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

Pat Ely Photo Gallery (1968-1975)

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

The Story

Pat Ely's music career started in the mid 1960's. 

Galway's Des Kelly of the famous Capitol Showband saw the trend of country music coming to the showband scene before anyone else had a chance to react. In 1968 he put together a new type of band, naming them the Smokey Mountain Ramblers. He wanted something totally different, not like Big Tom or Larry Cunningham (both of whom were more "country n' Irish). He put together a great team of country and bluegrass musicians and eventually needed a lead singer to complete the picture.

The story of the Smokey Mountain Ramblers started when Jerzy Kryzanowski (better known as George Kaye) came to Ireland to busk, having spent time around the folk clubs of England. Instead, he found himself doing the pub scene and formed the Mitchell County Ramblers with Clive Collins. It was late 1967 and George had decided it was time to go home when he was approached by Galway's Des Kelly of the famous Capitol Showband. Des saw the trend of country music coming to the showband scene before anyone else had a chance to react. George went home for a holiday at Christmas and returned to join a new type of band. Naming them the Smokey Mountain Ramblers,  Des wanted something totally different, not like Big Tom or Larry Cunningham (both of whom were more "country n' Irish).

The original lineup of the band included: Dave Kearney on guitar (formerly of The Movement), Paul Kenny on drums, Martin Johnson (bass), and John Cook (guitar and dobro). The band hit the road in early 1968 and soon released their first single, "Ballad of Amelia Earhart." Although the band garnered a lot of attention, their strong bluegrass influence did not catch on with dancers who were used to hearing the "country and Irish" music of Big Tom and Larry Cunningham.  

As the band's single, Amelia Earhart was winding down, Des decided the band needed a singing front man. In the October 19th, 1968 issue of Spotlight, a small article announced Pat Ely was joining the band as its new lead singer. Pat had previously been with the Savoy Swing 7. Pat's addition to the band paid off with immediate success when his first single, The Little Folk, made it to number 13 in the Irish charts. In April, the band appeared alongside American star Hank Locklin at the Danny Pearse Tribute Concert in Dublin. The country boom was in full swing and the Smokeys were one of the first bands to climb to the top of the new genre. Around this time, (mid-1969) Paul Kenny left the band to join the newly formed Cotton Mill Boys that hit the road Friday, June 20th, 1969 and he was replaced by Sligo drummer Bernie Fallon (RIP).

In November, 1969, the band had a scare when George Kaye collapsed on stage in Donegal. He was off the road and hospitalized for several weeks in Dublin, but thankfully was not seriously ill. During 1970, the band continued to consolidate its position as one of the top five country bands in the country, appearing on the cover of Spotlight magazine. The band also released its first album, The Smokeys, in 1970. 

In August, 1970, the Smokeys were hit by its first serious lineup change when founder George Kaye decided to return to England and left the band. In an article in Spotlight, co-manager Johnny Kelly reported that he would be replaced with a sax player, giving the band more versatility in their music. A few weeks later, Johnny's brother Des Kelly responded to the crisis by announcing the Smokeys would be featuring two sax players in the future and would be featuring Cajun music in their updated programme.  

As an aside, when George Kaye left the band and went to England, he formed a group there called White Lightning in the Nottingham area. In May, 1971, George returned to Ireland and brought several group members with him including his brother Thaddeus Krzyzanowski (guitar), and Terry Foster (banjo). They formed a band called Real Country by adding to their ranks Bernie Fallon, (who previously drummed with the Smokeys), Joe Murray (lead vocals and keyboards from the Firehouse), Vinnie Baker (guitar also from the Firehouse) and Shea Cribben (bass from the Riviera Showband who broke up a few months earlier).

An article in Spotlight dated October 7, 1971 reported that Eileen Reid, former lead singer with the Cadets was joining the band, which was going to drop the name Real Country and become the George Kaye band featuring Eileen Reid. In the end, Eileen formed a band called The 2nd Sound and George opted not to play with the new outfit, instead forming a four piece bluegrass band which played acoustic music. The band (pictured below) was George Kaye and the Bluegrass Roadshow. The band featured George (fiddle), Thad (guitar), Bernie Fallon (string bass) and Terry Foster (banjo). 

Vinny Baker writes to tell us the band didn't last for more than two years, they released one single and eventually included Jimmy Day and Eileen Reid in its ranks for about a year. By then, George had left to rejoin Pat Ely in the Rocky Tops. Thaddeus and Terry returned to England, but sadly Thaddeus was killed in an airplane crash a few years later. Vinny left in 1971 and Joe Murray joined the Smokeys before ending up with Margo's Country Folk. 

Meanwhile back at the Smokey's ranch, George's departure seems to have caused quite a change in the band, or by coincidence several changes happed at or around the same time. An article in the November 4, 1971 issue of Spotlight announced that three members of the Capitol would be joining the band: Bram McCarthy (trumpet), Tony O'Leary (vocals), and Mike Dalton (bass). They would be joining Pat Ely, Joe McIntyre (sax), Tony Cannon (sax), Dave Kearney (guitar) and Alfie Merrigan (drums). The revamped lineup of the band was pictured on Pascal Mooney's "London Calling" page in the November 18, 1971 issue of Spotlight. The band included newcomers Jimmy Murray (guitar), Tony O'Leary (vocals), Bram McCarthy (trumpet), Alfie Merrigan (drums) and Mike Dalton (bass). We can only assume Dave Kearney left the band at this time as well.

Tony O'Leary had first come to national prominence when he sang in the 1970 National Song which was won by Dana singing Ireland's first Eurovision winner, All Kinds of Everything. From there he had joined the Capitol as they wound down and then was picked to front the Smokeys. After the break up of the Smokeys, he would go on to front the Gallowglass Ceili Band.   

In the February 5, 1972 issue of Spotlight, Pascal Mooney announced the formation of a new band called the Rocky Tops and hinted that George Kaye would be a member. A few weeks later it was announced the original Smokeys had reformed, but under the new name of the Rocky Tops. In probably one of the strangest showband stories ever, the band, which had been chopped and changed over the years decided it was time to get back together, but with the Smokey's name already in use, they decided to start a "new" band. Even though an article in the March 4th issue of Spotlight reported that the original lineup was back together with the exception of one member - Tony Canon from Donegal on sax - this was incorrect as the original lineup had included drummer Paul, Kenny who left to join the Cotton Mill Boys and was replaced by Bernie Fallon. The Rocky Tops played their first date on St. Patrick's Day, 1972.  

The departure of Pat Ely left the Smokeys with Tony O'Leary as their lead singer and, in fact, a band that was more Capitols than Smokeys. In the Spotlight issue of July 6, 1972, an article about the Smokeys reported their new lineup. The lead singer of the band was Tony O'Leary, who would eventually go on to front the Gallowglass. Also in the band at that time were Jimmy Murray (guitar), Joe Murray (keyboards), Bram McCarthy (trumpet), Alfie Merrigan (drums), Joe McIntyre (sax), and Mike Dalton (bass). There is some question here about Joe Murray's role as Vinnie Baker told us Joe was with Real Country, but Spotlight reported he was with the Smokeys.

By March of 1973 Lennie Power was with the folk group Thatch, which also included future Miami guitarist Des Flaherty.

In November, 1974, Pat left the Rocky Tops and signed with Top Rank. A new band, the Storytellers, was formed to back Pat and his last night with the Rocky Tops was listed as November 21st. The band made its debut on Friday, November 22nd in the Drumquin Social Centre. A week later, on November 28, 1974 Frankie O'Neill (formerly of the Skyrockets), replaced Pat in the Rocky Tops.

TheStorytellers would eventually back Susan McCann. Although Pat retired from regular touring in the early 80's, he still occasionally reforms The Rocky Tops for special gigs and does solo appearances as well.

More to come.....

Photo Gallery

click on thumbnails for full image

The Original Smokeys - 1968 Smokeys - 1969 Pat Ely - 1969 Smokeys - 1969 Smokey Mountain Ramblers - 1969
Smokeys - 1969 Smokeys (KS) Smokey Mountain Ramblers (DD) Smokeys - 1969 Smokeys - 1969
Smokeys - 1969 Smokeys - 1969 The Smokeys (KS) Smokeys - 1970 Smokeys - 1970
Pat Ely - 1970 Smokeys - 1970 Smokeys - 1970 Smokey Mountain Ramblers - 1970 (KS) Smokeys - 1970
Smokeys - 1970 Pat Ely - 1971 Smokeys - 1971 Bluegrass Roadshow - 1971 Smokeys - 1971
Pat Ely - 1971 Smokeys - 1971 Pat Ely - 1971 Smokeys - 1971 Smokeys - 1971
Smokeys - 1972 Smokeys - 1972 Smokeys - 1972 Smokeys - 1972 Smokeys - 1972
 
Rocky Tops - 1974 (LR) Pat Ely & The Rocky Tops - 1973 Pat Ely & The Rocky Tops (LR) Pat Ely - 1973 Coming Soon
         
Coming Soon Coming Soon Coming Soon Coming Soon Coming Soon
         
Coming Soon Coming Soon Coming Soon Coming Soon Coming Soon

Lineup Changes (More to come)
 

Years Vocals Guitar Bass Drums Fiddle/Sax Keyboards Sax/Gtr Sax/Trmpt

Smokey Mountain Ramblers

Apr
1968
  Dave
Kearney
Martin
Johnson
Paul
Kenny
George
Kaye
  John
Cook
 
July
1968
  Dave
Kearney
Martin
Johnson
Paul
Kenny
George
Kaye
  Lennie
Power
 
Oct
1968
Pat
Ely
Dave
Kearney
Martin
Johnson
Bernie
Fallon
George
Kaye
Tommy
Higgins
Lennie
Power
 
Aug
1970
Pat
Ely
Dave
Kearney
Martin
Johnson
Bernie
Fallon
Joe
McIntyre
Tommy
Higgins
Lennie
Power
Tony
Cannon
May
1971
Pat
Ely
Dave
Kearney
Martin
Johnson
Alfie
Merrigan
Joe
McIntyre
Tommy
Higgins
Lennie
Power
Tony
Cannon
Nov
1971
Pat
Ely
Dave
Kearney
Mike
Dalton
Alfie
Merrigan
Joe
McIntyre
Joe
Murray
Tony
O'Leary
Bram
McCarthy
Nov
1971
Pat
Ely
Jimmy
Murray
Mike
Dalton
Alfie
Merrigan
Joe
McIntyre
Joe
Murray
Tony
O'Leary
Bram
McCarthy
Early
1972
Pat
Ely
Jimmy
Murray
Mike
Dalton
Alfie
Merrigan
Joe
McIntyre
Joe
Murray
Tony
O'Leary
Bram
McCarthy

Rocky Tops

Mar
1972
Pat
Ely
Dave
Kearney
Martin
Johnson
Bernie
Fallon
George
Kaye
Tommy
Higgins
Tony
Canon
 

Storytellers

Oct
1974
Pat
Ely
Dave
Kearney
        Tony
O'Leary
 
Aug
1975
Pat
Ely
Dave
Kearney
           
Dec
1975
Pat
Ely
Dave
Kearney
Martin
Johnson
Tony
Lawless
Joe (Guitar)
O'Toole
Freddie
Connors
Joe
McIntyre
 
                 
                 

Discography (Incomplete)

Smokey Mountain Ramblers:

Little Folk / If You Were Mine (Pat Ely) - #13 Irish Charts
Dolphin Records - DOS.18 or 21 - January, 1969
I'll Remember Your Love In My Prayers (Pat Ely)
Dolphin Records - DOS.31 - May, 1969
Christmas Time's A-Comin' / Sajo (Pat Ely)
Dolphin Records - DOS.49 - November, 1969
But You Love Me Daddy (Pat Ely & Bernie Fallon) / Wreck of the Old No. 9 (Pat Ely) - #15 Irish Charts
Ruby Records - RUB.101 - March, 1970
Forty Miles from Poplar Bluff / Me and Bobby Magee (Pat Ely)
Ruby Records - RUB.108 - June, 1970
Just Beyond The Moon / I'm Dreaming Tonight About Sweethearts (Pat Ely) - #8 Irish Charts
Ruby Records - RUB.117 - December, 1970
Fifteen Years Ago / I Wonder Where You Are Tonight / I Haven't Seen Mary in Years (Pat Ely)
Ruby Records - RUB.132 - May, 1971
Kathleen / Happy Street (Pat Ely) - #9 Irish Charts

Ruby Records - RUB.143 - 1971

Rocky Tops:

All I Have To Offer You Is Me (Pat Ely)
Release Records - Unknown - October, 1972

Audio Clips

Coming Soon

Where Are They Now?   (Coming Soon)

Pat Ely: After the Smokeys, Pat formed the Rocky Tops and also for a time fronted the Storytellers, who would also boast Susan McCann as a lead vocalist at one time. Eventually, Pat went to work in the record industry, while continuing to play regularly with the paired down version of the Rocky Tops which often included Francie Lenehan. These days, Pat owns two record shops, one in Donegal Town and one in Sligo and still sings from time to time on the local scene.   
Tommy Higgins: After leaving the Rocky Tops, Tommy opened a record store in Sligo, followed by a shop in Galway called Star Records. He eventually sold the stores and concentrated on his business as an agent for Ticketmaster. He eventually took over the running of Ticketmaster Europe. He still lives in Rosses Point,
Co. Sligo.
Bernie Fallon - RIP: After leaving the Smokeys originally, he played with George Kaye, ending up in  George's Bluegrass Roadshow playing upright bass. With the demise of that band, he rejoined Pat Ely (along with George) in the newly formed Rocky Tops which brought together the original Smokey Mountain Ramblers again. In later years, he returned to his native Sligo where he played the pub scene for many years with local groups. He retired from performing in the 1980's and sadly passed away in 2008.  
Lennie Power - RIP: After leaving the Rocky Tops, Lennie spent some time with the folk group Thatch in the mid 70's. Sadly Lennie passed away in 1994.
Dave Kearney - RIP: After leaving the Smokeys/Rocky Tops, Dave spent a short time with the Sandie Jones Band before emigrating to Canada around 1980 where he lived until he sadly passed away on January 14, 2010.  
George Kaye: Despite rumours that he had passed away, George writes us to say he is still very much alive and living in Germany. He is currently playing with the band, The Permanent Cure, playing folk and bluegrass at venues around the Continent. He is a regular visit back to Ireland and still does gigs whenever he is here. 
Martin Johnson - RIP: We received an email from Al Owens telling us that in the mid seventies, Martin moved to the UK where they met and together with (Al from Roscommon, a drummer) and around 1979 they formed the band Stagecoach with singer Billy Finnegan. Three years later Billy moved to Co. Armagh and started a new band and within a short time, Martin also came to Armagh and joined the band which they called Stagecoach again. After that Martin did solo and duo gigs around Dundalk but sadly passed away in October 2002. Our thanks to Al for the update.
Paul Kenny - RIP: Sadly Paul left the band to join the Cotton Mill Boys and tragically passed away only a few months later.

 

Back

 


2002-2015 GMS Productions

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