The singing detective: law enforcer with a passion

Category:  News
Wednesday, November 29th, 2017 at 5:14 PM

Detective Richard Manning will be performing with EU Director of Bagpiping Patrick Regan on Dec. 2 in the Louis C. Cole Auditorium at 6 p.m, and later that night at 8 p.m. at Fat Willie’s in Edinboro with the Donnie Irish Band.

When he’s not arresting dangerous fugitives and protecting the community, Richard “Ricky” Manning spends his free time enchanting the ears off of fans all around the Pittsburgh area. He lives his life with a badge in one hand and a microphone in the other.

Growing up in western Pennsylvania, Manning always knew he wanted to be in law enforcement. He attended Central Catholic High School, spent a year studying at Duquesne University and then proceeded to graduate with a degree in law enforcement from Point Park University in 2006. He was also part of the Allegheny County Police Academy. 

Manning’s family is full of people who work in law. “Being an officer is something I wanted to do, but it’s also something I grew up around. A lot of my family is involved in the legal system or the law enforcement in general. I had a lot of exposure to it as a kid,” said Manning.

His father, Jeffrey Manning, is president judge at the Allegheny County Courthouse, while Manning himself is an 18-year veteran of the Allegheny County Sheriff’s Department. He started working there when he was 20 years old and was promoted to detective sergeant in 2013. 

Though his day job consists of arrests, court hearings and all the other responsibilities of being a sergeant, Manning has a huge passion for music. 

“I ended up figuring out I could sing in front of a crowd in high school, and I started off singing in some shows at Central while playing with guitar here and there in my free time. I was also a drummer in the high school marching band all four years,” said Manning.

Shortly after Manning graduated from high school, he joined the Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) pipes and drums band. He drummed with CMU and their competing pipe band for 12 years.

“In that time, I pestered the guy that was teaching to teach me how to play pipes because I grew such an interest,” said Manning. He bought an old set of bagpipes off of a student so he could learn the craft of this instrument that most people have a “love/hate” relationship with. 

There’s a lot of Irish history in Manning’s family. About 90 percent of his family is from some part of Ireland, so he has a high respect for the skirl sound the bagpipes create.

“The teacher made me promise that if he taught me, I would remain in the drum line because he didn’t want to run short of good drummers,” said Manning. Manning agreed he would continue with the drums while he learned how to play the bagpipes. Now, he’s a musician that has the knowledge of three instruments under his belt: guitar, drums and bagpipes. And the fact that he has a singing voice too; well, let’s just say that’s his fourth instrument.

Patrick Regan, Edinboro University’s bagpiping director, was in the pipe band at CMU with Manning. They would travel all over together competing along the eastern seaboard. They have even played together at the Highland Games here at Edinboro.

Manning and Regan will be reuniting this Saturday, Dec. 2, with Edinboro University’s Performing Arts and Culture Series to present “A Celtic Holiday Celebration.” This benefit concert will include the duo performing a mix of traditional and Celtic seasonal songs, blending vocals, bagpipes and guitar.

Manning has had many major musical moments in his life. He sang the national anthem at Heinz Field three times, including the Christmas game when the Pittsburgh Steelers played the Baltimore Ravens in 2016. 

There’s one moment in particular that Manning believes is a highlight. He had the opportunity to audition in front of the late Marvin Hamlisch, a famous conductor and composer who won many awards, including: an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony. Hamlisch is one of only two people to have won those four prizes along with a Pulitzer Prize.

Manning sang the infamous song, “Danny Boy.” Hamlisch must have loved it because he then invited Manning to sing it in front of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. That was six years ago.

“Standing on the stage at Heinz Hall in front of three thousand people was nerve racking and I don’t usually get nervous when singing. I have sang the National Anthem at Heinz Field in front of 70,000 thousand people before, but it was nothing quite like this,” said Manning.

After that, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra invited him back two years in a row for their famously known concert tradition, Hallmark Holiday Pops. To this day, Manning still keeps in touch with them and performs there every now and then for different events.

Though Manning enjoys playing and singing traditional style music, he also likes to rock out. “I don’t stick to one genre of music,” said Manning. “Music is a feeling for me and feelings change,” he continued.

In the past, Manning was part of a band with fellow artist, Mark Pipas, also known as “The Sleaze” by the city of Pittsburgh. “He is a walking jukebox,” said Manning. They played in many bars and had multiple wedding gigs. “The Sleaze” now lives in Alabama while Manning is doing something new.

“I got my start playing at bars with him and then branched off to play at more Irish establishments like Mullaney’s Harp & Fiddle in the strip district, Riley’s Pourhouse, and more,” said Manning. He really keeps the Irish in him alive.

One evening, Manning was hanging out with a group of friends who also happened to be musicians, when an idea struck. 

“Playing Irish medleys includes a lot of slower music, such as ballads,” said Manning. He continued: “I wanted to put some more drive behind some of the traditional stuff I played and thought it would be awesome to hear some traditional stuff with a full rock band behind it, but not changing the actual essence of the song. More so molding it into something with more ‘oomf’ if you want to call it that.” 

This group of musicians ran with the idea and became widely known in the Pittsburgh area. Music should be fun and enjoyable and that’s exactly what Manning and his friends made of it. Playing music at local bars and just having fun. “That’s 90 percent of the game. If you’re not having fun as a band, you’re not going to mesh well and you’re not going to make people happy,” said Manning. 

Turns out, not only did this group of musicians love playing this variety of rock, folk, country and Celtic styles, but the audiences loved it too. “We made a lot of songs our own even though they weren’t our songs,” said Manning.

Though they were a band now, they didn’t have a name to call themselves. 

“One night after a gig, we were sitting down having a pint and thought ‘we need to call ourselves something’. Jokingly, our bass player, said, ‘let’s call ourselves the Donnie Irish Band.” 

Though it was a name proposal that was thrown out there as a pun, it stuck with them. Pittsburgh now knows this group of four musicians as the Donnie Irish Band.

 It’s not a bad thing though. According to Manning, Mr. Donnie Iris himself had made a few comments through the grapevine that he’s honored and kind of tickled about the name. “We’re just bracing ourselves for him to show up at one of our shows,” said Manning.

The Donnie Irish Band will be coming to Edinboro this weekend, December 2, to perform at Fat Willie’s Wing House at 8 p.m. This event is a benefit for the Ryan Cappelletty Scholarship Fund. Ryan was an EU criminal justice graduate who was killed in the line of duty during his first year as a police officer. 

Manning always dedicates his performances to the memory of all military, law enforcement and emergency services personnel whose families can only be with them in spirit.

Ricky Manning seems to be the man who can do it all. Juggling his day job as a sergeant, the lead singer of a band and a family man with two kids, one may wonder, “How does he do it?” He proves that it is possible to achieve anything if you put your mind to it.

Julie Zarnick is a Staff Writer for The Spectator. She can be reached at eupnews.spectator@gmail.com.

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