Photo Gallery -
Band Lineups -
- Audio samples -
Where Are They Now?
Story by John
Baird and Gerry Gallagher
The pride of Ballintubber, Co. Roscommon,
Premier Aces started their careers known as The Pioneers Aces
as none of
the band drank alcohol and all were
members of The Total Abstinence Society. The band was put together,
in part, by the late Peter Shanagher, who had been the leader of the Ivy
Caste Dance Band, also based in Ballintubber. However, Peter
emigrated to England in 1956 before the band hit the road and handed
over the reins to Stephen Treacy and Paddy Malone. The original line up was:
Paddy Malone (alto sax), Andy Malone (drums), Sonny Ward (tenor
sax), Stephen Treacy (accordion) Liam Treacy (RIP-sax) and Mickey Slyman
(vocals and trombone).
In 1958, the band decided to turn
pro and expanded
to an eight piece adding Co. Galway man Frank O'Brien on
Hawaiian/Steel Guitar as well as a very young (13 year old) trumpet player, Johnny
Carroll (the same Johnny Carroll that is so popular in cabaret these
days). This is the lineup in the photo at the right.
The lads started to command quite
a following on the regional scene and the bookings rolled in. However,
after several years a
dispute within the Total Abstinence Society as to their eligibility
to continue to be associated with the society forced them to change
their name, so they became The Premier Aces around 1959.
Around this time, the Treacy
brothers (Stephen and Liam) decided to form their own band, The
Rhythm Stars (also from Ballintubber) with three of their
brothers, Aidan, Al and Sylvester, this made them somewhat unique on
the showband scene at the time....five brothers in the same band at
the same time.
At this point, the band added
Larry Carolan on bass, and Jimmy O'Neill (brother of Glenamaddy's Joe O'Neill) on guitar. Jimmy would eventually switch
over to keyboards.
The band would undergo another change when
Frank O'Brien was replaced on guitar by Corkman, Billy Ryan.
playing the usual Lenten trips to the UK, they came to the attention
of an English Country singer, Houston Wells (real name Andrew Smith) who was fronting his own
band, The Marksmen (original known as the Coasters before changing
their name and Andrew to Houston Wells). Houston, born as Andy Smith, in Northumberland
had a varied career and was once a lumberjack in Canada before
becoming a singer. He fit in straight away with the band and
was very popular on the ballroom and marquee circuit as were the
(Since writing this article, we
found a detailed biography about Houston Wells which states he came
to Ireland to live in the mid-1960's and fronted a band called the
Masters. In 1966 the Masters split and Houston joined up with the
Premier Aces. In 1968, his bio says he "formed" the Trident
Showband. These details differ somewhat from what we have researched
through sources like Spotlight and personal accounts, but we present
them both just to cover all the bases. Houston would retire from
music in 1971 and eventually emigrated to New Zealand in 1973 where
he lived until he sadly passed away in 2013).
Now a nine piece, the band enjoyed
new success across Ireland and had a number of Irish
chart entries with Above and
Beyond, When my Blue Moon turns to Gold, and Only the
Heartaches. The band went from strength to strength, becoming
one of the top bands in the West of Ireland. Shortly after Houston
joined, long time member Michael Slyman called it quits and the band
reverted to an eight piece for the next few years. Although
Houston's tenure with the band wasn't long (around a year), his
impact on their popularity was immense. In late 1966, the band
toured the United States and continued to draw large crowds in
April 1968, a major change took plan in the band when Houston Wells
was replaced by former Royal Blues singer Shay O'Hara. At loose
ends, Houston talked of forming his own band in an April interview
in Spotlight, but ended up returning to England where he formed a group called The Masters.
After recording a couple of records with them, he would eventually return to
Ireland to join The Trident Showband from Limerick.
Shay O'Hara, an excellent vocalist with a large following in the
West of Ireland, recorded a single with the Premier Aces, the A
side entitled Your Lily White Hands. Another change took
place when Billy Ryan left and was replaced by guitarist, Bob
In late 1968, the band went to the
United States for a three week tour on the east coast. We assume
they played the usual Irish circuit. Reports upon their return said
that Shay had appeared on American TV with Ralph Emory on on WSM TV
and sang three songs backed by Jim Reeves' Blue Boys.
As the sixties came to close,
the Premiers had undergone several changes, but were still at the
top of their form, a 1969 Spotlight Poll ranked them as one of the top
twenty showbands in the country in the same company with bands like
the Capitol Showband.
Yet, after a very successful run on the showband scene, over which they
gave dancers and fans great entertainment, they played their last date
at the Oranmore Carnival, Co. Galway in 1969. The band did come
together for a time in 1970, but it was short-lived.
However, in 1972, several
ex-members of the Rhythm Stars formed a new version of The Premier
Aces with local singer, Patsy McCaul out front. The lineup included
Aidan, Sylvie and Al Treacy (brothers of original Pioneer Aces, Liam (RIP)
and Stephen). Also in the lineup were Dene Lane and Johnny Staunton.
None of the band members had even been in the Premiers Aces
themselves though. By 1974, both the New Premiers and the Rhythm Stars were history and Patsy McCaul went on to form
a country band, Southbound. Since then, the
Premier Aces have reunited a few times
one of them being at a special dance in the
Seapoint Ballroom, Galway
few years ago.
Following the Premier's breakup in 1969, Sonny Ward, Jimmy
O'Neil, and Johnny Carroll formed a country outfit,
The Swallows, in 1970 which enjoyed some success early in the 1970's.
By 1974 though, Jimmy and Johnny were on the move again and they
formed Magic and the Magic Band with only Johnny Carroll and
drummer Mickey Belton coming from the Swallows. The new band was
originally Magic and the Swallows but soon became
The Magic Band. Magic
broke up in the early 80's, but Johnny Carroll went on to a solo
career known as Ireland's "Man with the Golden Trumpet."
(Our thanks to Eddie Kelly for assistance with
some details in this article.)
Click on thumbnails for full images
Slyman: Mickey spent several years in the USA and
returned approx 5 years ago to Roscommon and has married and
settled down there. However, Mickey is no longer in the
music business - Johnny Carroll.
Treacy: Along with Liam, Stephen formed The Rhythm Stars
with his brother. The Rhythm Stars would tour until their
final gig in 1974 and would be unique in having seven
brothers and one sister involved in the band at one time or
another. Today, Stephen owns a Sports Shop which is located
ion Main Street in Castlerea, Co. Roscommon.
Both Malone brothers retired from the
entertainment scene upon the breakup of the Premiers. Andy
is married and lives in Castlerea - Johnny Carroll.
Malone: Paddy retired from
performing after the break up of the Premiers and got
married. Today he lives in Ballintubber and is involved in
farming - Johnny Carroll.
Sonny went with Johnny and Jimmy to the Swallows. He
continued to entertain people until he announced his
retirement last year (2005) with a gala event in the Casino
Ballroom in Castlerea, where he still lives.
Carroll: After the Premier Aces packed it in, Johnny,
Sonny and Jimmy formed Murphy and the Swallows. The band did
well on the country circuit, but in 1974 Jimmy and Johnny put together The Magic
Band, with Jimmy as the band's road manager. In the
early 1980's, Johnny struck out of his own and did very well
as The Man With The Golden Trumpet. He still lives in
Galway, plays regularly and is a tireless worker. In 2008,
Johnny will celebrate 50 years of continuous playing, the
longest stretch by any musician of the showband era.
O'Brien: Frankie O'Brien left the music business
and now lives in Galway - Johnny Carroll.
O'Neill: After leaving the
music business for many years, Jimmy started playing locally
again a few years ago. He still lives in Galway and runs a
B&B there as well.
Carolan: Larry now lives in Kells, Co Meath and is
still singing. In late 2004, he recorded
a song which commemorated the ancient history of a place
called Loughcrew in Co. Meath. Loughcrew is a site of rich
historical, archaeological and religious interest. There are
cairns (passage graves) on the hill. The song was composed
by Mary Ann Flanagan-Geraghty from Kells and Larry added the
music. It received a number of airplays on Shannonside Radio
where it was featured by Eddie Murphy on his regular shows.
Wells - RIP: Houston
left the band and eventually joined The Trident Showband
based in Limerick. He quit the scene in 1971 and in 1973
emigrated to New Zealand. Recent years had
seen Houston sign a deal with Rollercoaster Records
UK. New songs were recorded in association with his son Rob Smith
as well as other session musicians had been recorded in New
Both original songs as well as covers of many classic
recordings were on his double album "Just For Old Times Sake"
released in 2005. Sadly, we received word that Houston
passed away on December 27th, 2013.
||Bill Ryan: Billy
Ryan left Castlerea in the 1970's and relocated to Cork.
Bill is still involved in music and does his own one man
show in and around the Cork area - Johnny Carroll.
Shay O'Hara - RIP: After
leaving the Royal Blues at Easter 1968, Shay went on to front the
Premier Aces from nearby Castlerea. Eventually, Shay
emigrated to Australia in 1969. Shay lived and worked in
Australia, gaining great popularity with the vast number of
Irish living "down under." Sadly, Shay passed away on March
||Bob Madden: Unknown - if you have info please email us
Patsy McCaul: Unknown - if you have info please email us