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Skyrockets Photo Gallery (1957 - 1968?)

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

The Story

The story of the Skyrockets is one of the oldest on the showband scene. They were formed in Enniskillen in 1958 and were part of the scene with the Clipper Carlton and Dave Glover Showband. The band was put together by Cecil Kettyles.

Cecil had his own orchestra in the early 50's which became the Skyrockets. The band's early successes included tours of Britain and Ireland with Bridie Gallagher, one of the earliest female vocal stars in Ireland. In a 1968 interview in Spotlight, founder Cecil suggested the band, "were probably the first Irish showband in Britain." They also have laid claim to being the first Irish showband to play Albert Hall. 

Shortly after forming, the lineup expanded to become a fully fledged showband and included: Cecil Kettyles (keyboards), Henry McCullough (guitar), Frank Fox (bass), Brian McGandy (sax), Dermot Doherty (trombone), Peter Watson (Drums), Leo McGandy (trumpet) and Paddy McDermott (sax). Henry, of course, is one of the era's most famous musicians (like fellow showband members Rory Gallagher and Van Morrison) and Henry went on to play with Joe Cocker's Grease Band and Paul McCartney's Wings. 

The band was very popular around the North and was managed by sax player Brian in the early days. In 1964, they experienced a major upheaval when 4 of their members left to start a new band, The Gents. The departing members were Paddy McDermott (sax), Dermot Doherty (trombone), Peter Watson (drums) and Henry McCullough (lead guitar). They would be joined by Tony Gallagher (rhythm guitar), Barry Scully (bass guitar) and Dushie Chetty from South Africa who tool the name Gene for the stage.

Meanwhile, the Skyrockets had to replace half their band and added new members: Ivan Mc Bride (sax), Gary McGowan (drums), Des McKeown (guitar/vocals), and Adrian "Dick" Barton (guitar). At Easter in 1964, Brian felt the stress of performing with the band and managing were becoming too much and their management was handed over to Johnny Hynes. The move proved to be significant as they were soon traveling far beyond their normal circuit to Cork to Portrush and Dublin to Achill. A report in a local paper also reported they had purchased  "a luxury coach which set them back £2,800." 

In 1965, we think Leo McGandy (one half of the very popular McGandy Twins), left the band, and was replaced by Brendan O"Brien who sang and played rhythm guitar. The following year, major changes were in order as Des McKeown and drummer Gary McGowan departed. We can't be sure if they all left at the same time, but we do know that by April, 1966 there was a new lineup in place. They added a female vocalist, who went by the stage name Penny Trent, when she was with Dublin showband The Millionaires.  When she joined the Skyrockets, she changed her name to Penny Starr. At that point the Cookstown, Co. Tyrone girl, whose real name was Bridget McAnerney, was nineteen and had been singing professional for four years. Immediately, the band released a single, Noreen Bawn along with a song written by Dave Glover's guitarist Jim Gunner called After the Dance. Although it did not sell well, it helped further establish the band south of the border.  

For most of their early days, the band toiled away, building a strong following, but almost exclusively in the North. In a Spotlight "Band of the Week" feature from June, 15, 1968, Cecil told how they tried twice to sign singer Pat McGeegan, first just before Pat went to the United States with his band The Big Four, and then when he returned, but at that point he signed with the Victors. Finally, in late 1966, the band was successful in getting Pat to join and the rest is history. Although we can not find exact dates, we also know that Penny left the band around this time.

Pat was originally a member of the Dave Dixon Group before forming the Big Four and then moving on to the Victors for a short while. Pat was Ireland's entry in Eurovision in 1968 singing Chance Of A Lifetime and after the contest, the Skyrockets took full advantage of Pat's new found fame. The record reached number one in the Irish charts (the band's only chart success) and they went from playing mostly Northern gigs to playing six nights a week across the entire country. They released several singles during Pat's time with the band, although in those days usually (but not always) singles were credited to the lead singer vs. the band as record companies preferred to have contracts with singers, rather than bands.  

By 1968, only Cecil and Brian McGandy (one of the famous McGandy twins) were the only members of the original 1958 lineup. In 1968, the lineup was Cecil (keyboards), and Brian (sax), Ivan McBride (sax), Adrian "Dick" Barton (guitar), Brendan O'Brien (guitar), and Gerry Connelly (from Thurles who joined the band in April, 1968). 

In 1968, Cecil was involved in a major car accident and was in hospital for a long time, including eight weeks in the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast, as well as a lengthy stay in the local Erne Hospital. Although we are not certain, we think this might be when the band went off the road. If you know any more about this, please let us know.

More to come.....

Photo Gallery

click on thumbnails for full image

Skyrockets (BS) Skyrockets (LR) McGandy Twins (BS) Des McKeown (BS) Skyrockets - 1967 (RF)
Skyrockets (RF) Skyrockets (RF) Skyrockets (RF) Skyrockets - 1965 (RF) Skyrockets - 1965 (RF)
Skyrockets (RF) Skyrockets (RF) Skyrockets (RF) Skyrockets (RF) Skyrockets (RF)
Skyrockets (RF) Skyrockets (RF)

Skyrockets - 1966

Skyrockets - 1967 (IM)

Skyrockets - 1968 (IM)

 
Skyrockets (PL) Skyrockets (PL) Skyrockets (PL) Skyrockets (PL)

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Years Vocals Guitar Bass Drums Keyboards Sax Trumpet/Gtr Trombone Sax
1957   Henry
McCullough
Frank
Fox
Peter
Watson
Cecil
Kettyles
Brian
McGandy
Leo
McGandy
Dermot
Doherty
Paddy
McDermott
1964 Des
McKeown
Adrian
Barton
Frank
Fox
Gary
McGowan
Cecil
Kettyles
Brian
McGandy
Leo
McGandy
  Ivan
McBride
1965 Des
McKeown
Adrian
Barton
Frank
Fox
Gary
McGowan
Cecil
Kettyles
Brian
McGandy
    Ivan
McBride
1965 Des
McKeown
Adrian
Barton
Frank
Fox
Gary
McGowan
Cecil
Kettyles
Brian
McGandy
Brendan
O'Brien (Gtr)
  Ivan
McBride
1966 Penny
Starr
Adrian
Barton
Neil
Franks
Alfie
Merrigan
Cecil
Kettyles
Brian
McGandy
Brendan
O'Brien (Gtr)
  Ivan
McBride
1966 Pat
McGeegan
Adrian
Barton
  Alfie
Merrigan
Cecil
Kettyles
Brian
McGandy
Brendan
O'Brien (Gtr)
  Ivan
McBride
1968 Pat
McGeegan
Adrian
Barton
  Gerry
Connally
Cecil
Kettyles
Brian
McGandy
Brendan
O'Brien (Gtr)
  Ivan
McBride

Discography

Singles:
Noreen Bawn / After the Dance (featuring Penny)
Emerald Records - MD 1035 - 1966
Red Rose / Looking Back (featuring Pat McGeegan)
Emerald Records - MD 1061 - December, 1966
Chance of a Lifetime / Don't Laugh At Me (featuring Pat McGeegan) - #1 Irish Charts (Ireland's 1968 Eurovision entry)
Emerald Records - MD 1096 - April, 1968
Mr. Lonely One / The Last Word in Lonesome is Me (featuring Pat McGeegan)
Emerald Records - MD 1112 - December, 1968
Calling Your Name / Adios Amigos (featuring Pat McGeegan)
Emerald Records - MD 1124 - May, 1969
 

Audio Clips

Coming Soon

Where Are They Now?  

Cecil Kettyles - RIP: In 1968, Cecil was involved in a car accident and was in hospital for quite a while. A year later he was back on tour with Bridie Gallagher and in the following years he formed the Cecil Kay Sound playing venues throughout Ireland, but especially around Bundoran, Co. Donegal. Throughout the 80's he continued to play and in the 90's he focused on playing local venues. Always willing to play for charity, Cecil was a well known and beloved member of his local community. Sadly, Cecil passed away on the 20th of June, 2000 at the age of 73. His wife of 43 years, June, sadly passed away on May 11, 2011. 

 

Des McKeown - RIP: Alec McKeown emailed us recently and told us that Des passed away in 1985 at the young
age of 45. If you know more, please let us know
Brian McGandy - RIP: Brian sadly passed away.If you know more, please let us know
Leo McGandy - RIP: An email in mid 2015 from Niall McGandy informed us that Leo sadly passed away in October,
2014. If you know more, please let us know.
Pat McGeegan - RIP: After leaving the Victors, Pat went to the Skyrockets of Enniskillen and represented Ireland
In the Eurovision song contest in 1968 with Chance of A Lifetime. He reformed his cabaret group, The Big Four. Pat (real name McGuigan) sadly passed away on June 27, 1987.
Alfie Merrigan:  In an interesting twist of fate, Penny Starr (Bridget McAnerney) came to the Skyrockets from the Millionaires and drummer Alfie went to the Millionaires after leaving the Skyrockets. In 1971 he went on to replace Bernie Fallon (RIP) as the drummer with The Smokey Mountain Ramblers and stayed with them for 3-4 years. We do not know what he did after that. If you know more, please let us know.
Adrian "Dick" Barton:  Unknown, if you know more, please let us know.
Gerry Connally:  Unknown, if you know more, please let us know.
Ivan McBride - RIP: After leaving the Skyrockets, Ivan immigrated to Tasmmania where he lived for twenty five years until his death on November 11, 2012. He continued to play music and came back to Ireland on a regular basis, never missing a chance to gig around Enniskillen. He continued to play until he became unwell in 2010. Our thanks to Alec McKeown for the photo and info about Ivan. He is survived by his wife Elizabeth and their two children John and Ciara to which we extend our sincere sympathies.   
Henry McCullough: Of course, as mentioned above, Henry left the band to join Joe Cocker's Grease Band and we think he may be the only ex-showband member to have played at the legendary Woodstock festival. He then joined up with Paul McCartney in Wings for a period and is credited with the moving guitar solo on My Love. In the early 80s, an accident almost cost Henry his livelihood, severing tendons in his playing hand. The road to recovery was almost complete when Henry started sitting in with the Fleadh Cowboys for their now legendary Sunday afternoon residency in The Lower Deck in Dublin. He then formed his own band and toured Ireland in 1988. In the 90ís he moved back to Portstewart and formed a new band. As far as we know since 2014, Henry stopped touring for health reasons. 
Brendan O'Brien - RIP: Alec McKeown emailed us to say Brendan sadly passed away in 2000. If you know more, please let us know
Penny Starr:  Unknown, if you know more, please let us know.

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