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All About The Magic Band (1974-1981) (as the Swallows-1970-1974)

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

The Story

Johnny Carroll started his career in 1958 with the Ballintubber, Co. Roscommon based Pioneer Showband (so named because all of the band were non drinking Pioneers). They soon changed their name to The Premier Aces and became one of the best known bands in rural Ireland. In 1969, the Aces called it quits.

At that time Johnny, Jimmy O'Neill and Sonny Ward decided to form their own band. They approached Glenamaddy's music mogul, Joe O'Neill (Jimmy's brother), to help finance the band and Joe agreed. The first lead singer the band had was Jim Nash, a 6'2" country crooner from Tipperary. They released a record, Just Between You and Me, and hit the road. However, Jim didn't last long with the band and they soon needed a new lead vocalist and Joe suggested local cabaret singer, Margaret Murphy and Murphy and The Swallows was born. During the early 70's, the Swallows did very well on the growing country circuit.

Still not satisfied, Jimmy and Johnny started over yet again and switched from country to pop in 1974. The first hint of the new band's existence came on August 22, 1974 when a couple of small adverts which simply said "Magic" appeared on page 30 of Spotlight magazine. The following week, the magazine was peppered with three images of the new lead singer, Kevin "Magic" Walsh. A week later, eight adverts announced "Magic Are Coming." Finally in the September 12th issue, the magazine sported a half page advert for the band's first single, "Calendar Girl" which had been recorded before the band was even ready to perform.  

The band brought together musicians from all around the country including Joe Bernie (Leaders Showband and Swingtime Aces) from Castlebar on sax, Gerry Gallagher (Ritchie Fitzgerald Ceili Band and Sandy Duskey's Easy Listenin) from Sligo on guitar, Frank Clancy (Stylos Showband and Gerry and the Ohio) originally from Sligo but living in Tuam, on keyboards, John McKenna (Silver Pennies) from Kingscourt on bass and Kevin Walsh, younger brother of the Nevada's Willie Walsh from Drogheda on vocals. Mickey Belton, drummer with The Swallows, and Johnny himself were the only musicians kept from the old band. At this point Jimmy O'Neill (keyboards) retired from performing, but stayed with the band as their road manager. 

The band came together in the Fall of 1974 and released their first record, Neil Sedaka's Calendar Girl, which became a hit and reached number four on the Irish Charts. The Magic idea was thought up by Johnny and Joe O'Neil, who financed the design of a 2,000 "magic" suit, which was actually some 12 volt twinkling lights hook up to a battery back. Magic also employed one of the country's first wireless microphones, allowing him to roam the hall showing up in the most "magical" places during the night, often down in the crowd.  

The band's debut gig was in Banagher, Co. Offaly on September 6th, 1974. The band did well on the dance circuit serving up a mix of danceable pop as well as classics from the fifties by Sedaka, Fats Domino and Paul Anka among others. The band was featured on RTE's Ken's Club in early 1975 and continued to do well. They released a second single, Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen, another Sedaka classic, which was on the Irish Charts for 7 weeks and reached number 5. 

For almost a year, the band remained unchanged, but then the lineup began to change regularly. The first to leave was John McKenna, who was replaced by Finny Thomas (RIP-Craughwell) on bass, a couple of months later Gerry Gallagher left to return to Sligo and was replaced by Mike Mannion (Glenamaddy) on guitar.

Around 1976, two more original members, Joe Bernie and Frank Clancy left the band. Frank was replaced by John Murphy on keyboards, but the band did not add a sax player and went to a six piece for the rest of its history. Also in 1976, Finny Thomas left the band and Mike Mannion moved over to bass when they added Gerry Kelly on guitar. During the mid to late seventies, other musicians came and went including Dean Lane (Castlerea - bass), Padraig Crehan (Athboy - bass), Don Woods (Drumshanbo - guitar),  Eddie Keating (Portlaoise - guitar), Joe Beggy (guitar) and Gabriel Donohue (Athenry - guitar).

Although the band continued to change its lineup throughout the seventies, the powerhouse vocal style of Magic (a.k.a Kevin Walsh) kept the band growing and moving forward. More chart singles followed including Run Samson Run (No. 11), Lend A Hand this Christmas (No. 6), and Reaching Out (No. 9).   

In late 1979, after five years on the road, Kevin Walsh called it quits and moved to local cabaret in Galway. In his place, the band drafted Cornelius "Con" Ward, an eighteen year old from Donegal to step in and fill Magic's shoes, which he did admirably. In fact, the singers had quit similar voices. Cornelius had previously played with Geraldine and the Cufflinks from Co. Donegal. The band continued to make singles which made the charts including Fiesta De La Playa (#19) and He's Got the Whole World in His Hands (#15).

In 1981, original drummer Mickey Belton called it quits and was replaced by Tuam drummer John Brogan. This left Johnny Carroll as the only remaining original member of the band. Around this time, Magic and Kim Newport recorded a demo song for Eurovision in Headford Studios. Written by Gerry Gallagher, the song did not make the finals.    

Around 1982/83, the band packed it in. The ballroom scene had finally succumbed to the discos and hotel extensions and Johnny Carroll went on the road as a solo act. As "The Man With The Golden Trumpet," Johnny enjoyed a great deal of success over the next 20 plus years and still performs today. Kevin Walsh still performs locally around Galway as does Joe Bernie, who released a CD a few years ago. Frank Clancy runs a company in Tuam. Gerry Gallagher is still gigging around Sligo and runs this website. John McKenna is living in his native Kingscourt and performs regularly in the area with his one man show. Mickey Belton continues to be one of Galway's top session drummers and performs regularly on the jazz scene.

Photo Gallery

Click on thumbnails for full images

Premier Aces Swallows - 1973 (DD) Swallows - 1974 Magic "Mania" - 1975 Magic - 1975

Magic in a Bottle-1975 Magic Band - 1975 (RF) Magic Band - 1975 (RF) Magic Band -1976 (RF) Magic - 1976 (DD)
Magic Band - 1976 (GK) Magic - Christmas 1978 Magic Band (RF) New Magic - Dec, 1979 Magic - 1980

   
Magic Band (PH) Magic Band - 1980 (JB) Johnny Carroll - 1989 Coming Soon Coming Soon
A- Magic & The Swallows - 1974 B - Magic & the Swallows - 1974 Magic's First Gigs-1974 Magic Band - 1975 I am Cannibal-1981
Years Vocals Guitar Bass Drums Keyboards Trumpet Sax
74-75 Kevin
Walsh
Gerry
Gallagher
John
McKenna
Mickey
Belton
Frank
Clancy
Johnny
Carroll
Joe
Bernie
1975 Kevin
Walsh
Gerry
Gallagher
Finny
Thomas
Mickey
Belton
Frank
Clancy
Johnny
Carroll
Joe
Bernie
75-76 Kevin
Walsh
Mike
Mannion
Finny
Thomas
Mickey
Belton
Frank
Clancy
Johnny
Carroll
Joe
Bernie
76-77 Kevin
Walsh
Gerry
Kelly
Mike
Mannion
Mickey
Belton
John
Murphy
Johnny
Carroll
 
77-79 Kevin
Walsh
Don
Woods
Dean
Lane
Mickey
Belton
Gabriel
Donohue
Johnny
Carroll
 
1979 Kevin
Walsh
Joe
Beggy
Dean
Lane
Mickey
Belton
Unknown Johnny
Carroll
 
79-80 Cornelius
Ward
Tony
Ryan
Padraig
Crehan?
Mickey
Belton
Unknown Johnny
Carroll
 
79-80 Cornelius
Ward
Eddie
Keating
Unknown Mickey
Belton
Unknown Johnny
Carroll
 
1981 Cornelius
Ward
Eddie
Keating
Unknown John
Brogan
Unknown Johnny
Carroll
 

Partial Discography

Singles:

Calendar Girl / Boney Maroney - (Kevin Walsh) - #4 Irish Charts
Play Records - PLAY 78 - Sept., 1974
Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen / The Last Time (Kevin Walsh) - #5 Irish Charts
Play Records - PLAY 83 - Jan., 1975
Run Samson Run / To Whom It May Concern (Kevin Walsh) - #11 Irish Charts
Play Records - PLAY 87 - June, 1975
Water Under The Bridge / Twisting The Night Away (Kevin Walsh) - #19 Irish Charts
Play Records - PLAY 92 - Feb., 1977
Unchained Melody (Kevin Walsh)
Play Records - Unknown
Loving You / Things  (Kevin Walsh) - #11 Irish Charts
Play Records - PLAY 100 - June, 1977
Reaching Out / Unknown  (Kevin Walsh) - #9 Irish Charts
Play Records - PLAY 10? - July, 1977
Lend A Hand To Someone This Christmas / Above and Beyond (Kevin Walsh) - #6 Irish Charts
Play Records - PLAY 108 - Christmas, 1977 & 1978
Secret Love / Cradle Rock (Kevin Walsh)
Play Records - PLAY 114 - June, 1978
Fiesta De La Playa / You Make My Pants Want To Get Up And Dance (Cornelius Ward) - #19 Irish Charts
Play Records - PLAY 123 - April, 1979
He's Got The Whole World In His Hands / Blue Midnight (Cornelius Ward) - #15 Irish Charts
Play Records - PLAY 128 - November,1979
I Am A Cannibal / The Last Time (Cornelius Ward)
Play Records - PLAY 148 - 1981

Audio Clips

Coming Soon

Where Are They Now?  

Kevin Walsh (Magic): After moving to Galway from Drogheda, Kevin married and made his home in Galway. After leaving the scene in 1979 he started singing on the local cabaret scene around Galway. Today he works for a major international manufacturer in Galway, but still sings on a part time basis around the area.  
Johnny Carroll: As the last original member of the band, we are pretty sure they called it quits around 1983. At that point Johnny went on the road as the "Man With The Golden Trumpet" and has never looked back. Having started in 1958 at the age of 13, in 2008 Johnny celebrated 50 years of continuous entertaining in and around Ireland and has seen it all! He still plays regularly, although he has cut back a little on his touring. He often plays outside the country these days having recently been playing in Australia, Fiji, Hong Kong, and Spain. As of March 2017, Johnny, now 73, is still on the road mostly doing showband shows and concerts as well as the odd function.   
Mickey Belton: Mickey left the band in 1981, before they called it quits and became one of the main session drummers in the Galway area, playing on many tracks recorded at Headford's Greenfields studios. More recently, Mickey plays regularly in Galway with a variety of bands. He still does some session work, but his main gig is with the Black Magic Band which also includes Joe Bernie on sax.
Gerry Gallagher: After leaving the Magic Band, Gerry returned to Sligo and played locally with the local group Sundown with Joe Foley and Dick Lynott for a few years. In 1978, he formed The Kim Newport Band with his wife, Kim. They played from 1978 until 1983 when they called it quits and emigrated to the States. He entered the business world and finally sold his company in 2003. In 2006, he returned to Sligo to run an international entertainment production and licensing company which he left in 2009. After a stint teaching at IT Sligo, he now plays locally once in a while. In late 2012, Gerry joined up with members of the original Smokey Mountain Ramblers for their 40th reunion tour playing bass.
Frank Clancy: At one point Frank owned his own company in Tuam. In January 2014, we received an update from Frank. He said he doesn't play music much any more and is 80% retired but he is still partly involved in a small GPS company called Celtrak and plays golf regularly.
Joe Bernie: After leaving the band, Joe continued to play music, but also managed Star Records, a local music retail shop. He still plays regularly in the Galway area, although he now lives in Athenry after spending many years living in Galway. Joe released a CD in 2005. A January, 2014 update from Joe tells us he is still playing regularly with the Black Magic Big Band around Galway along with Mickey Belton.
John McKenna: After leaving Magic, John returned to his native Kingscourt and has been playing music on the local scene for the past 30+ years, first with a pub group, but for the last few years as a solo artist. 
Finny Thomas: RIP Finny emigrated to Canada after leaving the showband scene, but sadly Finny passed away some years ago.
Mike Mannion: Unknown - if you have info please email us 
Dene Lane: Unknown - if you have info please email us 
Gabriel Donohue: Gabriel emigrated to the United States after leaving the band and now calls New Jersey home. He usually performs throughout the New York area, although you can catch him at many festivals along the east coast. In addition to his solo albums, Gabriel has produced a variety of recordings for other Irish artists and his talents are often sought out to accompany artists in recording sessions.
Cornelius Ward (Magic II): Cornelius joined the Gardai after leaving the music scene, but we understand he now lives and works in Galway in the transportation business. 
Gerry Kelly: Gerry's career included stints with both Har and the Escorts and the Pirates before Magic. He left the band to join Joe Dolan and the Drifters where he stayed for seven years before leaving the scene. He now lives in Kent and works for Citibank in London. He also still gigs occasionally with Sean Holland, formerly of Kilkenny's Black Aces.
John Murphy: Unknown - if you have info please email us 
Joe Beggy: Joe had done a short stint with Gloria and Mississippi before joining Magic and after leaving, he went back to the local pub scene in Navan. He went back to college and completed an architectural course and works as a consultant today. He is still playing with local groups.   
Eddie Keating: Unknown - if you have info please email us 
Tony Ryan: After a short time with Magic, Tony returned to Donegal played music on a part time basis. Up until 2008, Tony was playing with Patrick Feeney and he now plays in a two piece group in his native County Donegal.
Don Woods: I am not sure what Don did after leaving Magic, but we know that these days he is currently on the road with Mike Denver's Band. If you have any more info please email us 
Padraig Crehan:  Unknown - if you have info please email us 
John Brogan:  Unknown - if you have info please email us 

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2002-2017 GMS Productions

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