing and style and harmonies. Listening to those records really stirred something in me. Emotionally, I connected with those records. I wanted to try my hand and see if there was anything I could do musically,” Ingram said.
Ingram was 15 when he first started performing with a band. He hasn’t looked back since — and it’s always been self-driven.
“I did not come from a musical family, but we had music on in the house a lot. My mom and dad listened to a lot of the crooners. My folks didn’t play anything. I sat down at an early age and started to learn a little bit on guitar and plunked around the piano. I started hanging around other musicians, people who were better than me, because that’s always who you learn the most from,” Ingram said.
After meeting his accompanist John Mason, the two kicked off the Manhattan Affair. Ingram’s repertoire of songs includes greats from Frank Sinatra, Billy Joel, George Benson, Otis Redding Jr, and more.
Tony Ingram performs around the Williamsburg area (Tony Ingram)
The Manhattan Affair plays mostly for private events around the Williamsburg area, but is also willing to be flexible for whatever job it is hired for.
“We’re great because we can blend into the environment we’re playing in. We’ve played Christmas parties at people’s private residences, but we can also be a band at a wedding reception that can sing for the dinner portion but get the crowd up on the dance floor later that evening. We’re very flexible,” Ingram said.
Mason, a trained musician, is the perfect accompanist according to Ingram.
“In terms of being able to get things done, it’s really easy. John comes from playing in New York City and playing with the big cruise lines. When we first got together, he asked me to give him a half dozen songs that I might be interested in singing. I gave him an idea and two days later, he had rehearsed them and we ran through them and we started building our set. He’s quick and he knows a lot of music just by ear,” Ingram said.
According to Ingram, he and Mason always look the part and try to plan for whatever venue they may be singing in.
“We always go out dressed with button-up shirts and slacks. The music we play is more city music, it deserves a little bit more of a dressed-up look about it. We want to be presentable for the type of music we perform,” Ingram said.
Playing frequently in Williamsburg at local restaurants, Ingram is happy to bring back the classics.
“I really appreciate that genre of music. It’s easy listening and brings me back to my childhood home. I get to combine the music that I love while sharing it with the community,” Ingram said.
Performing for the joy of the art form is exactly what Mason and Ingram do together.
“Everyone thinks you have to have a hit record to enjoy a living as a musician. You don’t. Be good at your craft, be good at what you do, study your craft, be the best that you can be, and if you treat it in a business-like manner, you can make a very good living as a musician,” Ingram said.
Ingram remains humble with the success the Manhattan Affair has had. As for words of advice to the next generation of musicians, he recommends always staying a student at your craft.
“Music teaches you humility because when you start to think that you are too good or great, the reality is that you aren’t. There’s always things to be learned, there are always things that you can listen to or sit in front of and watch that will educate you,” Ingram said.
For more information on Tony Ingram and the Manhattan Affair, visit tony-ingram.com.

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