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The Dubliners  (1962-2012)

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

The Story

There is little than can be written about the Dubliners which has not already been recorded by hundreds of other sources across the globe. They are one of the true legends of the Irish entertainment scene and from their formation in the early 1960's, they have provided a unique mix of Irish music and humour, along with the legendary exploits of their members. Led by their rowdy front men, the late Luke Kelly and Ronnie Drew, the Dubliners took the Irish folk scene by storm and in the process, set the standard for Irish "folk" music - then and now.

The origins of the band are a little fuzzy as they really started as a loose session group which got together on the fledgling Dublin ballad scene. The original band was called the Ronnie Drew Group. Although every source I can find on the Internet sites Luke Kelly as an original member of the group with Bob Lynch joining after Luke left in 1964, on a recent episode of Reeling In The Years on RTE television, in 1962 the Ronnie Drew Group is pictured performing McAlpine's Fusiliers and it is Bob Lynch, not Luke Kelly who is with the group. There is a possibility that the video clip was actually from 1964, not 1962.    

Notwithstanding this possible mix-up, the Dubliners started out as a four piece with Ronnie Drew, Luke Kelly, Ciaran Bourke and Barney McKenna. It was 1962 and Irish folk or ballad music was just starting to make a comeback in the pubs in Dublin and around the country. They were originally known as the Ronnie Drew Folk Group, but Ronnie did not like the name and Luke Kelly suggested The Dubliners, after the James Joyce book of the same name.

Although the Clancy Brothers are often cited as the first Irish folk act to "break big," they did so mainly in and from the United States. Meanwhile the Dubliners were hard at work singing their ballads in the backroom of Paddy O'Donoghue's pub in Merrion Row, Dublin. The sessions were bawdy and the air was heavy with cigarette smoke and Guinness.

In the mid 1960's the Dubliners were part of a handful of groups at the forefront of the Irish folk revival. Folk clubs sprang up all around Dublin and featured artists like the Dubliners, Johnny McEvoy, Al O'Donnell (who would join the Dubliners) Jon Ledingham, the Johnstons, Ludlows...the list went on and on. However, it was the Dubliners who possessed a special blend of story telling, musical skills, personality and bawdiness to make them unique on the scene. Ronnie Drew and Luke Kelly were the driving forces behind the group's success and unique characters in their own right.

In 1964 Luke Kelly left the band for a short time and the late Bob Lynch was recruited to take his place. John Sheehan also joined the band at that time on fiddle and tin whistle. Luke would return to the band a couple of years later and Bob would leave, but John Sheehan also stayed, making the band a five piece.  

1967 was the year the band had their big break. Their song, Seven Drunken Nights, released in early 1967 was banned by RTE, but played extensively by the pirate station, Radio Caroline. The end result was chart success in Britain where the song eventually climbed to Number 7 on the British Charts in March and was Number 1 in Ireland. Suddenly, the Dubliners were major International stars. Their follow up single, All for Me Grog, was not nearly as successful, failing to chart in England and reaching Number 10 in Ireland. However, they followed it up with another British success, Black Velvet Band, which went to number 15 in the UK charts in August and Number four in Ireland. They also released an album, Drop of the Hard Stuff, which went to number five in the UK charts in May of 1967.

Although the band would continue to have chart success at home, these would be the only charts successes the band had in England, but it was enough to put them on the road to international acclaim. In 1967 the band was touring the English Clubs and ballrooms of Ireland regularly and had started to make forays into the European market, but had not yet made any attempts to try their luck in America. In a Spotlight interview in July, 1967 Luke Kelly said, "We're taking things as they come. America? I'd love a chance to play there and just see how they'd take to us."

In 1974, an article in Spotlight announced that Ronnie Drew had left the band and was replaced by Jim McCann who had been with the band on a temporary basis, following Ciaran Bourke's illness. Jim would stay with the band until 1979 when he left to again pursue his own solo career. Ciaran remained a member of the band, but would never perform with them again and sadly passed away in 1988.

During the 1980's the band continued to tour, record, and have the craic. Ronnie Drew would return in 1979 to the band's lineup, but Luke Kelly would be replaced by Sean Cannon in 1983. Luke had suffered a brain tumour in 1980 which was removed, and although it was hoped he would make a full recovery, he had to leave the band and sadly passed away less than a year later at age 44. Around the time of Ciaran's death in 1988, Eamonn Campbell joined the band as a permanent member. 

Since our site covers the Irish entertainment scene from 1955 to basically 1985, we finish the Dubliner's feature here. If you are interested in a detail account of the band's history since then, there are many sites on the Internet dedicated to the Dubliner's and their 50-plus year history.

The death of Barney McKenna on April 5th, 2012 brought to a close a special era in Irish folk. Barney was the last surviving original member of the band and although John Sheehan has been with the band since 1964, he was not in the original group. Barney, Luke, Ronnie and Ciaran made history and have now all passed into history.

Update: As the Dubliners celebrated fifty years on the road in 2012, John Sheehan, the only member of the band to have been with them since 1964 (joining the original lineup), announced his retirement and this officially ended the era of the Dubliners. However, the remaining members have continued to tour using the name, "The Dublin Legends (formerly the Dubliners)." This group features Sean Cannon and Eamon Campbell, both of whom did play with members of the original band. Sean since 1983 when he replaced Luke Kelly and Eamon since 1987. They continue to bring the Dubliners' music to new generations of fans at home and across the world.     

Photo Gallery

Click on thumbnails for full images

Dubliners (KS) Dubliners (KS) Dubliners (LR) Dubliner - 1966 (LR) Dubliners-1971 (KS)
Dubliners - 1977

Ronnie & Luke - 1967

Dubliners - 1967 Dubliners - 1967 Luke Kelly - 1967
Ronnie Drew - 1967

Dubliners - 1968

Ronnie Drew - 1967 Luke Kelly - 1968 Luke Kelly - 1967
Luke Kelly - 1970 Luke Kelly - 1970 Luke Kelly - 1967 Luke Kelly - 1969 Luke Kelly - 1967

Dubliners - 1972

Dubliners - 1970

Dubliners - 1970

Dubliners - 1968

Dubliners - 1973

Dubliners - 1972

Dubliners - 1972

Dubliners - 1970

Dubliners - 1969

Dubliners - 1971

Dubliners - 1971

Dubliners - 1970

Dubliners - 1971

Dubliners - 1970

Dubliners - 1973

Dubliners - 1973

Dubliners - 1972

Dubliners - 1967

Dubliners - 1973

Dubliners - 1970

Dubliners - 1969

Dubliners - 1972

Dubliners - 1973

Dubliners - 1969

Dubliners - 1969

Dubliners (RF) Dubliners (RF) Dubliners (RF) Dubliners (RF) Dubliners (RF)
Dubliners (RF) Dubliners (RF) Dubliners (RF) Dubliners (RF) Dubliners (RF)
Dubliners (RF) Dubliners (RF) Dubliners (RF) Dubliners (RF) Dubliners (RF)
Dubliners (RF) Dubliners (RF) Dubliners (RF) Dubliners (RF) Dubliners (RF)
   
Dubliners (RF) Dubliners (RF) Dubliners (PL) Coming Soon Coming Soon
         
Coming Soon Coming Soon Coming Soon Coming Soon Coming Soon
         
Coming Soon Coming Soon Coming Soon Coming Soon Coming Soon
         
Coming Soon Coming Soon Coming Soon Coming Soon Coming Soon
         
Coming Soon Coming Soon Coming Soon Coming Soon Coming Soon
Years Vocals/Banjo/Gtr Vocals/Guitar Banjo, Etc. Whistle, Etc Fiddle/Whistle
1962 Luke Kelly Ronnie Drew Barney McKenna Ciaran Bourke  
1964 Bob Lynch Ronnie Drew Barney McKenna Ciaran Bourke John Sheehan
1965 Luke Kelly Ronnie Drew Barney McKenna Ciaran Bourke John Sheehan
1973 Luke Kelly Ronnie Drew Barney McKenna   John Sheehan
1974 Luke Kelly Jim McCann Barney McKenna   John Sheehan
1979 Luke Kelly Ronnie Drew Barney McKenna   John Sheehan
1983 Sean Cannon Ronnie Drew Barney McKenna   John Sheehan
1987 Sean Cannon Ronnie Drew Barney McKenna Eamon Campbell John Sheehan

Discography (Partial)

Finnegan's Wake
Unknown Label - Unknown - August, 1965
Nelson's Farewell - #6 Irish Charts
Transatlantic Records - Unknown - March, 1966
Seven Drunken Nights / Paddy On The Railway - #1 Irish Charts
Major Minor Records - MM 506 - March, 1967
All For Me Grog / I Know My Love - #10 Irish Charts
Major Minor - MM 521 - June, 1967
Black Velvet Band / Maloney Wants A Drink - #4 Irish Charts
Major Minor - MM 530 - August, 1967
Never Wed An Auld Man / Quare Bungle Rye - #11 Irish Charts
Major Minor - MM 551 - December, 1967
Dirty Old Town / Peggy Gordon - #10 Irish Charts
Major Minor - MM 552 - January, 1968
Seven Deadly Sins / The Irish Navy
Major Minor - MM 572 - June, 1968
Navvy Boots / The Comical Genious
Major Minor - MM 608 - 1969
Molly Maguires /
Tribune Records - TRS 138 - April, 1970
Joe Hill /
Columbia Records - DB 8722 - October, 1970
Hand Me Down My Bible / - #7 Irish Charts
Tribune Records - TRS 150 - April, 1971
Free The People / - #7 Irish Charts
Plough Records - PLS 003 - September, 1971
Peggy Gordon, Whiskey In The Jar / The Irish Navy
Columbia Records - IDB 829 - June , 1973
Lord of the Dance /
Ram Records - Unknown - September, 1975
Marino Waltz / Spanish Point
Lunar Records - LOON 031 - 1985
Raglan Road - #30 Irish Charts
Chyme Records - Unknown - September, 1986
Don't Get Married - #24 Irish Charts
Harmac Records - Unknown - May, 1987
The Irish Rover (with the Pogues) - #1 Irish Charts
Stiff Records - Unknown - March, 1987
Jack's Heroes (with the Pogues) - #4 Irish Charts
YZ Records - Unknown - April, 1990

Albums:

Finnegan's Wake
Unknown Records - Unknown - 1966
A Drop of the Hard Stuff
Major Minor Records - MMLP 3 - May, 1967
More of the Hard Stuff
Major Minor Records - MMLP 5 - October, 1967
Drinkin' and Courtin'
Major Minor Records - MMLP 14 - 1968
At It Again
Major Minor Records - MMLP 34 - 1968
Live At The Albert Hall
Major Minor Records - MMLP 44 - 1969
The Dubliners
Major Minor Records - GOL 200 - 1969?
Alive And Well
Ram Records - RMLP 5001 - March, 1973
Plain and Simple
Ram Records - RMLP 5002 - 1973
Live
Ram Records - RMLP 1006 - 1974
A Parcel of Rogues
Ram Records - RMLP 1021 - 1976
Fifteen Years On
Ram Records - RMLP 1025 - 1977
2 Originals Of The Dubliners Volume 1 (Live and Now)
Ram Records - RMDB 1027 - 1978
21 Years On
RTE Records - RTE 74 - 1983
Together Again
Ram Records - RMLP 1030 - 1979

Audio Clips

Coming Soon

Where Are They Now?

Ronnie Drew - RIPP: Ronnie left the Dubliners in the early seventies to pursue a solo career, but returned to the band for another extended stay before finally departing. He went on to a successful solo career playing around Ireland and the rest of the world. Sadly, Ronnie lost his long battle with cancer on the 16th of August 2008.   
Luke Kelly - RIP: Luke was with the Dubliners until the bitter end. He collapsed on stage in June, 1980 and was diagnosed with a brain tumour. After having the tumour removed, it was hoped he would make a full recovery, but he sadly passed away on the 30th January, 1984 at the age of only 44.
Ciaran Bourke - RIP: In 1974, Ciaran suffered a brain hemorrhage and collapsed on stage. Unfortunately, he never fully recovered and although he lived another 14 years (he passed away on May 10th, 1988) he did not rejoin the group and was never replaced. His final appearance with the band was on the Late Late Show in 1987.
Barney McKenna - RIP: Barney remained with the Dubliners throughout the years, even though Ronnie Drew did appear with the band from time to time for reunion and special occasions. With the band for 50 years, Barney was the only constant until his death of April 5th, 2012. 
John Sheehan: John, although not an original member, has been with the Dubliners since 1964 and is the only surviving link to the band's early days in the mid 1960's when they stamped their own brand of Irish ballads on the entertainment scene in Ireland and across the world. He is still with the band today, touring constantly around the world.  
Jim McCann - RIP: When Jim joined the Dubliners in 1973 when Ciaran Bourke suffered a brain hemorrhage, he was already a solo success in Ireland. A member of the Ludlows ballad group, he had also released several albums and starred as Herod in Jesus Christ Superstar on the Dublin stage. Jim was with the band from 1973-1979 and left to return to his successful solo career. In 2002, Jim rejoined the band for their 40th anniversary tour, but was diagnosed with throat cancer, and although his treatments have been successful, his singing voice was badly damaged, more or less ending his singing career. Sadly Jim passed away at the age of 70 on March 5, 2015.    
Bob Lynch - RIP: Bob replaced Luke Kelly in 1964 when Luke temporarily left the group. After Luke's return, he left and pursued a solo career. He formed the Bob Lynch Group and continued to play throughout the 1970's. However, he suffered from severe bouts of depression and sadly Bob committed suicide in 1982 at the young age of only 52. 
Eamonn Campbell: Eamonn started his career as a member of Dermot O'Brien's Clubmen in the 1960's and went on to become one of Ireland's best known session musicians. He appeared on many recordings and was a regular with "house" bands on RTE shows and bands for shows on the Dublin stage. He became a well known producer and produced the Dubliner's 1987 album 25 Years Celebration (and every one since). He continues to be a mainstay of the group's current lineup as well as continuing to release music as a solo artist.   
  Sean Cannon:    
   

 

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