Raindrops Showband / Big Time Feature (1965 - 1978)
Photo Gallery -
Band Lineups -
- Audio samples -
Where Are They Now?
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
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had been replaced by Jimmy Higgins on trumpet.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
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
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
More to come.....
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