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Sands Showband (1967-1980?)

The story of the Sands in many ways reflects the story of the showband era. Formed following a break from one of the country's biggest showbands, and despite major changes in personnel, breakups and splits, the Sands managed to stay both relevant and popular for over a decade.

The founding members of the Sands were originally from the Miami Showband, which featured showband legend, Dickie Rock. In late 1967, several key members of the Miami, led by Murty Quinn, split away and formed their own band (as did several other showbands in the late 1960's as the scene began to change). Murty, along with Dennis Murray, Martin Phelan and Tommy O'Rourke formed the core of the new band. Guitarist, Clem Quinn, was reported to also be leaving, but remained with the Miami in the end. Leaving Dickie behind, the lads needed a new front man.

In September 1967 rumours had it that Butch Moore, who had left the Capitol, might be the front man with the new band (reported in Spotlight), but they finally decided on Tony Kenny, an ex-butcher from Dublin who had been with the beat group the Vampires for two years as their lead singer. Tony's start on the showband scene came in a roundabout way. He had been with the Mexicans Showband, but left the band as he had not wanted to turn professional at the time. He then went on to the Arran Showband, where he mimed on television to another singer's vocal track (which he revealed in a July, 1968 interview with B.P. Fallon in Spotlight) but stayed for less than a month before as he and three other members left to form The Vampires. The Vampires had been one of the top groups on the Dublin beat scene, including appearing on the same bill as the Beach Boys. Very much a "pop" singer back then, his first two singles (starting in 1967) were covers of Help Me Rhonda, and Yummy Yummy Yummy. Earlier in 1967 it had been rumoured that Tony might be taking over as the lead vocalist with the Debonnaires, but this never came to pass.  

To complete the new outfit band leader, Martin Phelan, added guitarist Bobby Kelly and drummer Fran Byrne. Both musicians, like Tony, had been playing on Ireland's growing "beat scene." Bobby had previously been with The Greenbeats as well as The Chosen Few and had actually stood in with the Miami when guitarist Clem Quinn had his appendix removed. The Sands made their debut on the ballroom scene on Friday the 6th of October, 1967 in the Adelphi Ballroom in Dundalk. Within a short time they were one of the top bands in the country, partially because of the reputation their founders had enjoyed as part of the Miami, but mostly because of the band's youthful and energetic music, as well as the good looks and vocal talents of Tony. Their first single, Help Me Rhonda, was a hit and reached number 9 in the Irish Charts. (You can hear it below) 

Within a short time, they were rivaling their old band, the Miami, for top honours in attendance and popularity. Each of their first four singles cracked the Irish Top Ten. They borrowed heavily from major American pop acts such as Tony Orlando, releasing covers of songs such as Venus, Dance Dance Dance, Candida and Knock Three Times.

For the remainder of the late sixties and early seventies Tony and the Sands were a huge success on the ballroom scene, packing them in wherever they played. In March, 1969, the boys went to England where they appeared on the Dick Emery Show doing a Frank Sinatra number, I'll Never Smile Again. While in England they also did Radio One's Dave Cash Show and One O'Clock Club and there would be many more TV and radio appearances in the following years. A short piece in the August 2, 1969 Insight column of Spotlight magazine said the Sands were making the switch from wearing suits on stage to casual gear, which had been done by the Freshmen a few months earlier.

In October, 1971, the band announced (via an article in Spotlight) that they had signed a three year deal with RCA. The recordings would be supervised by Mews Music, run by Phil Coulter and Bill Martin. The single, Lend A Helpin' Hand, written by Coulter and Martin, was released in October with Murty Quinn on lead vocals and the song reached number 7 in the Irish charts. In 1972, She Is Me was also released on RCA, but as far as we can tell, that was that last Sand's record released by RCA.   

In late 1972, Bobby and Fran decided it was time to leave the band. Bobby spent a year living in Spain, but he would return at the end of 1973 and form Stepaside and later would work for a time backing ex-Dubliner Ronnie Drew. Fran joined Bees Make Honey who were then based in London. He stayed on in London and eventually joined Ace which featured Paul Carrack. He was with them when the group had their worldwide hit, How Long. Bobby would reunite with Tony in the late seventies in the Tony Kenny Band.

Before the split, the Sands introduced their "Rockin' Road Show," their tribute to the music of the fifties. Performed only twice in Dublin, the show was put to rest after the band split. 

In the September 7th 1972 issue of Spotlight it was announced that the Sands had split just short of five years on the road. Although initially it was reported that Tony and Murty would form a new band, Murty decided to stay on and along with Denis, Martin and Tommy, they kept the Sands name going by recruiting female vocalist Tara (real name Noreen Tracy) along with Stan McKee on guitar and John O'Neill on drums. Stan had left the Hoot'nanny's a year earlier to join Frankie Carroll's Ranchers which disbanded when Frankie joined Brendan Shine's Superband.     

Tony Kenny started his solo career and enjoyed chart success in England when he recorded Heart of Stone using a falsetto voice. The number, a Coulter-Martin composition produced by Phil Coulter and Mickie Most, reached number 11 in England. The record was a huge success and he followed it up with Give It To Me Now which also charted. However, despite gaining international acclaim, Tony abandoned the idea and returned to Ireland. In the meantime, the records had been so successful that producer Mickie Most, took a local English 5 piece band named Chuff and renamed them Kenny to capitalize on Tony's initial success. They went on to have several chart singles in the UK in 1974 and 1975, but ended in a court case several years later.

Tony decided to pursue a career on the Dublin musical stage when he took the lead in Jesus Christ Superstar and later Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. He would later return to the ballroom circuit in the late 1970's with his own Tony Kenny Band.

Meanwhile, the Sands continued, as Murty Quinn took over lead vocals and the band enjoyed success as one of the original "crossover" bands. Following Tony's departure, they drafted female vocalist, Tara, who shared the spotlight and lead vocal duties with Murty.

The rest of the band's history would be best described as "up and down." As was the case during the showband era, a successful "name" carried a lot of weight with promoters and punters. Therefore, whenever the founding members of a band would move on, the remaining members did everything in their power to carry on, even though there were no members left who had been with the original band. The Sands was just such a name. Along with The Plattermen, Mainliners, and others, lineup changes came fast and furious, but gigs were still available as long as a certain acceptable level of talent was kept in the band. 

The end of 1973 was a tumultuous time for the band. In September, Tara left and was replaced by Eric Murray on vocals. Stan McKee (guitar) also left the band and was replaced by Stuart Bingham, one of the most traveled musicians of the year. He moved from Paul Lyttle's short lived Lyttle People to The College Boys and then on to the Sands, all within 12 months. Original member Tommy O'Rourke also left and was replaced by ex-Gentry member Gerry Mulryan (trumpet). Around this same time, Murty and the band released a new single, Lonely Lady which managed to reach number 15 in the Irish charts.

However, in a strange move, as Lonely Lady was being advertised in Spotlight, the October 25, 1973 issue announced that Murty and Martin Phelan, were both leaving the band to go to Canada. In the same issue, Julie Boyd confirmed in her column that Stan McKee, Tara and Tommy O'Rourke had all left the band within the past six weeks. Stuart Bingham would leave very quickly to join a reformed Sunshine and was replaced by Tony Adams-Rosa on guitar.

In November, 1973 an article in Spotlight attempted to clarify the band's status after rumours circulated that they had broken up. Tommy O'Rourke had taken over managing the band and strongly denied any rumours about the band's breakup. Eric Murray was lead vocalist, Tony Adam's Rosa from Spain was on guitar and two member's of Dickie's band, Fran Dennis (trombone) and Kevin O'Brien (sax) were now with the Sands.

There is some confusion about this period as it was reported in Spotlight in November 1974 that Murty had returned to Ireland after 10 months in Canada and was forming a cabaret act with Stan McKee and John O'Neill.

At this point Dennis Murray remained the only original member of the Sands to still be on stage. However, Julie Boyd announced in her Spotlight column in October, 1974, that Dennis was leaving the band before Christmas to emigrate to the United States where he was going to take up a residency on the Queen Mary, docked in Long Beach, California. He was replaced by Noel Sheridan on bass. A blurb in Julie Boyd's Scene column in the February 28th, 1974 issue of Spotlight reported that Tony Adams-Rosa (guitar), Fran Dennis (trombone) and Kevin O'Brien (sax) had left the band. 

In June, 1974, Eric Murray left the band and was replaced by Fran Troy. By late 1974, guitarist Tony left the band and was replaced by Dominic Greene. Around the same time, drummer Jimmy Compton, who had been with the Real McCoy a year earlier was contacted by Tommy O'Rourke, who was now managing the band, but no longer on the road himself. Jimmy replaced drummer John O'Neill. The band put out a single, Is There Any Chance, which received decent airplays, but did little to enhance the band's success.

Jackie Kelly became the new lead singer and was featured in their advert in Spotlight in June, 1975.  

By the early 80's the Sands were, like many of the showbands, only a memory. If you know any details about the last few years of the band, please email us and let us know.   

More to come....             

Photo Gallery

Click on thumbnails for full images

The Original Sands with Tony Kenny
Sands - 1967 Sands - 1967 Sands - 1967 Sands - 1967 Sands Live - 1967
Tony Kenny - 1967 Sands - 1967 Sands - 1967 Tony Kenny - 1968 Tony Kenny - 1968
Sands - 1968 Sands - 1968 Tony Kenny - 1968 Tony Kenny - 1968 Sands - 1968
Sands - 1968 Sands - 1968 Sands - 1968 Sands - 1968 Sands - 1968
Sands (LR) Sands Sands - 1968 Bobby Kelly - 1968 Bobby Kelly - 1968
Sands - 1968 Sands - 1968 Sands - 1968 Sands - 1968 Sands - 1968
Sands - 1968 Tony Kenny - 1968 Sands - 1968 Sands - 1968 Sands - 1968
Martin Phelan - 1968 Sands - 1968 Sands - 1968 Sands - 1969 (BK) Sands - 1969
Tony Kenny - 1968 Bobby Kelly - 1969 Tony Kenny - 1969 Murty Tony - 1969 Tony Kenny - 1969
Sands - 1969 Tony Kenny - 1969 Sands - 1969 Sands - 1969 Sands - 1969
Sands Live - 1969 Sands Live - 1969 Sands Live - 1969 Sands Live - 1969 Sands - 1969
Sands Live-1969 Sands - 1969 Sands Live-1969 Sands - 1969 Sands - 1969
Sands - 1969 Tony Kenny - 1969 Sands - 1970 Sands - 1970 Bobby & Fran - 1970
Tony Kenny - 1970 Tony Kenny - 1970 Tony Kenny - 1970 Sands - 1970

Sands - 1970 (KS)

Tony Kenny - 1971 Tony Kenny - 1971 Sands - 1971 Sands - 1971 Sands - 1971
Sands - 1971 Sands Live - 1971 Martin Phelan - 1971 Sands - 1971 Tony Kenny - 1971
Sands - 1971 Tony Kenny - 1971 Sands - 1971 Tony Kenny - 1971 Tony Kenny - 1971
Tony & Big Tom - 1971 Tony Kenny - 1971 Tony and Murty - 1971 Tony Kenny - 1972 Sands - 1972
Sands - 1972 Sands - 1972 Sands - 1972 Sands - 1972 Sands - 1972
Sands - 1972 Sands - 1972 Sands - 1972 Sands - 1972 Sands - 1972
Sands - 1972 Sands - 1972 Sands - 1972 Sands - 1972 Sands - Sept, 1972
       
Sands in 2009 Coming Soon Coming Soon Coming Soon Coming Soon
The Sands after Tony Kenny
Sands - 1972 Sands - 1972 Sands - 1972 Sands - 1972 Sands - 1972
Sands - 1972 The Sands - 1972 Murty & Tara - 1972 Sands - 1973 Sands - 1973
Sands - 1973 Sands - 1973 (LR) The Sands - late 1973 Sands - 1974 The Sands - 1975
Sands - 1975 Sands - 1975 The Sands - 1975 A - Sands - 1975 B - Sands - 1975
   
The Sands - 1976 Fran Troy - 1974 Sands - early 1976 Coming Soon Coming Soon
SPOTLIGHT COVERS
Nov. 4, 1967 (V1/#25) Dec. 16, 1967 (V1/#31) Feb. 24, 1968 (V1/#39) Nov. 9, 1968 (V2/#24) Mar. 29, 1969 (V2/#43)
July 5, 1969 (V3/#5) Feb. 6, 1970 (V3/#35) Feb. 6, 1970 (V3/#35) Jan. 30, 1971 (V4/#33) July 31, 1971 (V5/#8)
 
Nov. 4, 1971 (V5/#22) June 17, 1972 (V6/#1) Aug. 24, 1972 (V6/#10) Nov. 23, 1972 (V6/#23) Coming Soon

Lineup Changes More to come
 

Years Vocals Guitar Bass Drums Sax/Keybds Trumpet Trombone/Gtr
1967-
1972
Tony
Kenny
Bobby
Kelly
Denis
Murray
Fran
Byrne
Martin
Phelan
Tommy
O'Rourke
Murty
Quinn
Oct
1972
Tara
(Noreen Tracy)
Stan
McKee
Denis
Murray
John
O'Neill
Martin
Phelan
Tommy
O'Rourke
Murty
Quinn
Sept
1973
Eric
Murray
Stuart
Bingham
Denis
Murray
John
O'Neill
Martin
Phelan
Gerry
Mulryan
Murty
Quinn
Nov
1973
Eric
Murray
Tony
Adams-Rosa
Denis
Murray
John
O'Neill
Kevin
O'Brien
  Fran
Dennis
1974 Eric
Murray
Tony
Adams-Rosa
Denis
Murray
John
O'Neill
Nielie
Gildea
Gerry
Mulryan?
Fran
Dennis
June,
1974
Fran
Troy
Tony
Adams-Rosa
Denis
Murray
John
O'Neill
Noel
Ryan (keys)
  Neilie
Gildea (sax)
Sept
1974
Jack
Kelly
Tony
Adams-Rosa
Noel
Sheridan
Jimmy
Compton
Noel
Ryan (keys)
  Seamus
Mahon (Gtr)
1975 Jack
Kelly
Dominic
Greene
Noel
Sheridan
Jimmy
Compton
Anto
Long (Keys)
  Seamus
Mahon (Gtr)
1975 Eamonn
Gibney
Dominic
Greene
Noel
Sheridan
Jimmy
Compton
Anto
Long (Keys)
  Seamus
Mahon (Gtr)
1975 Pat
Tynan
Dominic
Greene
Noel
Sheridan
Jimmy
Compton
Anto
Long (Keys)
  Seamus
Mahon (Gtr)
Dec
1975
Pat
Tynan
Dominic
Greene
Paul
Ashe-Brown
Jimmy
Compton
Anto
Long (Keys)
  Seamus
Mahon (Gtr)
Early
1976
Pat
Tynan
Dominic
Greene
John
McCormack
Jimmy
Compton
Tommy
Mangan
  Seamus
Mahon (Gtr)
1976 Pat
Tynan
Pat
Kilty
Brian
Tannam
Barry
Teeling
Tommy
Mangan
  Seamus
Mahon (Gtr)
               

Discography

The Sands: (singles)

Help Me Rhonda / Some Enchanted Evening (Tony Kenny) - #9 Irish Charts
Tribune or Major Minor - MM 555 - January, 1968
Yummy Yummy Yummy / Peanuts (Tony Kenny)
- #7 Irish Charts
Tribune Records - TRS.120 - June, 1968
Dance Dance Dance / The Cheater (Tony Kenny)
- #4 Irish Charts
Tribune Records - TRS.122 - November, 1968
Bubblegum Music / Sherry (Tony Kenny)
- #6 Irish Charts
Tribune Records - TRS 129 - June, 1969
Venus / Cara Mia (Tony Kenny)
Major Minor - MM.681 - 1970
Julietta / Silvery Moon (Murty Quinn)
Release Records - RL.533 - June, 1971
Walkin' In The Sun / Marlena (Tony Kenny)
- #20 Irish Charts
Release Records - RL.540 - August, 1970
Candida / Love Me Tender (Tony Kenny)
- #6 Irish Charts
Release Records - RL.553 - December, 1970
Knock Three Times / See You In September (Tony Kenny)
- #5 Irish Charts
Release Records - RL.576 - March 13, 1971
Lend A Helpin Hand (Murty Quinn) / The Sound Is Music (Tony Kenny)
- #7 Irish Charts
RCA Records - RCA 2136 - October, 1971
She Is Me (Tony Kenny) / Salvation Sally (Murty Quinn)
RCA Records - RCA 2210 - 1972
As Usual / Top of the World (Tara)
Play Records - PLAY 37 - September, 1972
Julietta / Silvery Moon (Murty Quinn) (re-release?)
Hit Records - HIT 12 - 1973
Lonely Lady / Sweet Dreams (Murty Quinn)
- #15 Irish Charts
Solo Records - SOLO 119 - September, 1973
Annabelle (Sands) / Julie, Where Have You Gone (Eric Murray)
Solo Records - SOLO 123 - November, 1973
Hasta Maana / One More Tear (Fran Troy)
- #13 Irish Charts
EMI Records - IEMI45004 - August, 1974
Is There Any Chance / Teenage Heart (Jackie Kelly)
Release Records - RL.758 - September, 1975

Sands Albums:

Time With The Sands
Major Minor Records - Unknown - 
Sand Doin's
Tribune Records - LP 1009 - November, 1969

Audio Clips

     
Help Me Rhonda Some Enchanted Evening Coming Soon Coming Soon Coming Soon

Where Are They Now?   Coming Soon

Tony Kenny: Tony left the Sands to embark on his very successful solo career, first in Dublin theatre, then back in the ballrooms in the late seventies and early eighties and finally as one of Ireland's most successful cabaret artists. These days, he splits his time between Ireland and the United States where he tours regularly. His Jury's cabaret show has been extremely popular with tourists for many years. He recently appeared on the bill at the 2007 "Do You Come Here Often" concert series.
Bobby Kelly: After leaving the Sands Bobby played with Stepaside followed by a stint with the Freshmen and then the Tony Kenny Band in the late 70's. He eventually went on to join Chris Meehan's Redneck Friends with whom he still plays from time to time. Bobby relocated to Strandhill, Co. Sligo in the mid-90's and played with a variety of bands. He stills plays around Sligo, often teaming up with Francie Lenehan (ex Cotton Mill Boys/Ranchers) with various lineups.  
Denis Murray: Denis left the band around 1974/5 and emigrated to the United States' west coast and for a while, he played a residency on the Queen Mary in Long Beach. He later formed an Irish ballad group. He is still in Southern California and works with the Los Angeles Department of Health Services.
Fran Byrne: Coming soon. If you know more, please let us know.
Martin Phelan - RIP: Des Hickey wrote to tell us a while back that Martin had a five piece band in Dublin doing mostly weddings and corporate gigs. His son, Tagart, was on keyboards, daughter Leanne sang and the band's guitarist was Brian Harris (ex-Creatures). On drums was Martin Branigan who played with many bands. From time to time, Des sat in on guitar when Brian was away. Martin's daughter Emma, recently wrote to say Tony Bogan was on drums before emigrating a few years ago. She also told us Martin was living in Dundrum. After leaving the Sands, Martin also went into the hotel business, purchasing a hotel in Dalkey. Sadly, Martin passed away on July 17, 2010. 
Tommy O'Rourke: If you know more, please let us know.
Murty Quinn: Murty left the band in 1974 and they eventually faded away. Although we know Murty is still in Ireland and continued working in the music business, we are unsure whether he is still playing.  An email from James Hosey in Oct., 2014 tells us Murty currently works in the transportation sector in Dublin. An email from Murty's son, Mark, in late 2015 tells us Murty went into cabaret after the Sands and retired from show business a few years ago.
Tara (Noreen Tracy): Ryan Higgins writes in September, 2012 that Tara left the Sands in 1973 and came back to her hometown of Cork where she sang in a few bands, the last band being the New Dixies, which traveled to Canada and Spain. Eventually she left the band and started a band with her family called Jackson which played the Southern circuit around Cork for a decade. Tara is now retired from music and still living in Cork.
Fran Troy: Coming soon. If you know more, please let us know.
Stuart Bingham: Coming soon. If you know more, please let us know.
Gerry Mulryan: Coming soon. If you know more, please let us know.
Jackie Kelly: Jackie is semi retired and now plays with a two piece band - Basil Kelly.
Eric Murray: We received an email from Eric's daughter, Erika in March 2017 telling us Eric became a photographer after leaving music, but sadly passed away on March 25th, 2015 at the age of 67. If you know more, please let us know.
Tony Adams-Rosa: Coming soon. If you know more, please let us know.
Dominic "Domo" Greene: Shortly after leaving the Sands, Domo became lead guitarist with the Memories, When the Message split from the Memories, Domo went with Daire Doyle and Mick Swan, but we are unsure what became of him after that. If you know more, please let us know.
Noel Sheridan: Coming soon. If you know more, please let us know.
Tommy Mangan: We know that in 2015 Tommy was the Director of the Ratoath School lf Music and we think still gigging regularly. If you know more, please let us know.
Jimmy Compton: After the Sands broke up, Jimmy went to London where he played in groups for a while. He returned to Ireland in 1978 to join The Swarbriggs and then Sheeba. In 1980 he headed out to Japan where he stayed for a few years before returning to Ireland.
Anthony "Anto" Long: After leaving the Sands, Anto teamed up with Rob Strong, Kelley and Las Vegas before heading off with a band he formed to tour Mexico. After a stint there, he returned to Ireland and got back with Kelley in her band Klass and then on to Laurie Hartz' Band. Finally, he joined the Miami which eventually left Ireland to tour Mexico as the Europa Show. After a year, the band split but Anto remained in Mexico where he has been for the past 20 years. In 2003 he "retired" from live performing, although he still plays occasionally, but works full time in the tourism industry in Mexico. 
Seamus Mahon: Now lives in Galway - Basil Kelly

 

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