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Chessmen Story (1966-1971)

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

The Story

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 McGrattan.

The 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 Watchtower.

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.....

Photo Gallery

click on thumbnails for full image

The Chessmen (MN) The Chessmen Chessmen (JD) Chessmen (BS) Chessmen (LR)
Chessmen - 1966 (LR) Chessmen - 1966 (LR) Chessmen - 1971 Chessmen - 1965 Chessmen - 1969
Chessmen - 1969 Chessmen - 1969 Chessmen - 1969 Chessmen - 1969 Chessmen - 1968
Chessmen - 1968 Chessmen - 1970 Chessmen - 1968 Chessmen - 1968 Chessmen (RF)
Chessmen (RF) Chessmen (RF) Chessmen (RF) Chessmen (RF) Chessmen (RF)
Chessmen (RF) Chessmen (RF) Chessmen (RF) Chessmen (RF) Chessmen (RF)
   
Chessmen (RF) Chessmen (RF) Chessmen (PL) Coming Soon Coming Soon
         
Coming Soon Coming Soon Coming Soon Coming Soon Coming Soon
Years Vocals Guitar Bass Drums Sax Trumpet Sax
1965 Alan
Dee
Willie
Halpin
Bobby
Ballagh
Terry
Brady
    John L.
Sullivan
1966 Ricky
Valance
Willie
Halpin
Gerry
Anderson
Terry
Brady
Pascal
Haverty
Jimmy
Hughes
John L.
Sullivan
1967 Mike
Munro
Willie
Halpin
Gerry
Anderson
Terry
Brady
Pascal
Haverty
Jimmy
Hughes
John L.
Sullivan
Late
1969
Mike
Munro
Brian
Harris
Gerry
Anderson
Terry
Brady
Paul
McManus
Jimmy
Hughes
 
1971 Mike
Munro
Eddie
Creighton
Gerry
Anderson
Terry
Brady
Paul
McManus
Jimmy
Hughes
 

Additional musicians reported to have been with the Chessmen (Spotlight magazine, Oct. 14, 1971)

    Peter
Kennedy
Mick
Lyons
Dessie
Reynolds
Paul
Duffy
Davy
Martin
Jim
Malone
        Martin
Brannigan
  Davy
Traynor
Pat
Campbell
        Greg
Donaghy
     
        Dessie
McCarthy
     
        Jimmy
Walsh
     
        Derek
Boston
     
               

Discography

There's Nothing To It / What In The World's Come Over You
Pye Records - 7N.15976 - 1965
Bang Shang A Lang / Billy Jones
Tribune Records - Unknown - November, 1968
Swan Song / When The Swallows Fly
Tribune Records - Unknown - May, 1969

Audio Clips

 

     
What In The World        

Where Are They Now?  

Alan Dee:
Mike Munro:
Willie Halpin:
Gerry Anderson: After leaving the ranks of the showband life, Gerry went back to University and earned a degree and lectured for a year before becoming the editor of a local magazine. He started doing spots for Radio Foyle and ended up doing a daily show which then moved to Radio Ulster. He also had a daily talk show for three years on television and is now a presenter with BBC-Northern Ireland (from Gerry's BBC profile).    
Pascal Haverty - RIP:
Jimmy Hughes:
John L. Sullivan:
Paul McManus - RIP: After leaving the Chessmen, Paul returned to his native Sligo and played on the local scene for many years. He gave up music some years ago and we received news in April, 2014, that he had suddenly passed away. Our deepest sympathies are extended to his family and friends. 
Bobby Ballagh: Bobby, now known as Robert, left the band and became an artist. In the last forty years he has become one of the best known artists in Ireland. Read his story here.
  Band Member:
  Band Member:
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In Loving Memory of Grant Gallagher: Sept. 21, 1990 - Nov. 18, 2006