Derby showband had its beginnings when a trio got together
in the early sixties which was rhythm guitar (Steve Talbot)
and two other local lads. The band had a two names, firstly
the Squares and lastly The Strangers. They specialised in
Shadows music although they had no bass guitarist. For
authenticity, they used Vox amps, Fender guitars, a Baby
Binson echo chamber and of course, Shure mics. They played
locally and mostly things like school concerts but they did
manage to get an appearance at the Olympia in Dublin one
Sunday afternoon for a charity concert.
The group also were the backing music for an
album made for sale in the U.S., backing a local baritone
singer for a number of traditional songs. The L.P. was
called Sean Breen sings Irish Favourites and the
group changed its name specially for the recording to The
Short Grass Trio. Eventually they broke up and Steve got
together with a group of lads in the area who were anxious
to form a band. The manager, a local businessman had
contacts in the showband world as he was an accomplished
artist and had done some portraits of a few prominent bands.
They started practicising in the CYMS
hall in Newbridge, Co. Kildare and the Derby Showband was
born. They had one or two lead vocalists for a time but in
short, they finished up with the following line-up:
Betty Gibson (vocals) who hailed from Inchicore in Dublin
and was sister of
the late talented guitarist Liam Gibson; the other members were
Steve Talbot (vocals and guitar), Tommy Murphy (guitar), Louis Melia (bass), P.J. Byrne (sax / accordion), Christy McNamara
(trumpet), and Tony Farrell (drums).
manager used his contacts and
from getting dates across the country they got the usual
tours of Scotland and London. The Scotland run was by
driving to Stranraer, taking the boat and on to Glasgow for
a two night gig. The UK trip saw the band getting four
nights, two in Banba Hall, London one in the 32 Club
Harlsden, London and one in Trinity Hall Coventry.
By now the Derby had established itself in many of the
bigger halls in Ireland and once they broke into the Dublin
circuit, they were starting to gain some recognition. The
first Dublin gig was in St Anthony's Hall on the quays on a
Wednesday night after a bingo session. After that they
progressed on to the more notable venues such as the Town
and Country Club (just behind the Ambassador cinema and off
Parnell Square), The Crystal in South Anne St, The
Television Club which was formerly the Four Provinces and a
few others. There were frequent dates at the Ritz Ballroom
in Carlow and the Entertainment Centre in Arklow, as well as
the CYMS in Newbridge and KIldare, and a host of
lesser-known venues across the country.
Unfortunately, the band's manager left the area to follow a
different line of business and it just wasn't feasible to
Steve continued, "I
have no doubt that we might have gone on to greater things
eventually. Interestingly enough, there were no support
bands in those days and bands of the day could be on stage
from 9pm until 2 a.m. or from 10 pm until 3 a.m. It was hard
work with no such thing as a 'Roadie' we unloaded and set up
our own gear and took it all down after the night."
never turned professional and had no recordings, often
getting in at 5 or 6 am and heading into work. Steve added,
"Fortunately the best dates were at the weekend by nature
and we were, like most bands, rarely out on a week night.
The Ritz in Carlow is the only one I recall being on a
Wednesday night but that was only 28 miles from base and we
be home and in bed by 4or 4.30. I remember the lads
discussing one time that there were about 800 bands
jockeying for about 10 top positions and I think anyone
below that wasn't making much money."
case, as I'm sure in many others, equipment and dress as
well as travel expenses etc had to be paid for and if the
manager was getting a cut, I'd say it was small. I don't
recall that we got much out if and it was largely done for
the sheer fun of it. As a fully formed band on the road, we
didn't survive too long as we simply didn't have
the financial resources to continue."
concluded, "The other aspect of dancing in Ireland at the
time was of course the Saturday night Ceili's which were
held in every hall around the country and of course the big
winner here for years was The Gallowglass Ceili band. On the
another hand, there were the Ballad groups. I believe that
one of the major factors in their favour was that the
showband scene was changing and the singing lounges were
coming more and more into play. These venues were ideal
launching pads for talented groups and helped to project
them into the larger venues."
As far as
the other band members, Steve tells us Christy McNamara is
still around as is Louis Melia and Tony Farrell was last
known to be working in the UK and may still be there.