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All About The Big Valley (1972-1976)

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

The Story

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. Jan met Top Rank owner, Tony Loughman, through family friend Dan O'Hara of the Country Flavour.

In 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 course, Jan.

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 roots.  

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 were "Swinging.")

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 Storytellers.      

Photo Gallery

Click on thumbnails for full images

Frank Coll & The Big Valley - 1973 Shelley and the Big Valley All Stars - 1973 Big Valley All Stars - Dec., 1973 Shelly & The Big Valley- 1974 Shelley & The Big Valley - 1974
Shelly of the Big Valley (JL) Aidan McGuigan of the Big Valley Jimmy Smith of the Big Valley Michael Lynch of the Big Valley Seamus "Butch" McNeil of the Big Valley
Tony Fox of the Big Valley Shelley in 1975 Shelley in 1975 Shelly (JL) Big Valley - 1975 (NC)
Big Valley - 1975 (NC) Big Valley - 1975 (NC) Big Valley - 1975 (NC) Noel Cunningham - 1975 (NC) Big Valley - 1974
 
Big Valley (RF) Big Valley (RF) Big Valley (RF) Big Valley (RF) Coming Soon
 
Coming Soon A- Shelley & the Big Valley - 1973 B- Shelley & the Big Valley - 1974 B - Shelley & Gerry Black - 1974 A - Shelley & Gerry Black - 1974
Years Vocals Guitar Bass Drums Keyboards Sax Sax Keyb/Vocals
1972 Frank
Coll
Unknown Aiden
McGuigan
Seamus
McNeil
Tony
Fox
Unknown   Martin
Coll
Nov,
1973
Shelley Jimmy
Smith
Aiden
McGuigan
Seamus
McNeil
Tony
Fox
Michael
Lynch
  Martin
Coll
1974 Shelley Jimmy
Smith
Barry
Lynch
Seamus
McNeil
Tony
Fox
Michael
Lynch
  Gerry
Black
1975 Shelley Noel
Cunningham
Barry
Lynch
Seamus
McNeil
  Michael
Lynch
  Gerry
Black
Late
1975
Shelley Noel
Cunningham
Barry
Lynch
Seamus
McNeil
Declan
Colgan
Michael
Lynch
Mickey
Quinn
 

Discography

Singles:

Shelley's Winter Love / Come Right In and Sit Right Down (Frank Coll)
Velvet Records - VE.022 - 1972
Today I Started Loving You Again / The Fugitive (Frank Coll)
Velvet Records - VE.032 - 1973
Love At Eleven (Shelley) / Everybody Else is Doing It (with Jimmy Smith)
- #14 Irish Charts
Release Records - RL.714 - December, 1973
United We Stand / Better Move It On Home (Shelley and Gerry Black)
Top Spin Records - TSS 53 - 1974
Da Do Run Run (Shelley)
Top Spin Records - Unknown - August, 1975

Album:

Just Two People (with Shelley and Gerry Black)
Top Spin Records - 1974

Audio Clips

Coming Soon

Where Are They Now?   (Coming Soon)

  Frank Coll: 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.
  Aiden 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.
  Seamus "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.      
  Michael 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.
  Declan Colgan:  Declan left Ireland in 1980 and emigrated to England where he is still living. 
  Noel Cunningham:  Noel went on to play with Hugo Duncan and the Tallmen, The Debonaires (Armagh), Frankie McBride and the Polka Dots. In the late seventies he went to work in London 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.

 

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