Riviera Showband Feature (1964-1971)
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Band Lineups -
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Where Are They Now?
The Ballyhaunis, Co.
Riviera Showband enjoyed national success on the ballroom circuit
from the mid sixties through 1970. Managed by Seamus Cox from Aghamore, the band featured
Shea Cribbin (RIP) from Kilkelly as lead singer and recorded a number of
singles which gave the band a high profile at the time. The original
lineup included Malachy
Tiernan (RIP-sax), Shay Cribben (RIP-vocals), Gerry Foley (guitar), Brendan
Kevin Maloney (bass), John Conway (keyboards) and Patsy Haugh (trumpet).
Piecing together the band's story has not been
easy. It appears they first went on the road in 1964, but we are
assuming this was as a part time local band.
An advertisement feature in
Spotlight magazine of June 19, 1970 said the band had been
launched three and a half years earlier, which would have been late
1966 or early 1967, so we are assuming that this was probably the
point at which they turned pro.
Seamus Cox tells us that the band was ‘christened’ by Thomas Anthony
Tighe, who for many years was one of the best known calf dealers in
the province, and they settled on the “Riviera” right away. Their
first year on the road turned out not to be an easy one.
In 1967, the band was
dealt a setback when all their equipment was lost in a fire in
Manchester. Manager Seamus Cox put the value of the loss at around
£1,500, a sizable sum in those days. They were
not insured and had to use borrowed instruments while they saved
their schillings to purchase new gear. In the same year, several of the lads were shocked,
literally, because of a short in an electrical circuit of a ballroom
in Dublin. The incident required a few of them to spend a night in a Dublin
hospital for treatment. It could have been much worse.
October, they released
Love and the Country, written by band
members, Malachy Tiernan and Patsy Haugh. This was quite unusual for
a showband at the time as most tried to emulate successful covers
from international artists (part of the reason showbands suffer a
less than stellar reputation by some of today's musicians). Although the band
played a wide variety of music on stage, they described themselves
as a pop band even though a couple of their singles were country.
Said Shea in 1970, "That was a time when country and western music
seemed to be at a peak of popularity."
The record received
plenty of airplay, but did not make the Irish charts. Seamus Cox
later reported the record sold 7,000 copies (very difficult to
verify). Like many of their contemporaries, the Riviera never had a
chart record and never won any popularity polls. However, it must be
said (especially to those who were not around in the era) this did
not mean they were not successful. During the summer months, the
band was playing 6-7 nights a week and were doing very well for
themselves as a middle of the road showband, one of hundreds of
bands that travelled the country back then.
Their next single was
Give Your Love A Chance released around June, 1968. It was
also written by their songwriting team of Tiernan-Haugh, but again
failed to make a dent on the charts. Shea also made an appearance at
the now legendary Castlebar Song Contest, which back in the late
sixties and 70's was the biggest entertainment event west of the
Shannon. In September, RTE debuted its new pop music series "Like
Now," which was hoisted by Dublin DJ, Danny Hughes, who "was picked
from hundreds of applicants for the job." The first show included
top showband, The Dixies, along with the Riviera and Limerick group,
In 1969, the band
continued to do a solid business and were extremely popular in Mayo
and the West of Ireland. They released Baby Won't You Leave Me
Alone early in the year. Later in the year, they switched
genres, putting out a country song which featured
guitarist Gerry Foley called,
Just a Girl I Used To Know.
was the band's last full year on the road. At some point during the
year John Conway (keyboards), left and was replaced by Naoise
Judge. They moved from Target (Pye) records to the Dolphin
label for their next release, Maybe, which was written by
Nilsson. Shea said at the time, "personally I think Nilsson is one
of the world's finest writers.
The melody lines are beautiful and the lyrics are always
At the end of 1970,
the boys released their final single, Latchyco. Hopes
continued to be high for the band's future, but it was not meant to
Seamus Cox emailed us recently, “The band were on the
road for around six years form 1964 to 1971. They always enjoyed big
popularity in their home area. We played dates all over the country.
The marquees were all the go in the summers of that era. We also
toured England several times. The lads always went down well because
there were so many young people from the West of Ireland over there
at the time.”
The band split up in
1971 with Shea Cribben joining the short lived Real Country band
which featured George Kaye (ex-Smokeys). The band was on the road
for about two years and when they broke up, we are told Shea left the music
resided in Dublin for many years where he was involved in the
insurance and financial services business. He sang occasionally at
church services, but sadly passed away Sept. 30, 2005. Patsy Hugh
lives in Castlerea and has always maintained his involvement with
the music business down through the years. He currently fronts his
own band, the Phoenix Showband, and they have a new album due out in
the coming month.
played sax with the band and lives near Charlestown where he has
been involving in farming for several years. He too has maintained
strong links with the music scene down the years. Gerry Foley
resides in Barcul, Kilkelly, and is also associated with the farming
scene. He retained an association with the music business for
several years but is no longer active on this circuit.
O’Grady is a farmer in the Charlestown area and is no longer
involved in the music. Kevin Maloney, another Charlestown man, lives
near Cloonfad and occasionally features on stage. John Conway,
formerly of Bridge Street, Ballyhaunis lives in Dublin. He was
involved in showbiz promotions, managing the fortunes of the Niagra
Showband for a time.
The last word goes to
former manager Seamus Cox: “We had some good years with the band and
some memorable ones too. There has often been talk of a reunion like
the Royal Blues did back in 1983 and again a few years ago. However,
for one reason or another, it has not come to pass yet anyway.”
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