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The Dubliners  (1963-2012)

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 October, 1963, they 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. In October, 1963, it was announced in the Evening Herald that a new group had been formed by Ronnie Drew, Luke Kelly, Barney McKenna and Ciaran Bourke. The original band was called the Ronnie Drew Group. On a recent episode of Reeling In The Years - 1962 on RTE television, the Ronnie Drew Group is pictured performing McAlpine's Fusiliers and it is Bob Lynch, not Luke Kelly who is with the group. The video clip was actually from 1964, not 1962, as the group only formed in late 1963.    

Notwithstanding this mix-up, the Dubliners started out as a four piece with Ronnie Drew, Luke Kelly, Ciaran Bourke and Barney McKenna. It was 1963 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 , 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 early 1964, Luke Kelly left the band and embarked on a solo career. Meanwhile John Sheehan and Bob Lynch had been playing at another ballad session on Saturday nights in the Crofton House Hotel in Dunlaoire with Andy Rynne and Aideen Ni Coileain. In late May, 1964 Bob and John joined with the boys and around this time, they changed their name to the Dubliners.

In the meantime, Luke became a solo artist and for a time, was living and working in London. His trips back to Dublin were becoming more rare and he would often appear on stage with people like Pete Seeger, Ewan McColl and the Clancy Brothers. Luke would return to the band in June, 1965 and Bob would leave, but John Sheehan stayed, making the band a five piece for the next eight years. We will research this further.  

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 (until 2008 with the Pogues), 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 March, 1974, Ciaran Bourke suffered a brain aneurism while sitting in his dressing room, during a concert in London with the band. He would suffer a second aneurism while being operated on in a London hospital. The band hired the late Jim McCann as a temporary replacement for Ciaran with the understanding that he would leave once Ciaran returned. In the meantime, Ronnie Drew left the band to pursue a solo career and Jim McCann was offered a permanent place with the band. Around this time, Luke was taking part in the Dublin theatre show Joseph and his Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and after playing a few casual gigs with other members of the cast rumours abounded that he, too, was leaving the band. However, manager Noel Pearson issued a statement that Luke was not leaving and that they hoped to have Ciaran back by November. Jim would stay with the band until March, 1979 when he left to again pursue his own solo career and Ronnie Drew rejoined the band. Ciaran remained a member of the band, but would never perform with them again and sadly passed away in 1988.

In June, 1980, the band was playing a series of concerts in Cork when Luke had to leave the stage due to a migraine, he would return for the second half of the show, but would end up in hospital the following day. Although it was expected he would return to Dublin with the group, he underwent emergency surgery in Cork to remove a brain tumor and was off the road for a prolonged period during which Eamonn Campbell was bought in as his replacement., 

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 April 1983 after Luke had suffered a second brain tumour which was also removed, and although it was hoped he would make a full recovery, he had to leave the band for an extended period. Over the next 12 months, reports on Luke's health were mixed with some reports that he was recovering and he did rejoin the band in the summer of 1983, playing his last gig in November, but in January, 1984 Luke was critically ill. On January 30th, Luke sadly passed away at the age of only 43.

Around this time John Sheehan took over management of the band as Noel Pearson went to the United States, As well as that, Sean Cannon, who had been temporarily filling in during Luke's extended period of bad health was made a permanent member of the group.

In March, 1987, the Dubliners were featured on a now famous night on Ireland's Late Late Show celebrating their 25th anniversary (which is strange given that they were technically founded in 1963). Irish entertainment luminaries such as U2, Stockton's Wing, The Pogues, Christy Moore and Davey Arthur paid tribute to the band. 

Coinciding with their 25th anniversary, the band recorded a new album called "A Celebration," which was produced by Eamonn Campbell, who had previously stepped into the band temporarily in 1980. Following this, Eamonn was asked to join the band permanently and the band was officially a five piece again for the first time in thirteen years. On May 7th, 1987, the band was awarded the "Freedom of the City" by the Dublin Corporation. The following year, the band was once again visited by tragedy when Ciaran Bourke, who had remained a "member" of the band since being struck down in 1974 passed away on May 10th, 1988 at the age of just 53. 

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 detailed 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. Sadly, Eamonn Campbell passed away in October, 2017 at age 70 after a short illness.     

Photo Gallery

Click on thumbnails for full images

Dubliners - 1963 Dubliners - 1963 Dubliners - 1963 Dubliner - 1963 Dubliners - 1964
Dubliners - 1963 Dubliners - 1964 Dubliners - 1980 Dubliner - 1987 Dubliners - 1965
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) Dubliners - 1965 Dubliners - 1979
Dubliners - 1964 Dubliners - 1964 Dubliners - 1965 Dubliners - 1966 Dubliners - 1967
Years Vocals/Banjo/Gtr Vocals/Guitar Banjo, Etc. Whistle, Etc Fiddle/Whistle
Oct
1963
Luke
Kelly
Ronnie
Drew
Barney
McKenna
Ciaran
Bourke
 
May
1964
Bob
Lynch
Ronnie
Drew
Barney
McKenna
Ciaran
Bourke
John
Sheehan
June
1965
Luke
Kelly
Ronnie
Drew
Barney
McKenna
Ciaran
Bourke
John
Sheehan

Same line-up for 9 years

Apr
1974
Luke
Kelly
Jim
McCann
Barney
McKenna
  John
Sheehan

Same line-up for nearly 5 years

March
1979
Luke
Kelly
Ronnie
Drew
Barney
McKenna
  John
Sheehan
July
1980
Eamonn
Campbell
Ronnie
Drew
Barney
McKenna
  John
Sheehan
Sept
1980
Luke
Kelly
Ronnie
Drew
Barney
McKenna
  John
Sheehan
April
1983
Sean
Cannon
Ronnie
Drew
Barney
McKenna
  John
Sheehan
June
1983
Luke
Kelly
Ronnie
Drew
Barney
McKenna
  John
Sheehan
Dec
1983
Sean
Cannon
Ronnie
Drew
Barney
McKenna
  John
Sheehan
1987 Sean
Cannon
Ronnie
Drew
Barney
McKenna
Eamon
Campbell
John
Sheehan

Same line-up for 8 years

1995 Sean
Cannon
Paddy
Reilly
Barney
McKenna
Eamon
Campbell
John
Sheehan

Same lineup for 9 years

2005 Sean
Cannon
Patsy
Watchorn
Barney
McKenna
Eamon
Campbell
John
Sheehan

Same lineup for 7 years

2012 Sean
Cannon
Patsy
Watchorn
Gerry
O'Connor
Eamon
Campbell
John
Sheehan

Last Dubliners concert - January 27th, 2013 in memory of Barney McKenna

Discography (Partial)

Singles:

The Wild Rover / Rocky Road to Dublin (released as The Dubliners with Luke Kelly)
Transatlantic Records - TRA SP 1 - June, 1964
Roisin Dubh / Greenland Whale Fisheries
Transatlantic Records - TRA SP 3 - 1965
Surrounded By Water / Off To Dublin In The Green 
Transatlantic Records - TRA SP 8 - 1965
Nelson's Farewell / The Foggy Dew - #6 Irish Charts
Transatlantic Records - TRA SP 9 - 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 / Bold Princess Royal
Columbia Records - DB 8671 - April, 1970
Joe Hill /
The Louse House Of Kilkenny
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 / The Unquiet Grave
Ram Records - RMS 1019 - 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

EP Records:

The Dubliners In Person - Rare Old Mountain Dew / McAlpine's Fuseliers / Willie Gannon / Mrs. McGrath
Transatlantic Records - TRA EP 121 - 1965
A Sample of the Dubliners - Peggy Lettermore / The Ragman's Ball / Reels / Home Boys Home
Transatlantic Records - TRA EP 129 - 1965
Dubliners Mainly Barney - King of the Fairies / Mason's Apron / Kitty Come Down From Limerick / The Cullin
Transatlantic Records - TRA EP 136 - 196
6

Albums:

The Dubliners
Transatlantic Records - TRA 116 - 1964
Dubliners In Concert
Transatlantic Records - TRA 124 - 1965
Finnegan's Wake
Transatlantic Records - TRA 139 - 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 - RIP: 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 in 1995. 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 aged 73. 
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, and he rejoined the band only to collapse on stay in April 1981. Following a second brain surgery he returned to the stage once more in the summer of 1983, but played is last gig with the band in November of that year.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 did not rejoin the group and was never replaced. His final appearance with the band was on the Late Late Show in March, 1987, he was only 53 when he passed away on May 10th, 1988..
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 on April 5th, 2012, he was 72. 
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 was with the band until 2012, touring constantly around the world. After the death of Barney in 2012, John announced his retirement from the band and they have continued on as the Dublin Legends. The last Dubliners concert was held in 27th January 2013 in memory of Barney. John celebrated his 78th birthday on May 19th, 2017.  
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 - RIP: 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 continued to be a mainstay of the group's lineup as well as releasing music as a solo artist up until his death on October 16th, 2017 at the age of 70 after a short illness. .   
Sean Cannon:  Still with the Dublin Legends  
Paddy Reilly:    

 

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