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Margo O'Donnell Feature (1968-present)

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

The Story

Keynotes Showband - Country Folk - Margo & Co. - Country Pride - Country Blue Boys - Blue Ridge Boys -

Margo's long career has been a series of highs and lows and she has spoken publicly about her struggles with alcohol and depression which she has has attributed to the stress of touring and financial difficulties caused by poor management contracts. One way or another, these issues can not detract from her status as one of Ireland's greatest entertainers for a half century.  

Born Margaret O'Donnell in 1951 in Kincasslagh, Co. Donegal, Margo is one of the real enigmas of the Irish entertainment scene. She started her career with local band, The Keynotes in 1964 when she was 14 years old. She talked on her own website about the experience, "In 1964 I was approached by the Keynotes Showband, a local group of lads from home to sing with them. With my parents consent and strict orders from my Dad to look out for me, I joined them and would sing locally at weekends and school holidays, and then we ventured to Scotland. I never intended it to be my full time occupation, I always wanted to be a nurse, work at that for awhile, get married to a nice man, settle down and have three or four children--Not to be."

She didn't release her debut single for several years, and when it finally came in 1968, Bonny Irish Boy, actually cracked the Irish Top 20, no mean feat for a first attempt. Sadly, the release of her first record coincided with the sudden death of her Dad. Said Margo, "my life would never be the same again, you see for me my dad hung the moon."

Despite the setback in her personal life, professionally, Margo continued to build her career to ever new heights. Her second record, Road By The River made it to number two, establishing her as a bona fide star with the "Country and Irish" set and on the ballroom circuit. The song had been originally recorded by Frank O'Donovan (an actor on the popular Riordan's RTE show) back in the 1950's. Once playing mostly in Donegal and the Northwest, the Keynotes were now travelling the length and breadth of Ireland for gigs. Margo was also featured on the Late Late Show on RTE as well.  

In the November 21st, 1969 issue of Spotlight, the Insight column announced that promoters Johnny Kelly (formerly of the Capitol) and Johnny McNally (who ran the Airlines dance in Dublin's Crystal Ballroom) had signed Margo to front a new band, which we soon find out was The Country Folk. Margo has said the decision to leave was not easy but, "they offered a secure wage and a good future. I talked it over with my mother and we decided to take the offer. It broke my heart but I left the Keynotes." The new band debuted on St. Stephen's Night, 1969. The Keynotes replaced Margo with a new female vocalist, Patricia (although we are not sure of her last name or how long they stayed on the road).

The new band was made up of: Mick Bagnall (bass), Paul Mitchell (steel guitar), Aidan Graham (drums), Colm Graham (guitar), Roy Butterfield (guitar) and Owin St. John (fiddle). In the August 8th, 1970 edition of Spotlight it was reported that Owin left the band and was being replaced by a sax player. The article also reported that Margo had been off the road for a week due to an appendix operation. Early in 1970, Margo was featured on the RTE show, Hoot'nanny. They released a single in March, Gradh Mo Chroi which went to number six in the Irish Charts and put the band on solid footing with punters.       

Fronting the Country Folk, Margo continued to build on her success and popularity and her follow up, I'll Forgive and I'll Try to Forget gave her the first number one hit of her career. 

In the Spotlight National Show business Poll (whose results were published in the January 16th, 1971 issue of the magazine), Margo was voted top female artist, beating out Eurovision winner, Dana (2nd), Kelley (3rd), and Sandie Jones (4th). The result consolidated her position as one of the top acts on the ballroom circuit.

In late 1972, the band underwent several changes and when the dust settled, only Margo, Dave Traynor and Frank McCaffrey were left in the band. According to Julie Boyd's column in the December 14, 1972 issue of Spotlight, the new lineup was: Frank McCaffrey (bass), Ray Doherty (guitar), Paddy Higgins (drums), Joe Murray (keyboards), Jim Malone (sax), Dave Traynor (sax) and Margo (vocals).

In 1973, Margo left the Country Folk and formed Margo and Co., however this band would be short lived as in August, 1974, the singer was involved in a serious car accident and was off the road for a while. After a four month recuperation, she joined with Mattie Fox (who had previously been with the Country Blue Boys and the Grassroots) and they headed up a revamped lineup of the Grassroots, with the new name, Country Pride. The new band made their debut on Christmas Night, 1974.

Margo faced another setback as in the October 20, 1975 issue of Spotlight, the "Release Round Up" reported Margo had been "ordered to rest" by her doctors. Release Manager Mick Clerkin was quoted as saying, "she has had a very strenuous year between ballroom dates, tours, television appearances and recording. All of this, so soon after her accident, has been too much and she needs rest." He went on to say Margo was still under a doctor's care and would only be recording "at a relaxed pace" before perhaps coming back to do some cabaret appearances.   

The following month, November, 1975 Margo announced that she was moving from the ballrooms to cabaret, following the lead of many other stars of the showband era. However, a few weeks later, in the December 4th, 1975 issue of Spotlight, a blurb in the Release Round-Up page revealed that Margo was joining Larry Cunningham and his Country Blue Boys.

More to come.....

Photo Gallery

click on thumbnails for full image

Keynotes Showband (JB)

Margo - 1968

Margo - 1969

Margo - 1969

Margo - 1970

Margo & The Country Folk - 1970 (DL)

Country Folk - 1970

Nov - 1970

Margo - 1970

Margo - 1970

Margo - 1970

Margo - 1970

Margo - 1971

Margo - 1971

Margo - 1971

Country Folk (KS)

Margo - 1971

Margo - 1971

Margo - 1971

Margo - 1971

Margo - 1971

Margo - 1971

Margo - 1971

Margo - 1971

Margo - 1971

Margo & the Country Folk - 1971 Margo & the Country Folk - 1971 (KS) Dec - 1971

Margo - 1971

Margo - 1972

Margo - 1972

Margo - 1972

Margo - 1972

Margo - 1972

Margo & Co - 1973
Margo - 1974 (LR)

Margo - 1974

Margo - 1974

Margo - 1974

Margo - 1974

Margo - 1974

Margo - 1974

Margo

Margo - 1975

Margo - 1975

Margo (KS)

Margo & The Blue Ridge Boys - 1978 Margo and the Blue Ridge Boys (PH) Margo - 1983

Country Folk (RF)

Country Folk (RF)

Country Folk (RF)

Margo (RF) Margo (RF) Margo (RF)
Margo (RF) Margo (RF) Margo (RF) Margo (RF) Margo (RF)
       
Margo (RF)

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Years Vocals Guitar Bass Drums Misc Guitar/Keys Fiddle/Sax
      Kevin Cowley Con Boyle      
1970 Margo
O'Donnell
Roy
Butterfield
Mick
Bagnall
Aidan
Graham
Paul (Steel)
Mitchell
Colm
Graham
Owin
St. John
May,
1970
Margo
O'Donnell
Kieran
Murphy
Mick
Bagnall
Aidan
Graham
Paul (Steel)
Mitchell
Colm
Graham
Owin
St. John
Nov
1971
Margo
O'Donnell
Kieran
Murphy
Mick
Bagnall
Aidan
Graham
Frank (trmpt)
McCaffrey
Jim (keys)
Mullaly
Davy
Traynor (sax)
Dec
1972
Margo
O'Donnell
Ray
Doherty
Frank
McCaffrey
Paddy
Higgins
Jim
Malone (sax)
Joe (keys)
Murray
Davy
Traynor (sax)
               
               

Discography

Margo and the Keynotes
Bonny Irish Boy / Dear God
- #18 Irish Charts
Target/Pye Records - 7N.17602 - September, 1968
Road By The River / Through The Eyes of a Child
- #2 Irish Charts
Target/Pye Records - 7N.17677 - 1969
Once A Day
/  This Old House
Target/Pye Records - 7N.17758 - 1969
Road By The River / Bonny Irish Boy / Dear God / Through The Eyes of a Child
Target/Pye Records - PIMM 603 - April, 1972 (Re-release EP)

Margo and the Country Folk
Gradh Mo Chroi / Mama Say A Prayer
- #6 Irish Charts
Ruby Records - RUB 102 - March, 1970
I'll Forgive and I'll Try To Forget / Satisfied Mind
- #1 Irish Charts
Ruby Records - RUB 113 - September, 1970
Deep Sheep Haven Bay / If I Kiss You (Double A Side)
Ara Records - ARA 001 - February, 1971

Don't Read The Letter / Time Changes Everything
- #1 Irish Charts
Ara Records - ARA 002 - June, 1971

Margo and Co.
Shamrock From Glanore / Cliffs of Dooneen
- #2 Irish Charts
Ara Records - ARA 004 - February, 1973
Deepening Snow /
 
Ara Records - ARA 005 - November, 1973

Margo, Mattie Fox and Country Pride
Girl From Donegal / Connemara Rose (Mattie Fox)
- #6 Irish Charts
Release Records - IRL.224 - November, 1974

Margo (Solo?)
Irish Eyes / Let's Go All The Way
- #2 Irish Charts
Release Records - RL.838 - September, 1976
Good Evening Henry /
 - #19 Irish Charts
Release Records - Unknown - November, 1979
Thank You For The Roses /

Release Records - Unknown - October, 1980
The Isle of Ireland - #12 Irish Charts
Smash Records - Unknown - December, 1984
New Tomorrow - # 26 Irish Charts
I & B Records - Unknown - July, 1989

Albums:
Unknown Title Album
 
Ruby Records - RLB 1003 - 1970
From Margo With Love 
Ara Records - ARAL 1001 - October, 1971
Country Loving
 
Ara Records - ARAL 1002 - January, 1972
At Home In Ireland
 
Ara Records - ARAL 1004 - August, 1973
Margo's Greatest Hits, Volume 1
 
Release Records - Unknown - December, 1974
Margo's Greatest Hits, Volume 2
 
Release Records - Unknown - November, 1978
Irish Requests
Release Records - Unknown - December, 1979
 

Margo and Nitelife Behind The Footlights /  S Abercorn AB.1        
Margo and Nitelife Fairytales /  S Abercorn AB.2 Jan-81      

Audio Clips

Coming Soon

Where Are They Now?  

  Band Member:
Ray Doherty: We received an email in October, 2009 from Seamus Harrington telling us that he had met Ray playing in a pub in O'Connell Street in Dublin and that as well as playing, Ray now owns a company that makes specialized flight cases for musical instruments such as harps, bodhrans, bagpipes, keyboards, and custom cases for items like the Sam Maguire cup.
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In Loving Memory of Grant Gallagher: Sept. 21, 1990 - Nov. 18, 2006