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Clefonaires Feature (1958-1964)

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

The Story

The story of Sligo's Clefonaires started in 1957 when a few lads in Tubbercurry started a skiffle group to play at local dances. Like so many young musicians of the era, it wasn't long before they realised they would have to up their game to compete in the growing ballroom circuit.

In 1958, they set about forming a showband and they called themselves the Clefonaires. Based in Tubbercurry, their original line-up was: Peadar Leonard (vocals), Pearse Leonard (guitar), Sean Hunt (bass), Eddie Brennan (drums), Sean Haran (accordion), Mickey Brennan (trombone), Bernie Brennan (sax), Pauric Potter (clarinet and sax) and Carl Neilson (RIP-trumpet). Bernie Brennan was the leader of the band and they set about conquering the dance scene with an advert in the Irish Independent newspaper which was a bold move for s small local band at the time.

Within a few months, the "Clefs" as they would eventually be called, were playing ballrooms across the northwest including Mayo, Leitrim and Donegal (as well as Sligo). They were being advertised as the Clefonaires 10 piece Orchestra or Dance Band, having added Tony Doyle to the line-up. 

Their reputation continued to grow during 1959 and they eventually played their first date in Kerry in the CYMS Ballroom in Killorglin on St. Stephens Night, 1959. The dance was actually held on Sunday the 27th of December because back in those days, dancing was banned on Saturday Nights, thanks to the influence of the Catholic Church.

By 1960, the band had adopted a new name, The Clefonaires Combo, but more often they were being advertised as the Clefonaires Showband, but we think this was often the title used by promoters just to ensure they got the benefit of the rising use of the name by bands like the Royal and others. The band was now playing all across the country including many dates in Dublin ballrooms like the Ierne and Crystal (the holy grail for rural bands). They were also now an eight piece band. The band was truly nationwide now and playing all the best ballrooms across the country. 

In late 1961, the band underwent a major change in line-up and joined with several members of the Savoy Swing Seven to form a new Clefonaires outfit (this may have been when they started using the name "Combo"). New into the band were Roddy Gillen (guitar), Noel Morrison (bass), Dominic Smyth (drums) and local man Frankie Brennan (guitar). The band was now a seven piece, more in line with the standard showband lin-e-up at that time. They were now being managed by Louis Chapman of Tubbercurry.

In May, 1963, a small article in the Sligo Champion announced the addition of two new members to the band. Both from Derry, they were Bobby Tyson on vocals and Bobby Browne on trumpet. We not 100% sure whether Bobby Browne stayed with the band as the only photo we have of this line-up has Billy Tyson with Michael Burns still on trumpet.   

The band appears to have broken up in early 1964 as the last reference we can find to them playing a gig is in February. At this point, we know Mickey Brennan joined the Victors Showband based in Cork, Paraic Potter went to the Ohio Showband based in Tuam and Michael Burns joined the Caroline Showband based in Dublin.

In June, 1966, two ex-members of the band, Roddy Gillen and Dominic Smyth, joined local balladeer Donal McLynn as the resident cabaret act in the Baymount Hotel (adjoining the Silver Slipper Ballroom).  For the next few years, Roddy and Dominic would provide the nightly music in the cabaret room joined by other musicians including Liam Finan. Eventually in the early 1970's Mickey Brennan and Pauric Potter retired from the slog of the showbands and came back to Sligo where they played with Roddy and Dennis Phelan in the Baymount initially as "The Ladds" but they would eventually adopt the name the Jazz Ladds and have been playing to this day (as of late 2017). 

More to come.....

Photo Gallery

click on thumbnails for full image

Clefonaires -1962 (LC) Clefonaires - 1963 (LC) Clefonaires - 1962 (RF) Clefonaires (RF) Clefonaires - 1958
 
Clefonaires-1958 Clefonaires - 1959 Clefonaires - 1960 Clefonaires - 1958-9 Coming Soon
         
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Years Vocals Guitar Bass Drums Acc/Gtr Trombone Unknown Sax Sax Trumpet
1958   Pearse
Leonard
Sean
Hunt
Eddie
Brennan
Sean
Haran
Mickey
Brennan
Peadar
Leonard
Bernie
Brennan
Pauric
Potter
Carl
Neilson
1959 Tony
Doyle
Pearse
Leonard
Sean
Hunt
Eddie
Brennan
Sean
Haran
Mickey
Brennan
Peadar
Leonard
Bernie
Brennan
Pauric
Potter
Carl
Neilson
1962   Frankie
Brennan
Noel
Morrison
Dominic
Smith
Roddy
Gillen
Mickey
Brennan
    Pauric
Potter
Carl
Neilson
1963 Billy
Tyson
Frankie
Brennan
Pat
Kelpie
Dominic
Smith
Roddy
Gillen
Mickey
Brennan
    Pauric
Potter
Michael
Burns
                     
                     
                     

Discography

S - #3 Irish Charts
M

Audio Clips

         
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Coming Soon

Where Are They Now?  

Carl Nielsen - RIP: Sadly passed away in June, 20112 at the age of 81. He was playing music with the local Jazz Ladds up until; his death. 
Frankie Brennan - RIP: After the Clefonaires, Frankie joined the Montrose Showband. He sadly passed away in October 2003 at the young age of only 60 following a severe stroke.
Tony Doyle - RIP: Tony sadly passed away in October 2001, he was 68. After leaving the music business, he became a taxi driver.
Domenic Smyth - RIP: Domenic sadly passed away in August 1999. He had played with Sligo Jazz Ladds (members of the Clefonaires) before emigrating to Leeds, England where he passed away after a long illness. 
Pearse Leonard: Pearse left the band when they turned professional and his family emigrated to the United States eventually ending up in California. 
Band Member:

 


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