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Black Aces Showband Story (1960-1971)

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

The Story

As many early showbands did, the Black Aces started out in Kilkenny as a skiffle group around 1958 at a parochial concert in St. Patrick's Hall. Sean Holland was a part of that original line-up playing washboard. A few months later, they appeared again in the hall, but had added a few new members and the line-up included John Cantwell (drums), Ollie Kearney (vocals/guitar), Sean Holland (trumpet), Jim O'Dwyer (bass) and Liam Drennan (sax).

When the group made the move to become a showband, they added Arthur Connick (trombone) and Val Reynolds (guitar). Eventually the band would also feature Pat Hanrahan (vocals) and Jimmy Lennon (guitar). 

The first adverts we can find for the showband line-up were in late 1959. At the time, the band was still being booked as a "relief band" to major dance bands, as well as beginning to make a name for themselves on the local scene around Kilkenny.

A front page article in the Kilkenny People newspaper on April 16th, 1960 announced the band had quit their day jobs and were turning professional. The line-up at the time included: Liam Drennan (leader and sax), Sean Holland (trumpet), Val Reynolds (guitar), Ollie Kearney (guitar), Jim Lennon (guitar), Arthur Connick (trombone), Jim Dwyer (bass), John Joe Cantwell (drums), and Paddy Hanrahan (sax). At this time, the band was being managed by Patsy Murray.

In the meantime, the band went from strength to strength, growing in reputation and traveling further afield. In April, 1962, the band left on a one month tour of the USA (mostly the New York area) and they had several changes to the band including Paul Fennelly now as manager and the addition of Tom Dullard on Guitar and Paddy "Sonny" Cullen on bass. At some point earlier Jimmy Lennon left the band and went to live in England where he would eventually carve out a place for himself singing in the Fuller Ballroom in London. Val Reynolds had also left the band early on.

In 1963 the band was involved in one of the most famous events of the Irish entertainment scene when on June 6th, they were booked to play the Diamond Ballroom in Kiltimagh in support of superstar Jim Reeves, who was undertaking a concert tour of the west of Ireland. As the band got ready to back Jim, they were shocked when the country and western superstar left the hall and travelled to his next gig in Sligo's Las Vegas Ballroom, leaving the Black Aces and 1,600 dancers pondering what had happened. Legend has it that Jim objected to the horribly tuned piano in the ballroom and others think he wasn't happy doing two gigs in one night. One way or another, he didn't play in Kiltimagh with the Black Aces.  

By mid to late 1963, things were really heating up for the band. They undertook their 8th tour of the English ballroom scene and were featured on several (R)TE radio shows. In September, both lead singers, Paddy and Ollie got married. In mid 1964, it was reported that the band had cut a record and although an article and photo appeared in the local paper, the disc never materialised. The report said the two recorded songs were, White Sports Coat and Only You, which both featured Paddy Hanrahan.

The reason the recordings never saw the light of day was probably that in October, 1964, Paddy defected from the band and joined the Nomads Showband. We think this may have been the time at which Jimmy Lennon returned from England to rejoin the band as lead singer. Although much heralded in the local press and band handouts, it appears this move did not last long with Jimmy returning once again to England by the time 1965 rolled around.

In July 1965, the wedding was announced of trumpet player Sean Holland to manager Paul Fennelly's daughter, Mary. Also in 1965, the band finally did release its first single, Serenade of the Bells, sung by bass player Paddy Cullen who appeared to have adopted the stage name, Sonny.

In 1967, they released "Just Tell Her Jim Said Hello" which was sung by Ollie Kearney.

The band's end is a little hard to trace as in mid 1969 they added a new lead singer, Andy Murray who released a single, "Happy The Heart That I Own" in January, 1970, but by the middle of 1971 the band was gone off the road.

Since the late 1990's, there have been numerous reunions with various members of the band's past line-ups taking part including Sonny Cullen, Ollie Kearney, Liam Drennan and Jimmy Lennon. 

More to come.....

Photo Gallery

click on thumbnails for full image

Black Aces (JB) Black Aces (BF) Black Aces - 1966 (LR) Black Aces (JB) Black Aces  (PB)
Black Aces - 1966 (LR) Black Aces (LR) Black Aces - 1967 (DL) Black Aces (RF) Black Aces (RF)
Black Aces (RF) Black Aces (RF) Black Aces (RF) Black Aces (RF) Black Aces (RF)
Black Aces (RF) Black Aces (RF) Black Aces (RF) Black Aces (RF) Black Aces (RF)
Black Aces (RF) Black Aces (RF) Black Aces (RF) Black Aces (RF) Black Aces (RF)
Black Aces (RF) Black Aces (RF) Black Aces (RF) Black Aces (RF) Black Aces (PL)
Black Aces (PL) Black Aces (PL) Black Aces (PL) Black Aces (PL) Black Aces (PL)
Black Aces (PL) Black Aces (PL) Black Aces (PL) Black Aces - 1962 Black Aces - 1963
     
Black Aces - 1964 Black Aces - 1960 Coming Soon Coming Soon Coming Soon
Years Vocals Gtr/Vocals Guitar Bass Drums Guitar Sax Trumpet Trombone
1957     Ollie
Kearney
Jim
O'Dwyer
John
Cantwell
  Liam
Drennan
Sean
Holland
 
      Ollie
Kearney
Jim
O'Dwyer
John
Cantwell
Jimmy
Lennon
Liam
Drennan
Sean
Holland
Arthur
Connick
Apr
1960
Paddy
Hanrahan
Val
Reynolds
Ollie
Kearney
Jim
O'Dwyer
John
Cantwellx
Jimmy
Lennon
Liam
Drennan
Sean
Holland
Arthur
Connick
Apr
1962
Paddy
Hanrahan
Ollie
Kearney
Tom
Dullard
P. "Sonny"
Cullen
John
Cantwell
  Liam
Drennan
Sean
Holland
Arthur
Connick
Nov
1964
  Ollie
Kearney
Tom
Dullard
P. "Sonny"
Cullen
John
Cantwell
Jimmy
Lennon
Liam
Drennan
Sean
Holland
Arthur
Connick
1967   Ollie
Kearney
Tom
Dullard
P. "Sonny"
Cullen
John
Cantwell
  James
Donnelly
Sean
Holland
Arthur
Connick
June
1969
  Andy
Murray
Tom
Dullard
P. "Sonny"
Cullen
John
Cantwell
  James
Donnelly
Sean
Holland
Arthur
Connick
                   

Discography

Serenade of the Bells / Cause I Love You (Sonny Cullen)
Emerald Records - MD 1023 - 1965
Just Tell Her Jim Said Hello / La-La (Ollie Kearney)
Emerald Records - Unknown - 1967
Happy The Heart That I Own / Smile (Andy Murray)
Unknown Records - Unknown - January, 1970

Audio Clips

         
Coming Soon Coming Soon Coming Soon Coming Soon Coming Soon

Coming Soon

Where Are They Now?  

Ollie Kearney:
Jim O'Dwyer:
John Joe Cantwell:
Liam Drennan: In a 2017 article in the Kilkenny People, Liam said that after the band called it quits he got a job
with the ESB. He he still playing music with the Marble City Sounds which is a wedding band in Kilkenny.
Sean Holland:
Jimmy Lennon:
Tom Dullard:
Arthur Connick:
Paddy "Sonny" Cullen:
Jimmy Donnelly:
Andy Murray:

 


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