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Raindrops Showband / Big Time Feature (1965 - 1978)

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

The Story

The starting point for the band came in the mid 1950's when a young Brendan Mulhaire started winning Feis and Fleadh competitions in and around Connacht. This culminated in the formation of Brendan Mulhaire's Ceili Band we think in early 1960 (when we found the first mention of the band's name). Brendan was an top accordionists and along with the band, won many cups in local Fleadh Ceoils competitions across the region. The band appeared on (R)TE's Ceili House programme and all was going well. Throughout the early 1960's the band continued to grow its reputation alongside so many of the "big" Ceili names of the era and by 1964, they seemed to have become one of the top bands in the province.

In the summer of 1965, everything changed when Brendan decided to forsake his accordion and Ceili music for the guitar and the showband life. He was 21 and had already been (on the road) for five years with his Ceili band. The first mention of the new Galway-based Raindrops Showband he formed was in mid 1965. The original band line-up included Brendan (aged 21 on guitar), Dermot Walsh (20-vocals and guitar), John Conneely (19 on sax), Eamon Joyce (18 on bass), Jim Cooley (18 on drums) and Ken Moody (19 on trumpet). In the meantime, the Brendan Mulhaire Ceili band would continue on the road throughout the late sixties, but without Brendan. Interestingly, the first advert we found for the band said it featured the "Mulhaire Brothers" but we can't find a mention of this in the lineup of the band, so we'll have to do more research.

In the band's first few years on the road, it appears they rarely traveled far from their native Galway, but by 1966, they were finally making inroads further afield in Munster and Leinster. In late 1967, one of the stars of RTE's "Tolka Row" series joined the band as lead singer. Although his real name was Jim Bartley, he used his character's name from the show on stage and the band was now advertised usually as Sean Nolan and the Raindrops. By this time, a few line-up changes had occurred as Jimmy Cooley was replaced on drums by Billy Barrett and Ken Moody had been replaced by Jimmy Higgins on trumpet.

The addition of a bona fide star to the line-up gave the band a new lease of life and help consolidate their reputation as a showband that could hold its own against some of the bigger names on the circuit. Unfortunately, the new lead singer did not last long as about a year after joining the band he left to focus on his acting career (he has been playing the part of Bela Doyle on the series Fair City since 1989).

The band soon announced his replacement as Chris Grace, who had previously been with the Donie Collins Band. The band continued without missing a beat and was often touring not only England, but the United States where reports from certain cities were that they were the best band to come out of Ireland in years. In October, 1969 they set off on a four week tour of the States and Toronto. By the start of 1970, the band was doing good business and making regular visits to the Irish clubs in the Northeastern United States where they continued to enjoy great success. Around this time, Jimmy left the stage to take over managing the band.  

In May, 1970, the band released its first record, a Glen Campbell song called "Less of Me." Around this time Jimmy's younger brother Paddy joined the band on drums. The band were definitely moving in a country and western direction by this time as well. The band would release a second record in 1971 which featured Dermot Walsh on vocals singing "Knock On My Window" with the B side being Brendan Mulhaire playing the "Mason's Apron."  

By 1972, we think Chris Grace had been replaced by Frank Fahy as lead vocalist, and Vinnie Mongan joined the band replacing Dermot Walsh, who would go on to a career in local cabaret in the Galway area. It also appears Jimmy Higgins rejoined the band on stage and they were now a six piece. 

At some point in 1973, it appears the band went off the road as the last advert we can find for them gigging was in July, 1973. The next mention of the band was in May 1974 when Donal K. O'Boyle reported in his Pop Scene column in the Donegal News that the band had reformed and was now using the name The Big Time

The band made its debut on the 28th of April, 1974 in the House of Music, Cong. The "new" band was now being managed by Paddy Burns and Eamonn Keane, both members of the Indians. Former members of the Raindrops: Eamonn Joyce (bass), Brendan Mulhaire (keyboards and guitar), and Jimmy Higgins (bandleader and trumpet) were joined by Jimmy's brother Frankie Higgins on sax, along with Desi O'Neill (vocals), Johnny Shiels (guitar), and Walter Lynch (drums - formerly with the Ohio). Johnny Shiels had attended Summerhill College in Sligo and was a classmate of Pol Brennan of Clannad.

The band hit the ground running, being stable mates of one of the biggest bands in the country at the time and were soon playing ballrooms across the country. It also seems the band did not totally drop the Raindrops name as it continued to appear in adverts from time to time for dances and other events through 1974 and into 1975 (although not very often).

In 1976 Brendan Mulhaire's Ceili band released an album called Ceili House which featured both Brendan, his father Tom, and brother Martin (who had emigrated to the United States some year earlier). We don't know if this meant Brendan was no longer a member of the Big Time, but we will try to find out.

As far as we can tell, the Big Time continued to gig through 1978. It has been a little difficult to trace the history of the band after this as we have found adverts for the Raindrops Showband playing in the Galway area as late as 1981.    

More to come.....

Photo Gallery

click on thumbnails for full image

Ceili Band - 1960 Raindrops - 1965 Raindrops - 1966 Raindrops (PL) Raindrops - 1972

Raindrops (PL) Raindrops (PB) Big Time - 1974 Big Time - 1974 Big Time - 1974
Big Time (RF) Big Time - 1975 Big Time - 1974 Big Time - 1974 Big Time - 1975
Big Time - 1975 Big Time (LR) Big Time - 1976 (PH) Big Time (RF) Big Time (RF)
     
Big Time (RF) Coming Soon Coming Soon Coming Soon Coming Soon
Years Vocals Guitar Bass Drums Guitar Sax Trumpet
RAINDROPS SHOWBAND
June
1965
  Brendan
Mulhaire
Eamon
Joyce
Jimmy
Cooley
Dermot
Walsh
John
Conneely
Ken
Moody
Nov
1966
Sean
Nolan
Brendan
Mulhaire
Eamon
Joyce
Billy
Barrett
Dermot
Walsh
John
Conneely
Jimmy
Higgins
Mar
1968
Chris
Grace
Brendan
Mulhaire
Eamon
Joyce
Billy
Barrett
Dermot
Walsh
John
Conneely
Jimmy
Higgins
May
1970
Chris
Grace
Brendan
Mulhaire
Eamon
Joyce
Paddy
Higgins
Dermot
Walsh
John
Conneely
 
1972 Frank
Fahy
Brendan
Mulhaire
Eamon
Joyce
Paddy
Higgins
Vinnie
Mongan
  Jimmy
Higgins
THE BIG TIME SHOWBAND
April
1974
Desi
O'Neill
Brendan
Mulhaire
Eamonn
Joyce
Walter
Lynch
Johnny
Shiels
Frankie
Higgins
Jimmy
Higgins
               
               
               

Discography

Less of Me / Lonely Town (Chris Grace)
Ruby Records - RUB 106 - May, 1970
Knock on My Window (Dermot Walsh) / Mason's Apron (Brendan Mulhaire)
Ruby Records - RUB 119 - February, 1971
Cornbread and Love (Johnny) / C'Mon Everybody (Desi)

Emerald Records - MD.1178 - September, 1974 (Flipped in March, 1975)
Rocky / Lady Luck

Release Records - RL.864 - 1977

Audio Clips

Coming Soon

Where Are They Now?  

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Band Member: Original trumpet player Ken Moody emigrated to England in 1970 and became a jeweler.

 


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