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Hi-Lows Band Feature (1961 - 1978)

Photo Gallery - Band Lineups - Discography - Audio samples - Where Are They Now?

The Story

The story of the Hi-Lows showband starts around 1960. Brothers Des and John Tighe, from Rooskey, Co. Roscommon, were playing on the local scene, best known for their involvement in traditional music's Ceoltas Ceoltoiri Eireann. Around this same time, Carrick-On-Shannon's Savoy Swing Seven were enjoying regional success as one of the top showbands in the Northwest. However, a sudden split in the Savoy created a major headache for bandleader, John Healy, when he did not have a full line-up for a gig in Strokestown, Co. Roscommon.   

Knowing the reputation of the Tighe brothers who lived just up the road, John asked them to sit in with the band on the night. They did such a great job, they were invited to join the Savoy on a full time basis. Within a short time, the brothers had established themselves as "showband" musicians and were approached by Mickey Smith to join the Gowna, Co. Cavan-based Grafton Showband after the departure of Larry Cunningham to form the Mighty Avons in 1960. Des took up the offer, while John remained with the Savoy, although only for a short time and a few months later, he joined Des in the Grafton

In 1961, the Grafton showband under went some changes, reorganised and became The Hi-Lows. The original line-up included John Tighe (RIP-guitar), Des Tighe (trombone), Pete Columb (vocals), Gerry Davis (RIP-bass), Joe Feeney (RIP-sax), Michael Smith (trumpet), Joe Hackett (RIP-drums) and Frank Melia (keyboards).

It was still the very early days of the showband era, so most of the band's gigs were limited to parochial halls and the older ballrooms which had been in service since the 40's and 50's. There were no single records being released by Irish bands at this point. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Des Tighe never gave up the "day job" but was a Primary School teacher for 40 years until his retirement in 2000. On the other hand, John was a professional musician as were many of the other lads in the band. 

In 1964, Ian Corrigan succeeded Pete Columb on vocals. The next few years saw the band grow their reputation and travel further and further afield as the showband era finally took off and new halls and ballrooms were being built around the country. 

In early 1968, Ian Corrigan left the band and would eventually end up fronting the Casino Showband. The Casino would end up donning war paint and marched into showband history as the The Indians, still on the road today, approaching 45 years together. For a time, John, who had always sang a major portion of the band's programme, took over the lead vocal spot, switching from lead to rhythm guitar. 

In May, 1968, they ventured into the recording studio for the first time and released their first original single, Maureen Alanna (written by the Tighe brothers), which featured John on vocals. By a strange twist of fate, the record was released on King Records, the label managed at the time by Larry Cunningham, whom they had "replaced" in the Grafton Showband so many years earlier. Although none of their first three singles made the Irish charts, they helped establish the band as more than just a regional favourite and the band was now travelling the length and breadth of the country.

Other musicians who played with the band during the 1960's were Sean Kenny (RIP-guitar), Ernie McCarthy (sax), Frank McKenna (guitar) and Tony Tracey (RIP-guitar). In early 1969, Sean Kenny (RIP) was actually about to emigrate to Scotland when Mickey Smith and John Tighe tracked him down (at Dublin Airport we're told) and persuaded him to change his mind and join the band. 

1969 and 1970 saw the release of two more singles, The Green Dog (written by Jet Calders and Des Tighe) and Silver Threads Among The Gold, both featuring John. In late 1969, Gerry Reynolds came on board as the band's new lead singer. Around this time, the major split between pop and country music on the Irish scene was starting to take hold in a major way. Bands like the Cotton Mill Boys, Hoot'nanny's and Smokey Mountain Ramblers, combined with the growing success of "Country and Irish" stars like Big Tom, Margo and Larry Cunningham, meant most bands that had previously tried to play it "down the middle" had to make a choice and the Hi-Lows went with country.  

Des made the switch from playing trombone (a staple of the brass dominated showband era) to keyboards and fiddle (remember his traditional roots). With Gerry out front and the switch of genres, things started to happen for the band in the early 70's. In 1971, Michael Smith retired as manager of the band and for a short time, Des and John managed the band themselves. A few months later though, they were taken on by new manager, Frank Milton. The new country line-up featured Gerry Reynolds (RIP-vocals), Ronnie Creevy (guitar), Gerry Davis (RIP-bass), Jet Calders (drums), Des Tighe (keyboards, fiddle), John Tighe (RIP-guitar) and Michael Hughes (sax).

With Gerry making a name for himself as a front man, the band released One Hundred Children which entered the Irish Charts and became the band's only chart single, cracking the Irish Top Ten and reaching number eight in the summer of 1972. The Hi-Lows had managed something that had eluded many showbands, producing a chart single. 

In late 1974, Frank Milton would step down as manager and the Tighe brothers took over the management of the band. Gerry and the Hi-Lows continued to grow in popularity. In December, 1976, the band took the major step of adding a female vocalist to the lineup and Margaret O'Rourke joined Gerry fronting the band. A short time later, Vincent Gill, who had played with and been managing the Royal (and then New) Blues, took over the management of the band. New guitarist in the band was Declan Nerney, who would later break out on his own (after stints with Gene Stuart and Brian Coll) to become one of Ireland's top country stars today. Declan's website reports he was only 16 when he joined the Hi-Lows.    

1978 saw the release of the band's one and only album, The Perfect Match, which featured Gerry and Margaret. The release followed their single, Stranger In My Place, and was one of the few country albums released by Polydor records (Cotton Mill Country by the Cotton Mill Boys was the only other title we can find and that was in 1971). In conjunction with the release, the band was featured on the cover of the new publication Entertainment News which was published by the Top Rank organisation. During the 1970's, the Hi-Lows featured musicians like: Oliver Croghan (RIP-bass), Oliver Flaherty (drums), Tommy Kelly (guitar), Declan Nerney (guitar), Paddy Reilly (RIP-drums), Peter Reynolds (guitar), Tommy Shanley (guitar), Sean Sweeney (guitar) and PJ Ward (drums). Throughout it all, though, the Tighe brothers remained the glue that held the band together. 

Finally, at the end of 1978. after releasing the album, Gerry and Margaret decided to quit to form their own band. The Hi-Lows played their final gigs in 1978 on Christmas Night and St. Stephenís Night, in the Cloudland, Rooskey and The House of Music in Cong, Co. Mayo respectively.

After nearly 20 years, Des and John decided to pack in the showband life and stay a little closer to home. They formed a little group called Mixed Spice, with Paschal Flaherty on drums, and played the local pub scene. Drummer Dermot Gray arrived in 1979 and the band continued to gig until Johnís untimely death in 2000.

Although not counted among the greatest bands that ever played in the showband era, the Hi-Lows were representative of so many bands that laboured in the shadows of names like Dickie Rock and the Miami, Brendan Bowyer and the Royal, and Big Tom and the Mainliners. They provided solid entertainment and dancing pleasure to thousands of Irish people across several generations. Although they may never receive the accolades of their more famous peers, they still provided the backbone (along with so many other bands) that made the era one of the greatest the country has ever seen.  

Our sincere thanks to Sharon Tighe-Mooney and Des Tighe for their help with this feature.

Photo Gallery

click on thumbnails for full image

Hi-Lows-1962 (DT)

Hi-Lows - 1969 (DT)

Hi-Lows - 1970 (DT)

Hi-Lows - 1974 (DT)

Hi-Lows - 1974

Hi-Lows-1977 (DT)

Hi-Lows-1977 (DT)

Hi-Lows - 1978 (DT)

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Years Vocals Guitar Bass Drums Keyboards Trombone Sax Trumpet
1961 Pete
Columb
John
Tighe
Gerry
Davis
Joe
Hackett
Frank
Melia
Des
Tighe
Joe
Feeney
Michael
Smith
  Vocals Guitar Bass Drums Guitar Trombone Sax Trumpet
1963 Pete
Columb
John
Tighe
Gerry
Davis
Jet
Calders
Tony
Treacy
Des
Tighe
Joe
Feeney
Michael
Smith
1964 Pete
Columb
John
Tighe
Gerry
Davis
Jet
Calders
Tony
Treacy
Des
Tighe
Michael
Hughes
Michael
Smith
1965 Ian
Corrigan
John
Tighe
Gerry
Davis
Jet
Calders
  Des
Tighe
Michael
Hughes
Michael
Smith
  Vocals Vocals/Gtr Bass Drums Guitar Trombone Sax Trumpet
1968   John
Tighe
Gerry
Davis
Jet
Calders
Frank
McKenna
Des
Tighe
Michael
Hughes
Michael
Smith
1969   John
Tighe
Gerry
Davis
Jet
Calders
Sean
Kenny
Des
Tighe
Michael
Hughes
Michael
Smith
  Vocals Guitar Bass Drums Guitar Keys/Fiddle Sax Trumpet
1970 Gerry
Reynolds
John
Tighe
Gerry
Davis
Jet
Calders
Ronny
Creevy
Des
Tighe
Michael
Hughes
Michael
Smith
1971 Gerry
Reynolds
John
Tighe
Gerry
Davis
Jet
Calders
Peter
Reynolds
Des
Tighe
Michael
Hughes
 
1973 Gerry
Reynolds
John
Tighe
Gerry
Davis
Jet
Calders
Peter
Reynolds
Des
Tighe
   
1974 Gerry
Reynolds
John
Tighe
Gerry
Davis
Paddy
Reilly
Declan
Nerney
Des
Tighe
   
1975 Gerry
Reynolds
John
Tighe
Oliver
Croghan
Paddy
Reilly
Tommy
Shanley
Des
Tighe
   
1975 Gerry
Reynolds
John
Tighe
Oliver
Croghan
Paddy
Reilly
Sean
Sweeney
Des
Tighe
   
1976 Gerry
Reynolds
John
Tighe
Tommy
Kelly
Oliver
Flaherty
Sean
Sweeney
Des
Tighe
   
  Vocals/Bass Guitar Vocals Drums Guitar Keys/Fiddle Sax Trumpet
1977 Gerry
Reynolds
John
Tighe
Margaret
O'Rourke
Oliver
Flaherty
Sean
Sweeney
Des
Tighe
   
1977 Gerry
Reynolds
John
Tighe
Margaret
O'Rourke
PJ
Ward
Sean
Sweeney
Des
Tighe
   

Discography

Singles:
Maureen Alanna / Sweethearts in Heaven (featuring John Tighe)
King Records - KG 1075 - May, 1968
The Green Dog /  Just As Long As You Love Me (featuring John Tighe)
Release Records - RL.513 - May, 1969
Silver Threads Among The Gold / Turn Down The Starlight (featuring John Tighe)
Release Records - RL.559 - December, 1970
100 Children (Gerry Reynolds) / The Black Sheep (John Tighe)
- #8 Irish Charts
Release Records - RL.627 - June, 1972
I Wonder Could I Live Here Anymore / Pride of the West (featuring Gerry Reynolds)
Release Records - RL.654 - November, 1972
Set These Children Free (Gerry Reynolds) / Along the Shannon Side (John Tighe) / Love and Honour (Gerry Davis)
Release Records - RL.730 - May, 1974
Let's Get Together / Country Music In My Soul (featuring Gerry Reynolds)
Release Records - RL.791 - October, 1975
On The Rebound / Anything's Better Than Nothing (featuring Margaret O'Rourke and Gerry Reynolds)
Sharp Records - SHA 104 - January, 1977
Stranger In My Place / Let Me Be There (featuring Gerry Reynolds and Margaret OíRourke)
Polydor Records - 2078 083 - September, 1977

Albums:

The Perfect Match
Polydor Records - 2908 037 - September, 1978

Our thanks to Sharon Tighe-Mooney for some of this info)

Audio Clips

 
Maureen Alanna 100 Children Along The Shannonside The Perfect Match Coming Soon

Where Are They Now?  

John Tighe - RIP: As mentioned above, when the Hi-Lows disbanded, Des and John formed a local group called
Mixed Spice that played around their native Rooskey until his death in April, 2000.
Des Tighe: Also as mentioned above, when the Hi-Lows disbanded, Des and John formed a local group called
Mixed Spice that played around their native Rooskey until John's death in April, 2000. Des is still playing today
around his native Rooskey.
Pete Columb: Unknown. If you know more, please let us know.
Gerry Davis - RIP: After Gerry left the band in the seventies, Sharon Tighe-Mooney tells us he joined a local
group called the Hillsiders. Oliver Casserly contacted us to let us know that Gerry sadly passed away on
March 12, 2010, we think at the age of 68. If you know more, please let us know.
Joe Hackett - RIP: We understand from Sharon that Joe retired from the music scene after he left the
Hi-Lows and has since sadly passed away. If you know more, please let us know.
Frank Melia: Frank also played with the Black Dots Showband and after leaving the Hi-Lows, he went on to play
with the Drifters on a stand in basis from time to time. Sharon tells us he also played with a local group, Fanfare,
based in Longford until he retired. If you know more, please let us know.
Joe Feeney - RIP: We understand from Sharon, that Joe left the music business after leaving the Hi-Lows and
since has sadly passed away. If you know more, please let us know.
Michael Smith: Michael was the original manager of the band as well as a founding member. Sharon tell us he
became a commercial traveler and lives in County Meath, but is now retired.
If you know more, please let us know.
Ian Corrigan: Ian, or course, went on to fame and fortune with a variety of bands including the Casino and his own
Country Style. As far as we know, he is still on the road today, better than ever, although we can not find any
mention of his current career on the Internet. 
Sean Kenny - RIP: After leaving the Hi-Lows, Sean went on to many well know bands including the Times,
Shaun O'Dowd and Dingaling. He continued to play, doing solo gigs on the pub scene in the Northwest until his
untimely death after a prolonged illness. He passed away on the 9th of February, 2011.
Michael Hughes: We understand from Sharon that Michael is still playing around the Longford area. We received
an email from Chris Dann in December 2015 telling us Michael played with local bands after leaving the Hi-Lows and
continues to do charity events around Longford and will soon be celebrating his 90th birthday.
Jet Calders: Sharon tells us after he left the band he set up a painting and decorating business which he still
runs. Des Tighe also thinks he played in a two piece band with Mick Flavin for a time some years ago. If you
know more, please let us know.
Ronnie Creevy: We know that after the Hi-Lows, Ronnie spent some time with Murphy and the Swallows, however, we have lost track of him after that. If you know more, please let us know.
Oliver Croghan - RIP: After leaving the Hi-Lows, Oliver played with a band called the Emigrants and later
played with various pub groups in the Longford area. Sharon tell us that he sadly passed away in February, 2002.
If you know more, please let us know.
Tommy Kelly: We understand from Sharon that Tommy is still playing.
If you know more, please let us know.
Ernie McCarthy: Unknown. If you know more, please let us know.
Frank McKenna: We are told by Sharon that Frank emigrated to the United States, and we think he may have
started his own band over there. If you know more, please let us know.
Margaret O'Rourke: Sharon tells us that together with Gerry Reynolds, Margaret started a band called The Roadrunners, which lasted for about six months after which she formed a local group. Sadly Margaret lost her singing voice in the early 1990's but continued to be active in the local drama society in Drumkeeran, Co. Leitrim, Sadly, Margaret passed away suddenly on July 15th, 2013 after a short illness. 
 
Paddy Reilly - RIP: Sharon tells us that Paddy sadly passed away. If you know more, please let us know.
Gerry Reynolds - RIP: Gerry joined the Hi-Lows in April, 1972 and had an immediate hit with his recording of
100 children. He fronted the band for many years along with Margaret O'Rourke. After leaving the band they formed
the Roadrunners which lasted for about six months. He then went to England where he played with a group that
played relief for the showbands in the major ballrooms. Sadly, Gerry passed away in July, 2002. If you know more, please let us know.
Peter Reynolds: After leaving the Hi-Lows, Sharon tells us Peter formed his own group and played weddings and functions for many years. He also took over the running of his family's pub in Rooskey where he continues to work and play music today.
If you know more, please let us know.
Tommy Shanley: Unknown except that we think he is still playing today. If you know more, please let us know.
Sean Sweeney: After the Hi-Lows, Sharon tells up Sean played for many years in England. When he returned to Longford, he played with the group, The Can't Hardly Play Boys, for a number of years. He now plays traditional music with the Annaly Ceili Band. If you know more, please let us know.

Tony Treacy - RIP: Tony went on to play with Margo after the Hi-Lows. Sharon and Des tell us Tony sadly passed away at a very young age from cancer. If you know more, please let us know.

PJ Ward: We understand from Sharon that PJ is still playing with a group that formed a few years ago in the Kilbeggan area. Des Tighe thinks he released a record a few years ago as well.
If you know more, please let us know.
Oliver Flaherty: We understand from Sharon that after leaving the Hi-Lows, Oliver moved to Dublin and left the music scene. If you know more, please let us know.
Declan Nerney: After leaving the Hi-Lows, Declan did stints with Gene Stuart and Brian Coll. In later years, he struck out on his own to become one of Ireland's top country stars. Today, Declan's website reports he was only 16 when he joined the Hi-Lows

 


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In Loving Memory of Grant Gallagher: Sept. 21, 1990 - Nov. 18, 2006