Johnstons Story (1966-74)
Photo Gallery -
Band Lineups -
- Audio samples -
Where Are They Now?
The Johnstons started life as a
folk duo when sisters Adrienne and Lucy Johnston started singing.
Talking to B.P. Fallon in the September 19, 1968 issue of Spotlight
brother Michael said, "Adrienne and Lucy started off together as a
duo with Aidey on piano." said Michael. "They did their own versions
of current pops like Roses are Red and all the Del Shannon
numbers like Searching and Swiss Maid."
Michael joined a short time later
playing electric guitar . Said Michael, "We used to do stuff like
If I Had A Hammer and a country and western version of I Hear
A Bluebird Sing." The band released it's first single and
scored a number one hit with Traveling People in July of
1966. The success of their first offering made the band a hit on the
growing folk and ballad scene in Ireland at the time and they were
well on their way.
In mid 1967 they expanded to a four piece
by adding singer and multi instrumentalist from Limerick, Mick
Maloney, to the lineup. Mick was a budding traditional player and
was soon a dominant musical force in the band. The continued success of the band
was assured when their second single, The Curragh of Kildare
also made the charts, topping out at number 11.
Moloney also was beginning to
become an Irish traditional music virtuoso and authority, an
attractive asset to The Johnstons. Moloney quickly established
himself as the dominant musical force within the Johnstonguitarist
Mick Maloney to the
ranks to help fill out their on stage sound. However, the
advert for the record The Curragh of Kildare publish in Spotlight on
May 24th, 1967 shows Mick Maloney with the band along with Michael
and his sisters, not Paul Brady.
One way or another, a short time
later, it appears there were some
disagreement between Michael and his sisters (as reported in
Spotlight magazine by Shay Healy on January 11, 1969). Michael
left the band and a story was released to help smooth over the
change by saying Michael had left to return to life as a farmer.
Paul Brady, who had been standing in with Sweeney's Men was offered
the spot with the Johnstons. Although Paul would later become one of
Ireland's top song writers, he was not writing material for the
band. The group went from
strength to strength and their music seemed to slowly shift from
Irish folk to more soft pop as they released Joni Mitchell's Both
Sides Now in late 1968.
An article in the November 30th issue of
Spotlight suggested the band was considering emigrating as their
success started to grow abroad. Their next single, Give A Damn,
written by Americans Scharf and Dorough, failed to chart, their first
single not to do so.
The band announced their intention
to move to Britain after the Christmas of 1968. Touted by many as
Ireland's most talented vocal group, it was thought they would
follow the Dubliners into the upper echelons of world wide folk. It
was reported that they had been signed by Brian Epstein's company,
The band finally relocated to London in early 1969, but Lucy
did not make the trip, deciding to remain in Ireland. It was
reported in Spotlight that they would be spending
nine months of the years touring abroad, spending only short times
at home in Ireland. They would stay in England for the next three years, but
Lucy would eventually marry showband photographer Roy Esmonde. Later
that year, the band released two albums on the same day: The
Barleycorn, an album of traditional
songs and instrumentals, and Give A Damn, a contemporary records
featuring songs by Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell and others.
In October, 1971, an article in
Spotlight magazine announced that Mick Maloney was leaving the band
as he was thinking of going back to college. This left Adrienne
Johnston (who had become Mrs. Chris McCloud) and Paul Brady to carry on
the group as a two piece, although an article at www.paulbrady.com
reported that English musician Gavin Spencer joined the band for a
year after Mick's departure, we think this may have been only
for stage appearances as picture sleeves of their singles and album showed
only Paul and Adrienne.
Around the end of 1971 or early
1972, the band took off for the United States where they would stay
for over two years. During this time they played regularly in the
Northeast and were the first act to open the Bottom Line Club in New
In late 1974 Paul left the group
(now a duo) to
replace Christy Moore in Planxty and, as such, the Johnstons were no
more. This left Adrienne to carry on the
Johnston's name alone. She released a single, So Long To Dublin,
and planned to put together a new band, but this never happened.
Adrienne stayed in the United
States with her husband, Chris McCloud. She released a solo album in
1975 and Chris not only produced the album, but had a hand in
writing all the songs including several with Paul Brady. The
Johnstons did get together for a reunion concert in 1976, but we are
unsure what the lineup was, however, they never performed together
Sadly, Adrienne died as a result
of a fall in her home in the United States in 1981. She was only 35.
Although the circumstances around her death were considered
mysterious and there were rumours to the contrary, it was ruled
accidental. She is buried in Slane, Co. Meath.
More to come.....
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