Sandie Jones Story (Active: 1968-1983-present)
© Gerry Gallagher
Photo Gallery -
Band Lineups -
- Audio samples -
Where Are They Now?
Sandie Jones was
(and still is) one of Ireland's
best known female singing stars throughout the 1970's and into the
1980's. Sandie was born in Crumlin, one of eleven children in her
family. She started singing at an early age winning medals at local
feis competitions and joined the Monaco Showband when she was just
fifteen, although we can't document when she joined or left the
Sandie came to the showband scene on a full time basis with one of the
showbands of the era, The Royal Earls. Formed (we think) in early
1966, the Earls were a middle of the road showband working
steadily throughout the late 60's.
Like another similar band of the era, The Casino,
(who became the Indians) the Earls would
eventually try a gimmick dressing up as African warriors and
calling themselves the Zulus.
According to articles we can find
online, Sandie's was 16 years old when she joined the Royal Earls in 1968. However, an interview in Spotlight magazine in 1970,
reported Sandie had "been singing for three years. I've been at it
since I was sixteen." This account would mean Sandie started
1967, which would have been with the Monaco.
One way or another, she joined
with a growing number of females singers who started to populate the
showbands in the mid to late sixties. Along with stars like Kelly
(of the Nevada), Tina (of the
Mexicans) and Eileen Reid (of the
Cadets) "girl" singers began to get their share of the spotlight on
the ballroom circuit. Although, as an interesting aside, no female
ever match the dizzying success of their male counterparts.
She released her first record in
mid 1969, Reflections of You which was
the song sung by Pat Lynch which won the Castlebar song contest in
late 1968. She would release a record in each of the next two years
including Keep In Touch and I Don't Wanna Play House,
neither of which sold many copies, but all three helped establish
Sandie as one of the era's top female vocalists.
In January 1972, the showband
world was rocked by yet another surprise major split when Joe
McCarthy and Brendan O'Brien announced they were leaving the
to form a new band, Stage 2. This left the band trying to fill the
void left by two of the showband era's biggest stars. The Dixies
played their last date in Killarney on January 9th, 1972 and
immediately announced Joe O'Toole as the new lead vocalist. In an
article in Spotlight on January 8th, they also announced they
would be "adding a girl singer to the lineup." The following
week it was announced 19 year old Sandie had been signed to join
The revamped lineup was introduced
to the public in a blaze of publicity. The new singing team's faces
were in newspapers and magazines across the country. A few weeks later, it was
announced that Sandie had been selected to sing one of the songs in
Ireland's National Song Contest which would take place in the Cork
Opera House. Sandie would be singing Ceol An Ghra written by
Joe Burkett and and Liam MacUistan from Dublin. The song was a
runaway winner and also became the first, and only, song sung in
Irish to go to Eurovision. A note of some interest, just as Sandie
was winning the National Song Contest, her former band, The Royal
Earls became the Zulus.
the next few weeks, Sandie became the number one celebrity in
Ireland. She received awards and adulation from all parts of the
country including recognition from the people of Cork (see below)
for her Song Contest win which took place in their city. Following
Dana's Eurovision win in 1970, the contest had become the "launching
pad" for international singing careers and a major coup for
entertainers on the showband scene. After her win, Dixie press
advertisements touted the band as the "prize winning Dixies." Managing
the band's fortune at the time was Peter Prendergast. Sandie was on
all the TV shows including the Late Late Show with Gay Byrne.
The record was released
immediately and hit the Irish Charts, reaching number 1 and giving
Sandie the first of two major hit records in her career. Of course,
all the publicity was exactly what the Dixies needed after losing
their top stars a few months earlier. In the run up to Eurovision,
Sandie was featured on the cover of Spotlight and everyone had high
hopes for the first Irish language Eurosong. Also of interest was some of the
biographical info which was released in pre-Eurovision publicity. It
said that Sandie was 21, and had started singing with a band called
The Statesmen in Dublin when she was 15. She then joined the Monaco
Showband and eventually the Royal Earls when she was 17. We will
research this to check the facts.
The contest was won that year by
Luxemburg represented by Greece-born Vicky Leandros and Apres Tio
(After You). Sadly for Ireland, Sandie came in a disappointing 15th.
As usual, as quickly as the Eurovision publicity had put entrants in
the limelight, as soon as another artist won, it stopped and
Sandie was once again, a singer in a showband, such is the Irish
entertainment industry. Sandie came home from Scotland and resumed
her duties with the Dixies.
Within weeks, the Dixies brought
out another Eurovision entry, What Do I Do (the Dutch entry)
and scored a number one hit in the Irish charts, the second and
final top ten hit of Sandie's career. She would score more charts
hits later. All the publicity surrounding two number one hits in a
matter of months (a rare happening in Ireland) lead to a boom in
business for the Dixies for a short while. Throughout the rest of
1972, business was good for Sandie and the Dixies. She was a regular
fixture on TV and photo shoots for magazines. She was also in
high demand for personal appearances such as shop openings across
Joe and Sandie were featured on
the cover of Spotlight in July (her third cover) and the band went
into the studio to record their next single. In July they also
appeared at a concert organised by Release Records to benefit the
Irish Olympic team which was held in the National Stadium in Dublin.
In August they released Looking For Love which featured
Sandie on the "A" side and an original number written by Joe,
Sandie, on the "B" side. Unlike their previous two records, it
failed to chart and it looked like some of the shine was beginning
to fade for the band. At the same time, however, they were still
playing 5-6 nights a week.
In December, 1972, the band
released an album, The Hits of the Dixies which included
Ceol an Ghra and other songs and a single which featured Joe,
Love Is The Answer. Just a few weeks later, they released what
would be Sandie's last record with the band, The Happiest Girl.
the record failed to chart, things still appeared to be going fairly well for
Sandie and the band. She graced yet another cover of Spotlight
in February. However, behind the scenes all was not well in the Dixies camp.
On February 15th it was reported in Spotlight that Sandie had left
the band after failing to appear at a gig in Mayo a few weeks earlier. In
fact, a few weeks later, the Dixies ran an advert for their new
single, Big City, which featured "Joe O'Toole and the Dixies
Nashville Brass" and a "new country sound." Sandie was not pictured
with the band.
Six weeks later, on March 22,
1973, Spotlight reported that a reconciliation between Sandie and
the Dixies had been brokered by the Irish Federation of Musicians.
Things appeared to be back to normal and for several months, they
were. A large advert in Spotlight in July promised a "New Single"
was on the way.
However around October, 1973,
Sandie had left the band and an advert announced the coming of
Sandie Jones and the Boyfriends, a new band which would be managed
by the Dixies' Steve Lynch. The band's lineup was top class and included
Brian Donaghy (ex-Real McCoy), Mick O'Hagan (ex Cromwell and Johnny
Logan's brother), Matt Manning (from the Dixies), Davy Flood (from
Buckshot), David McHale (from the Gentry), Paul Farrell (from
Germany) and Nashville guitarist, Michael Carass.
Sandie and The Boyfriends released
their first single immediately called End of the World.
Although it didn't make the charts, it helped established Sandie's
new role as a singer with a "pop" band (as opposed to a revamped
sixties showband like the Dixies). She was now standing on her own
and the band did relatively well.
In late 1974, the Boyfriends got
something of a boost when ex-Airchords (and brother of Steve Lynch)
singer Pat Lynch joined the band after a brief attempt to start a
cabaret career in Canada. In an interview in Spotlight, Pat
explained, "I'm glad I made this move (back to Ireland) but I don't
think I'd be here today had not Steve asked me to join the band." The
move helped rejuvenate the band for a time, although several singles
resulted in no more chart hits.
As 1974 drew to a close, the band
was changing, most likely because of the changing dance scene and
the addition of former cabaret artist Pat Lynch to the lineup.
Adverts hailed "Cabaret and Dancing Are Fun Again" and the
Boyfriends moved away from being a strictly ballroom outfit. This
trend would continue over the next few months.
In May, 1975, a small blurb
appeared in the Spotlight saying Sandie was quitting the ballroom
scene altogether, leaving Steve Lynch's management and moving 100%
into cabaret. We are assuming at this point the Boyfriends ceased to
exist. Sandie met Tony McIver from Galway, who was described in a
1976 Spotlight report as having "only a passing interest in show business but but a serious interest in Sandie Jones." Tony
started booking Sandie into cabaret venues and despite a shaky
start, Sandie was soon working steadily in the newly revived cabaret
scene up and down the country.
Not to long after that, Tony was
not only managing Sandie, but they got married and were now a
husband and wife team. In an interview with Julie Boyd in the April
19, 1979 issue of Starlight (the new name for Spotlight)
Sandie explained what had been going on in her life. She had been
doing cabaret, but missed being "on the road"
Said Sandie, "about six months ago
I started to get the bug back for the old road. So Tony (her
husband/manager) and I happened on a solution whereby I should go
back into the ballrooms at the weekends and keep my cabaret gigs for
the midweek." They contacted Louis Walsh who suggested it may not be
a workable idea and in the end Tony Byrne contacted them to say he
felt they should launch an entirely new band.
They signed Tony James, a 20 year
old singer who had been singing cabaret around Dublin and set to
work putting together a band. The initial lineup included Dave
Kearney (guitar-ex Smokeys), Fergus McElligot (bass-ex. Royal), Des
Lacey (drums and Gene Inglesby on guitar as well. The band hit the
road in Newmarket, Co. Cork on Easter Sunday, April 15th, 1979.
Signed to Spider records, Sandie
released Boogie Woogie Dancing Shoes and had her first chart
hit in seven years. Although it only reached number 15 in the
charts, it was a hit all the same. With a new record label behind
her, the band seemed to thrive in the "new normal" of the late 70's
and early eighties. Large showbands with 7 or 8 (or more members)
had disappeared in favour of more compact 5 or 6 piece lineups and
brass had been replaced by a single keyboard player with a piano and
a synth. Later in 1979 Sandie released another single, Shoes On
Boots Off, which again made the charts, barely, topping out at
A couple of years later, in 1981,
Sandie's band had a new name, The Jones Gang, and we are not
sure whether this was a new outfit, or just a name change. Over the
next couple of years, Sandie and the Jones Gang played (as did all
bands) to a dwindling circuit of hotels and ballrooms as the disco
era began to take hold of the country and even the biggest names had
major problems filling their diaries.
Finally in September 1983 (we have
discovered the last year on the road for many bands) Sandie
announced she was quitting the scene and moving to Abu Dhabi in the
United Arab Emirates with husband Tony.
Today, Sandie is living in the
United States, we have contacted her trying to get a more complete
story of her life and will publish them here when we get them.
More to come.....
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