Chessmen Story (1966-1971)
Photo Gallery -
Band Lineups -
- Audio samples -
Where Are They Now?
Founded in 1965, the Chessmen started life on
the Beat Group scene in Dublin. They were one of the more adventurous
Irish bands of the mid-60s and featured singer Alan Dee who was
also a strong songwriter. It was rare for showbands to compose their
own material in those days, but Dee penned several songs such as
Fighting and What In The World Has Come Over You.
When the band made the switch from beat group
to showband, they were told they had to play a different brand of
music which appealed to the dancing punters. Suddenly Alan was
singing songs like Tiger By The Tail and hating every minute
of it. He left the band and for six months they continued as a six
piece. In 1967 they had UK pop star Ricky Valance with them but he
didn't stay that long. According to a 1969
interview in Spotlight, Willie Halpin was quoted as saying,
"It just didn't work out. He was hell to work with. He thought he
was still a big star, No. 1 in England with Tell Laura I Love Her."
After nine months, Ricky left and Mike Munro took over lead vocals
with the band. Around this time the band was managed by Dan
band's greatest success was the ballad, Michael Murphy's Boy.
The song reached number 4 in the Irish charts in the summer of 1966.
The Chessmen were managed by Noel Pearson, who later went on to
produce Irish films like as My Left Foot and The Field.
The band continued to play into the early 70's although they never
regained the popularity they had once enjoyed after Alan left the
band in the late 60's to form beat groups The Light and then The
In 1968, the band expanded to the full showband
format and made a push to join the ranks of the showbands. In the late 1960's the band were still on the
go and included John Sullivan (sax), Mike Munro (vocals), (Mike had
been formerly with the Dave Glover Band), Pascal Haverty
(sax/keyboards), Gerry Anderson (drums), Jimmy Hughes (trumpet), and
Willie Halpin (guitar). The band was being managed by Dan McGrattan.
In August, 1969, Pat Egan reported that the
Dublin group The Fire Brigade had been drafted as the basis for a "New"
Chessmen, but this proved to be incorrect. What actually happened
was that Pascal Haverty left the Chessmen and joined the newly
formed Clouds, which included the five members of the Fire brigade
along with Pascal and Sligo trumpeter Sean Scanlon. He was replaced
in the Chessmen by Sligo sax player Paul McManus and the Chessmen continued on.
By November, there had been another major
change in the band when Willie Halpin and John L. Sullivan left the
band to form a new group with Gentry drummer Greg Donaghy and "Sammy
The Duke" from Northern showband, The Bigtimers. The new group was
Uncle Ham and said Willie in an interview in Spotlight, "You
can't play what you wish in a showband. We have formed Uncle Ham
because we want to achieve something musically." At the same time,
Brian Harris quit the Deep Set to replace Willie in the Chessmen.
In September, 1971, the band finally broke up.
Gerry Anderson left the band to join The Real McCoy in late summer.
More to come.....
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