All About The Big Valley
Photo Gallery -
Band Lineups -
- Audio samples -
Where Are They Now?
The Big Valley was a relatively short
lived country showband which hit the road at the beginning of 1972
in a blaze of publicity. Fronting the band was Frank Coll, brother
of showband legend Brian Coll of the Plattermen. During the
first year, the band released several singles and trade magazines
reported that the band was one of the busiest on the circuit. They
toured England and were generally tipped to be one of the "bands to
watch" in the future.
Janvier "Jan" Lynch came from a very musical family
from Pomeroy, Co. Tyrone.
In fact, even
her grandparents were involved in the Irish entertainment scene. Jan
started playing in and around her home town before she was ten years old as part of The Lynch Family.
The group included her father (an excellent accordionist), mother, Jan,
and sisters Anne and Pat. Other family members, including brothers Barry and
Liam, and younger sister Jacqui also joined the group in later years.
met Top Rank owner, Tony Loughman, through family friend Dan O'Hara of the Country Flavour.
the November issue of Entertainment news, an advert appeared for
Frank Coll and The Big valley listing their dates in November and
into December. On the 12th of November, they were booked to play the
"Indian Show" in Castleblaney. On the previous evening, the band had
appeared in Invern, Co. Galway.
Jan picks up the story (from a
January 1974 artiucle in Entertainment News), "I arrived in
Castleblaney on a Monday afternoon and after a few hours rehearsal
with The Big Valley, I was asked to appear with them that night. We
were to take part in the "Indians Show" and the Lyric Theatre was
packed, with hundreds of people turned away. Everything went well
for me that night and I got wonderful help from the huge audience.
Afterwards it was confirmed that I was to join the band and it was
the happiest day of my life."
The band was re-launched days
later with Jan as the lead singer. There was never any mention about
Frank Coll, or his sudden disappearance, in fact, he seemed to just
disappear from the scene altogether.
For a short time, the band was billed as the
Big Valley All Star Showband, but they soon became Shelly and the Big
Valley. The band's lineup included Butch McNeill (drums), Tony Fox
(keyboards), Jimmy Smith (guitar - Jimmy was Gloria's brother and would later
gain individual fame as a founder of rock group,
The Bogey Boys), Michael Lynch
(sax - son of famous band leader, Maurice Lynch), Aiden McGuigan (bass), Martin
Coll (guitar - Martin was brother of Frank and Brian of Buckaroos fame) and of
Within a couple of weeks of Shelley cut her
first record, Love At Eleven. She was featured heavily in
Entertainment magazines and like the original launch of the band,
the new lineup was announced in a blaze of publicity by Tony
Loughman and the Top Rank organization. Quickly, Shelly's first
release was followed by an album, Shelly Sings. The band continued
to do very well. Within a few months, Aiden and Martin lewft the
band. They were replaced by Barry Lynch on bass (Jan's brother) and
Gerry Black, who had been fronting his own band, The Seasons, on
guitar and vocals.
With Shelley and Gerry Black, the band now had
a substantial powerhouse vocal lineup. They released their first
single, United We Stand. In 1974 the band also appeared at
the Top Rank 4 day Country Music festival alongside all the biggest
country stars of the day. Things were going very well for the band.
An article in Spotlight's March 6, 1975
issue proclaimed the band had gone from "country to cat suits." It
went on to detail how the band had shifted from its country roots to
follow a more pop oriented programme. Manager, Tony Loughman,
explained the switch saying that "because of the success of the
Paddy Cole Band with their all-kinds of music repertoire, I saw the
demand was there for a pop type band." Although Shelley started
belting out Suzi Quatro songs, Gerry Black stuck to his country
In early 1975, Tony Fox and Jimmy Smith left
the band and Noel Cunningham (guitar) came into the band from The
Down Country. Later in the year Gerry Black left the band and
Declan Colgan (keyboards) and Mickey Quinn (sax) became the final
pieces of the band's final lineup. In early 1976, Top Rank decided
that the time was right for Jan and her sister, Anne (who had been
fronting the Swinging Marines) should join forces. The new band
would be called, Jan, Anne and the Marines (I guess they no longer
The Big Valley played its final date on Sunday,
February 15, 1976. Jan, brother Barry and Seamus McNeill went to the
reforming Marines. Meanwhile Noel Cunningham joined with Hugo Duncan
and the Tallmen, while Michael Lunch went to Susan McCann and the
Click on thumbnails for full images
Monica Coll (Frank's sister) writes to tell us Frank is in
the Omagh area but has had no connection o the music
industry since leaving the Big Valley.
McGuigan: Declan Colgan writes to say he thinks
Aiden is still in the Omagh area, but is unsure if he is
playing. If you know anything more about his whereabouts,
please let us know.
"Butch" O'Neill: After leaving the Big
Valley, Butch went to the Marines with Jan and eventually
ended up playing with Patrice Smith's band (sister of
Gloria). He and Patrice eventually married and we understand
from their daughter, Lairin, that Butch and Patrice are
still playing and living in Navan, Co. Meath.
||Tony Fox: Declan
Colgan writes to say he thinks Tony is still in the Omagh
area, but is unsure if he is playing. If you know anything
more about his whereabouts,
please let us know.
||Martin Coll: Monica
Coll (Martin's sister) writes to tell us Martin still lives
in the Omagh area and plays in a two piece group called
Side-by-Side. The other half of the duo is Seamus McGuigan
who is a brother of Aiden McGuigan |(see above).
||Jan Lynch: Known
early on as Shelley, Jan went from the Big Valley to the
Swinging Marines with her sister, Anne Lynch. In the mid
seventies, Jan fronted Shelley and Startime and in 1979, she
joined the Mainliners as their last front person before the
band called it quits (and then reunited with Big Tom). Today
Shelley lives in New York, as does her sister, Anne,
although they no longer perform on a regular basis.
||Jimmy Smith: Jimmy,
brother of top country singer, Gloria, went on from his
early days in the Big Valley to become one of Ireland's best
known guitarists fronting The Bogey Boys in the 1980's.
After the Bogeys went their separate ways, Jimmy continued
to play as one of the country's to session musicians. In
August, 2005, the Bogey Boys reunited to help celebrate the
25th anniversary of the Sportsman's Inn.
Lynch: After the band split up, Michael
joined Susan McCann's band. Frank Keating writes to tell us
that today Michael is living in England where he believes
Michael is still playing music.
||Gerry Black: Frank
Keating writes to tell us that today Gerry is living in
Castleblaney, Co. Monaghan where he owns a piano shop.
||Barry Lynch: Barry,
along with Jan and drummer Seamus McNeill joined with Anne
and the Marines after the Big Valley broke up. Today Barry
is a teacher in Dungannon.
Colgan: Declan left Ireland in 1980 and emigrated to
England where he is still living.
went on to play with Hugo Duncan and the Tallmen, The
Frankie McBride and the Polka Dots. In the late seventies he
went to work in
with the Telephone Company (BT) and joined the Resident Band
in The Gresham Ballroom . Holloway Road . London. .Now
retired he lives at Cranfield, outside Kilkeel . Co.Down.
||Mickey Quinn: Unknown,
if you know anything about his whereabouts,
please let us know.