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Furey Brothers Story (1964-Present)

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

The Story

The band had it beginnings with their father, Ted Furey, who was a fiddler of some renown all across Ireland in the 1950 and 60's and their mother Nora, who played accordion and banjo. Their family came from the travelling community, but owned a house in Dublin. In a recent interview on "For One Night Only," Finbar talked to Gay Byrne about going to the Puck Fair in County Kerry and buying his first tin whistle when he was sent to purchase butter by his mother at the age of five. He spent the day busking at the fair and made a few bob (Irish slang for schillings) and his path to music was set. It also helps that your father was an All-Ireland prize winning musician and growing up in a house filled with music.

Along with their father, Finbar and his brother Eddie started busking regularly anywhere they could. Their father was a regular in O'Donoghue's pub in Dublin and was instrumental is starting the famous traditional music sessions which started in the late 50's and into the early 60's and eventually lead to the formation of the Dubliners, featuring Ronnie Drew and Luke Kelly. Around this time, Finbar got his first set of Uillean pipes and started entering competitions all around Ireland.

In 1961, he won the All-Ireland junior championships for pipes. Over the next few years he won many competitions including three All-Ireland senior medals. Eventually he was joined by Eddie and they continued to win prizes and also as a trio with their father.  

By 1966, Finbar and Eddie were performing regularly and played the circuit of folk festivals which launched many traditional musicians on successful careers back in those days. They won the international award in Tralee. In 1967, Sean Nos singer Joe Heaney offered the two Furey lads a tour of the British folk clubs. They went to Scotland and were soon one of the top acts on the UK folk circuit.

In September, 1967, Shay Healy wrote about the two Furey brothers in his folk column in Spotlight magazine saying they were just as popular in Scotland as they were at home. They had recently been featured at the Edinburgh Festival which was a major honour for them. Unfortunately there is little other info about their early career in Spotlight as folk was not covered very well and also the fact that the Fureys were featuring mainly on the English and Scottish circuits as opposed to Ireland.  

In 1968 they released their first album, the self titled Finbar and Eddie Furey on Transatlantic Records. In 1969, they released their second album, The Lonesome Boatman, again on the Transatlantic label. The title track would become one of the band's best loved songs, played beautifully by Finbar, who has always been credited as the composer, although on the original album label, it is listed as a "traditional" song (we're not sure why). In 2011, Finbar was interviewed by Gay Byrne and talked about writing the song and how proud it made his father.

That same year, the Clancy Brothers, who were living in the United States, while touring the world, suffered a major blow when Tommy Makem announce he was leaving the group to pursue a solo career. They asked Finbar if he would join as he played banjo (like Tommy) and tin whistle. Finbar recently said it was an amazing opportunity for a young musician and he agreed, as long as he could bring Eddie as well. So, the two brothers supported the Clancy Brothers. A YouTube video from the American "Mike Douglas" TV programme has the two lads literally standing behind the four Clancy brothers (who were wearing their classic white Aran knit sweaters) while the Fureys were in dark sweaters. 

For the next three years the Fureys toured the world and honed their craft with the Clancy's. Said Finbar in the RTE documentary, Finbar Furey: Free Spirit, "We learned so much from the Clancy brothers, their stage performance was brilliant." They made several albums with the Clancy's but there was only so much Finbar could take. "There was only so many times you could sing, I'll Tell Me Ma When I Get Home and I wanted to play my pipes, but I wasn't playing any pipes." Although Finbar has said he offered to bring the pipes into the Clancy's stage show, they declined and his lack of enthusiasm for the band and their music continued to grow. Eventually he had enough and left the band. Said Finbar, "I knew that if I stayed there, I would have died inside." 

Finbar and and Eddie returned to the UK. It was 1972 and they were back on the British folk scene. They brought out an album, Dawning of the Day which included the Gerry Rafferty song, Her Father Didn't Like Me Anyway. Finbar credits the track as being the turning point in their careers. Legendary BBC DJ, John Peel, made the single his Record of the Year for 1972, pointing to its extraordinary sound (that of the Uilleann pipes).

The Furey brother's careers would be hard hit by the political realities of the times. The "troubles" in Northern Ireland had escalated after the events of "Bloody Sunday" and Irish musicians were no longer the darlings of the British folk set. Finbar and Eddie had to find new places to play and ended up going to Germany. While in Germany, they made an album, A Dream In My Hand. Finbar recounts that living in Germany was not easy and he eventually longed for home. He moved his family back to Ireland.

By 1977, Finbar and Eddie knew that their time as a duo had reached it's limits. In Free Spirit, Finbar said, "we couldn't have taken the music any further as a duo and with the instruments we had. The pipes are very limited. It was amazing that we did so much with them." Around this time, their brothers, George and Paul, were playing in band called The Buskers along with Davy Arthur. On a tour of Germany the two groups met up and it became obvious to all that the brothers should all join together and the Furey Brothers with Davy Arthur were born.

They recorded an album for Polydor called, Morning on a Distant Shore. A single, Shipyard Slips seems to have been released at the time, but did nothing. However, the record would be resurrected after their success in 1979 (see below). 

They released their first single, Cover of the New Starlight, a parody of Dr. Hook's hit, Cover of the Rolling Stone on the Dolphin label. The record got plays and was considered a bit of an oddity, neither pop nor traditional and the B-side, Sham Rock, was a somewhat new form of traditional music which got the boys in trouble with the traditional purists. Not quite the same as Horslips "trad-rock" genre, Finbar described the track as more jazz influenced traditional music. This theme would be carried on in their first album released, Banshee, also on the Dolphin label.

1979 started with the band needing a new single. They decided against the Sham Rock genre for their second release, Scottish born singer Eric Bogle's song, No Man's Land, which the Fureys renamed, The Green Fields of France. In the documentary Free Spirit, Finbar recounts how Eddie was supposed to sing the song, but had been up drinking the previous night with Luke Kelly of the Dubliners and was unable to perform. As the studio time had been booked and paid for, Finbar decided he would sing it and the rest, as they say, is history.

Not only was the song a massive hit in Ireland, but it was banned by the BBC in England as they thought it referred to the Irish rebellion of 1916. It was also a hit around the world. Suddenly, the Fureys were international stars. As Finbar said, "we were living the life of rock stars." Then, without warning, on the 12th of May, 1979, Ted Furey passed away at the age of just 65. Devastated, the four brothers came home to Ireland for the funeral. Finbar played the pipes at his father's graveside, one of the hardest things he ever had to do. But he felt his father's death was also a timely warning, not to get too caught up in the trappings of fame.

The hit record would start a run of success that few Irish bands have ever matched. At this point, the band's record label; became Banshee Records, the name of their first album on Dolphin. We know that the label had ties to Ritz Records as many of their singles and albums were also released on the Ritz label. We continue to try and research the relationship between the two labels.

However, their second single was actually on the Polydor label from their 1977 album, Morning on a Distant Shore. It is possible this was left over from their days in Germany and released to capitalise on their new found fame. Shipyard Slips reached number 26 on the Irish charts. 

The Fureys enjoyed enormous commercial success over the next few years. Hit single followed hit single and their albums are still considered classics by collectors around the world. In late 1979 they released Leaving Nancy which again cracked the top ten, settling at number 6. This was followed up by the song Finbar had written several years earlier, The Lonesome Boatman which also reached number 6. Their follow up, Beer, Beer, Beer appears to have been a nod to the Clancy's who featured the song prominently while Finbar and Eddie were with them. and although it only made it to number 18, it was still a hit.

After their father's death, Finbar was asked by his mother to look through his belongings and during the search, he came across a book of tunes Ted Furey had been collecting since the 1930's. One of them, When You Were Sweet Sixteen was familiar to Finbar, although he did not know all the words. It was originally recorded by George Gaskin in 1900. On the encouragement of his mother, the Fureys recorded the 80 year old song and were surprised by the massive hit is became. Not only was an immediate success at home in Ireland, but exploded in the UK as well. It reached number 14 in the UK Charts and prompted an appearance on Top of the Pops, one of only a few Irish acts to appear on the legendary BBC programme.

With their second number one hit, although reeling from the loss of their father a few years earlier, by the end of 1981, The Fureys were truly a worldwide phenomenon. As an aside, this would be the group's last number one record. Finbar would have to wait until 2013 (32 years later) when his song, The Last Great Love Song, would go to the top of the Irish charts. 

The band's next three singles would also crack the Irish top ten: I Will Love You (number 4), The Old Man (number 9, written by Phil Coulter) and Now Is The Hour (number 8). The band's success seemed to know no bounds as everything they touched seemed to turn to gold. They were performing for sellout audiences where ever they appeared and were a mainstay of the Irish festival circuit during the 1980's.

By the mid 80's though things were beginning to change. Finbar started to feel uncomfortable playing the "old hits" and encourage his brothers to write more new songs, but they seemed quite happy to tour on their past successes. For quite a while after the death of their father, Finbar has said that he wanted to remain close to home and they did not undertake any major tours for a few years. Then, his mother, suggested that they really should be touring as they had before. In the documentary, Free Spirit, Finbar discussed not wanting to leave his mother alone, but realising his father would want them to keep playing and touring and they reluctantly agreed to a tour in Australia. While away, Nora sadly passed away and the brothers again had to travel back to Ireland to bury a parent. It was the 5th of September, 1986 when Nora died.

Her loss continued to trouble Finbar and although the band would tour together for another 8 years, he was not happy. When his youngest son, Finbar Jr. was born in 1994, Finbar decided it was time to leave the band and he left. The Furey and Davy Arthur continued to tour, but never enjoyed the success they had with Finbar as the frontman. The had their last hit record in 1991 and would never make the charts again, although they would go on to tour regularly.

In 2002, Paul Furey sadly lost his battle with cancer and passed away. Finbar spent a decade "lost" after his brother's passing and although he did not play with the band, he says he was always watching them, always wanting success for them. Finbar also suffered health problems when years of playing the pipes lead to a deterioration of the muscles in his arms and the threat that he might lose the use of his right arm. He underwent surgery and eventually returned to the stage, writing new songs and as previously mentioned, enjoying a number one hit in 2013 with his song, The Last Great Love Song. 

The Fureys and Davey Arthur continue to tour across Ireland, the UK and Europe, playing hundreds of concert dates a year. 

More to come.....

Photo Gallery

click on thumbnails for full image

Furey - 1963 Ted Furey Finbar & Eddie - 1967 Fureys - 1969 Fureys - 1969
With the Clancys - 1970 With the Clancys - 1970 Fureys - 1972 Fureys - 1972 Fureys - 1972
Fureys - 1972 Fureys - 1972 Fureys - 1973 Fureys - 1974? Fureys - 1974
Fureys - 1975 Fureys - 1977 Fureys - 1978 Fureys - 1978 Fureys - 1979
Furey Brothers (PH) Fureys (RF) Fureys (RF) Fureys (RF) Fureys (RF)
Fureys (RF) Fureys (RF) Fureys (RF) Fureys (RF) Fureys - Today
Years Vocals/Pipes Vocals/Guitar Multi Multi Accordion / Multi
1967 Finbar
1978 Finbar
1994   Eddie



Cover of the New Starlight / Sham Rock
Dolphin Records - DOS.146 - 1978
The Green Fields of France / Evening Falls - #1 Irish Charts
Banshee Records - SHE.001 - 1979
Shipyard Slips (Men of No Property) / Ringville / La Volta - #26 Irish Charts
Polydor Records - Unknown - June, 1979
Leaving Nancy / The Reason I Left Mullingar - #6 Irish Charts
Banshee Records - SHE.002 - November, 1979
Lonesome Boatman / Night Ferry - #6 Irish Charts
Banshee Records - SHE.003 - July, 1980
Beer, Beer, Beer / Lament - #18 Irish Charts
Banshee Records - SHE.004 - March, 1981
When You Were Sweet Sixteen / Big Ships A Sailing - #1 Irish Charts
Banshee Records - SHE.005 - May, 1981
I Will Love You / The Song of the Fox - #4 Irish Charts
Banshee Records - SHE.006 - February, 1982
The Old Man /  - #9 Irish Charts
Banshee Records - SHE.007 - April, 1982
(Farewell) Now Is The Hour / Tomorrow We Part / Kerry Jig - #8 Irish Charts
Banshee Records - SHE.008 - July, 1983
Steal Away / Lady Bird- #24 Irish Charts
Banshee Records - SHE.009 - September, 1983


Finbar and Eddie Furey
Transatlantic Records - TRA 168 - 1968
The Lonesome Boatman
Transatlantic Records - TRA 191 - 1969

Furey Brothers with Davy Arthur Banshee   S Banshee/Ritz Apr-79
Furey Brothers with Davy Arthur Green Fields of France   S Banshee/Ritz Dec-79
Furey Brothers with Davy Arthur Anniversary Song   S Banshee/Ritz Jan-82
Fureys, The & Davy Arthur Anniversary Song   S Ritz RITZ 032 Dec-82
Furey Brothers with Davy Arthur Steal Away   A Ritz RITZLP 0014 Jan-83
Furey Brothers with Davy Arthur When You Were Sweet Sixteen   A Ritz RITZLP 0004 Jan-82
Furey Brothers with Davy Arthur In Concert   A Ritz RITZLP 0025 Jan-84
Furey Brothers with Davy Arthur Dreaming My Dreams Paddy In Paris S Banshee/Ritz SHE.014 Jan-87
Furey Brothers with Davy Arthur Red Rose Café   S Ritz RITZ 176  
Fureys, The & Davy Arthur I Will Love You My Love Is Like A Red Red Rose  S Ritz RITZ 012 Jan-82
Furey Brothers with Davy Arthur First Leaves Of Autumn    S Ritz RITZ 151 Jan-87
Furey, Eddie and Finbar Furey with Paddie Bell Eddie and Finbar Furey with Paddie Bell   A EMI ISLE 3006 Jan-74
Fureys And Davey Arthur Banshee   A Dolphin DOS 1010 Jan-78


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Where Are They Now?  

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