The largest digital showband archive in the world!
Based In Sligo, Ireland / email: showbands@gmsproductions.com

CLICK FOR:     FREE FORUM        HOME PAGE        GUESTBOOK      MAKE A DONATION

Niagra Showband (1968-1970/1?)

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

The Story

The Niagara Showband, based in the Ballyhaunis, Co. Mayo, hit the road on July 14th, 1968 playing at the Ballina Salmon Festival. Pat Halpin was the band's leader, as well as playing lead guitar. The original line-up was: Pat Halpin (guitar), Jerry Fahy (Tuam-drums), Aidan Staunton (Westport-keyboards), John Kelly (Knock-vocals, trombone), Tony Dolly (Knock-bass), Vinnie Somers (Sligo-sax) and Sean Scanlon (Sligo-trumpet).

It wasn't long (September, 1968) before the band had a fairly major line-up change when both Sligo musicians (Vinnie and Sean who were two-thirds of the brass section) left the band and were replaced by Liam Byrne (sax) and Don O'Shaughnessy (trumpet). Both came with solid showband experience. At this point the band was being managed by Sean (John) Egan from Knock.

In early November, the band undertook its first tour of England and were doing quite well, especially as a showband based in the rural West. The six week tour of England ended in the run up to Christmas and the boys continued to build their reputation, especially in Mayo and the surrounding counties.

A blurb in the Anglo-Celt newspaper on October 31st, 1969 reported that the band had changed managers to John Conway, from Ballyhaunis who had formerly been a member of the Riviera Showband. At some point in late 1969 the band released its first record, Moonlight in Mayo with Isle of Innisfree. Around this time, they also lost of ogf their members and became a six piece (we are trying to research this change). The rercord was arranged by Noel Keelahan and produced by Bill  O'Donovan.

In November, 1970, it was reported in The Donegal News by Donal K. O'Boyle that the band was splitting up with John Kelly and two other members breaking away. This was followed by the news that John Conway was teaming up with Des Kelly to form a new band around Cathy Heaney a young singer from Swinford. One way or another, the Niagra were gone.

On February 13, 1971, we found a small note in the Western People that Cathy and the Heroes and the Niagra Showband had both taken part in a charity event for the Michael Coen Memorial Fund in Ballyhaunis, although we can find no other adverts for the band doing gigs after November, 1970. In June, 1971 an article about the new band Cathy and the Fugitives which reported that Pat Halpin was playing bass.  

This is the last reference to the band we can find other than an ongoing court case in 1972 which involved the mother of John Conway who for a time put up the boys in the band during mid 1968. Although by today's standards the amounts of money involved are quite humourous, it is a rare behind-the-scenes look at the plight of many showband musicians in the early days of the era.

To summarize, lead singer John Kelly's mother agreed to provide room and board for several members of the band for the fee of £4 a week. Being a co-op band, the band had to split all their expenses between them and it wasn't until they were on the road for six months that they started to be paid "pocket money" of £3 a week. Having only been paid small amounts of money over the span of a year, Mrs. Kelly finally took the band to court for the outstanding sum of £102, as the band had broken up in 1970/1. I include this information, not in any way to cast negative light on the band, but to highlight the fact that not all showbands made tons of money or were able to buy hotels, houses, or open restaurants with the money they made on the road. For many, it was a tyough slog with much of the "reward" being able to say, "I was in a showband back in the day."                

John served as a member of the Garda Siochana for many years and retired from the service six years ago. Since then he has recorded two albums and a video and last weekend he commenced a country show on the new Knock FM radio which hit the airwaves for the first time in its new format last Saturday.

Our photo shows (left to right): Pat Halpin from Ballyhaunis played lead guitar. He is a brother of John Halpin in Ballyhaunis and has resided in London for many years. Tony Dolly, a native of Knock, has lived in Ballina for years and is still involved in the music business. He was bass player with the band. John Kelly from Knock was lead singer and trombone player (see above). Liam Byrne from Dublin played saxophone and oboe and later played with the No. I Army Band.

Gerry Fahy from Tuam was the drummer with the band. He later emigrated to Canada where he died tragically in a car accident some years ago. Aidan Staunton, formerly from Westport and long time resident of Kiltimagh, played organ and rhythm guitar. He works in the motor trade (Cleary’s, Kiltimagh) and is still involved with the music scene. His son Jonathan is now a member of the John Hogan country band. Don O’Shaughnessy from Dublin was the trumpet player and now lives in Las Vegas. He is also a former leader of the Artane Boys Band.

The Niagara were managed by John Conway from Ballyhaunis (now in Dublin) who was a member of The Riviera Showband. John Egan from Knock also managed the band for a time.

More to come.....

Photo Gallery

click on thumbnails for full image

Niagra Showband (JB) Niagra (RF) Niagra (RF) Niagra - 1968 Niagra - 1968
Niagra - 1968 Niagra - 1968 Niagra - 1968 Niagra - 1969 Niagra - 1969
         
Coming Soon Coming Soon Coming Soon Coming Soon Coming Soon
Years Vocals Guitar Bass Drums Keyboards Sax Trumpet
July
1968
John
Kelly
Pat
Halpin
Tony
Dolly
Jerry
Fahy
Aidan
Staunton
Vinnie
Somers
Sean
Scanlon
Sept
1968
John
Kelly
Pat
Halpin
Tony
Dolly
Jerry
Fahy
Aidan
Staunton
Liam
Byrne
Don
O'Shaughnessy
               
               
               

Discography

Moonlight in Mayo / Isle of Innisfree
Unknown Record Label - Unknown - Late 1969

Audio Clips

         
Coming Soon Coming Soon Coming Soon Coming Soon Coming Soon

Coming Soon

Where Are They Now?  

Pat Halpin: Pat went on to join Cathy and the Fugitives. As far as we know he emigrated to London and still resides there. If you know more, please email us.
John Kelly: John served as a member of the Garda Siochana for many years and retired from the service six years ago. Some time ago, he recorded two albums and a video and also hosted a country show on Knock FM in the past. We think today he runs a B&B in Knock. 
Jerry Fahy - RIP: Jerry after leaving the Niagra Showband has his own band, The Fleet. After the Fleet he emigrated to Canada where he formed a country band called Branded Man. He was tragically killed in a car accident while living in Canada. (From John Baird).
Tony Dolly: If you know more, please email us.
Aidan Staunton: If you know more, please email us.
Vinnie Somers: If you know more, please email us.
Sean Scanlon: If you know more, please email us.
Liam Byrne: If you know more, please email us.
Don O'Shaughnessy: If you know more, please email us.

 


© 2002-2017 GMS Productions

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