The Big Four
(1961-1964 / 1969 / 1974-1983)
Photo Gallery -
Band Lineups -
- Audio samples -
Where Are They Now?
Big Four were launched in late 1961 by manager Jack Barrett from
Kells. They made their debut in the Crystal Ballroom in Dublin on
November 4th, 1961 and have to be one of the most unusual outfits to
ever play on Ireland's ballroom circuit. The original lineup was Pat
McGuigan (McGeegan for the stage) on bass, Mike McGeady from Derry
on sax, Bill Davidson from Glasgow on guitar and Doug Stewart from
Dundalk on drums and vibes. In one sense they were basically a
standard four pieces group with bass, drums, guitar and sax, but
they also doubled on many instruments which made them somewhat
unique in the early days of 7 and 8 piece showbands.
The band seemed to be an immediate
hit, playing venues all across the country within weeks of their
first gig which was quite unusual for most bands of the era which
took some time to get established. It is difficult to imagine how a
four piece band was able to compete with 7-8 piece showbands and
10-12 piece orchestras in the days when amplification was limited or
even non existent in many rural areas.
After almost two years on the road
and enjoying a steadily growing reputation as the "top quartet in
the country" the band recorded its first single which was The
Wedding with the Hawaiian Wedding Song on the B-side. The
song was a major success and reached number 7 in the Irish charts.
After this success, they appeared on several British TV shows
including ITV's Thank Your Lucky Stars and the BBC's Stars
and Garters. The record release coincided with the band having a
new manager, Phil Solomon, who was also managing the Bachelors at
the same time.
It appears that after the success
of the record, the band was being billed as "Pat McGeegan and the
Big Four" and they added a new member to the lineup, harpist Brian
Rayner, making them a five piece. On May 1st, the band appeared at a
charity concert in the London Palladium which was organised by Phil
Solomon and included the Bachelors and Capitol Showband.
In November, 1964, Pat announced
he was leaving the band to join the Cork-based Victors Showband.
If is a little difficult to figure out what happened to the band as
they did play several gigs at the end of the year (with no mention
of Pat being in the band), but then they disappeared until 1968. We
found a report in 1966 that said the Big Four had gone to Chicago
and that Pat had stayed behind when he joined the Victors.
Pat would stay with the Victors
until April, 1966 when he was lured away by Enniskillen's Skyrockets Showband. In 1968, while still a member of the Skyrockets,
Pat was selected to sing a song in the National Song Contest called
Chance Of a Lifetime. Pat did well. winning the National song
contest and placing fourth in Eurovision, the country's second 4th
place finish with 2nd and 6th place finishes in previous years. He
came home to a hero's welcome and the ensuing publicity gave the
Skyrockets a boost on the ballroom scene which would have not been
possible without the contest win.
Pat stayed with the Skyrockets for
another 18 months before deciding it was time for a change. Said Pat
at the time, "The reforming of the Big Four has always been an
ambition of mine. When we working the (ballroom ) circuit (five
years earlier) I felt the band was before its time. Since then, many
new avenues that would suit us have opened up like cabaret." The
reformed band would be managed by Hugh Hardy. Mike McGeady had
return ed from the States along with Doug Stewart and a new
guitarist, John O'Brien, was brought into the line-up as Bill
Davidson had stayed in the States, moving to New York.
The boys hit the road early in
September to great fanfare as memories of their early success almost
a decade earlier pointed to a bright comeback, but it was not to be
(at least this time). Despite huge amounts of publicity, the band
failed to connect with a new younger audience there were hints of
skepticism in the press about their pulling power during the country
and western boom of the late 1960's. In late October, after only 7
weeks, Hugh Hardy quit as the band's manager saying he "just
couldn't devote enough time to the outfit and it would be better if
they parted company."
In fact, were off the road less
than five months after returning to the scene. By the middle of
January, it was reported that the band had split up with Pat going
to do solo cabaret spots, guitarist John O'Brien joined the band
Tumbleweeds. Pat spent the next two years back in Clones working
with his family's grocery business. Suddenly in November, 1972, Pat
resurfaced, this time as a member of Frankie McBride's new band
In September, 1974 the band reformed and went on
the road yet again. Following its history is hampered by the
fact that there was a band based in Co. Cork and managed by John
Lehane of Macroom also called the Big Four on the road in the early
1970's and many articles in the news about he "big four" banks. The
new lineup included Pat and original drummer Doug Stewart, joined by
new guitarists Charlie Flynn (lead) and Danny Doran (rhythm). They
were now being managed by Nelius O'Connell.
What we do know is that the band
was soon one of the top cabaret acts in the country as the era of
the lounge bar had exploded with many pubs adding much bigger rooms
to accommodate larger crowds and a plethora of new cabaret acts hits
the scene. This growing segment of the entertainment industry would
eventually pull many of the aging showband stars into its ranks and
providing a good living and people began to get accustomed to paying
a "cover charge" in the pubs. There was a new kind of band coming up
like Just Four, the Rib Ticklers and artists like Brendan Grace.
By November 1976, the band was
being managed by George McCarron and doing very well on the cabaret
circuit but still had not released a record. Additionally, the whole
band was new with Gerry Douglas (drums), Michael Quinn (guitar) and
Eugene McElwaine (guitar) now backing Pat. Based on our research it
is we have discovered that this was actually the band Eclipse
as both Michael and Eugene were with that band and they were also
managed by George McCarron. In August, 1977 Pat released "Loving
Arms" on the Glen label, but it made little impression and did not
chart. A year later, in November, 1978, Pat and the band issued
their first album, "Be Nice To Me" issued on Quartz Records.
As far as we can tell, Pat and the
Big Four would continue to tour until 1983 when we found their last
advertised gig. Pat would return to Clones and is family grocery
business, but sadly, only four years later he would pass away after
a short illness at the age of only 52.
More to come.....
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