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Tony Kenny

(Our sincere thanks to Paul Welch for helping us compile some of this information about Tony and The Sands and to Brian "Shorty" O'Kane from the Tony Kenny Band)

A trip to Tony Kenny's personal website (see bottom of this page) actually tells you little about the contribution this singer has made to the Irish entertainment scene over the past four decades.

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.

Tony's fortunes changed forever when he was asked to join a new band, The Sands,  being formed by four members of the Miami in 1967. The band was launched and took the country by storm, soon being hailed as one of the nation's top acts. Very much a "pop" singer back then, his first two singles (starting in 1967) were covers of Help Me Rhonda, and Yummy Yummy Yummy.

"I was, like, 16, and it was a dance band" says Tony.
In the early 70's Tony 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. After the release of Knock Three Times in September, 1972, Tony left the Sands to start a solo career, Murty Quinn took over lead vocals and the Sands continued to enjoy great success.

For a while, it was rumoured Tony would be starting a new band. In fact, in the October 12th issue of Spotlight, it was announced Tony would be taking the role of Jesus in the upcoming production of Jesus Christ Superstar in January, 1973. The same blurb mentioned that Tony was recruiting musicians for new band which would also hit the road in January. At the same time, he was still looking for material which might allow him to break into the English scene.   

In early 1973, Tony released Heart of Stone, a Coulter-Martin composition produced by Phil Coulter and Mickie Most, sung in a falsetto voice and released under the name "Kenny." The record was a huge success in England and he followed it up with a tour of Ireland which was announced in April. His solo tour kicked off in Ballyhaunis, Co. Mayo and he was backed by Tyrone band, The Sounds (we assume the same band which featured Derek Mehaffey).

In the show, Tony performed for an hour and then the Sounds played for the rest of the night. He followed up Heart with Give It To Me Now which also charted. Despite gaining international acclaim, Tony then abandoned the name Kenny and returned to Ireland. However, the records had been so successful that producer Mickie Most, took a local English band named Chuff and renamed them Kenny to capitalize on Tony's initial success.

A feature in the August 2, 1973 issue of Spotlight announced Tony was going back on the road with a new band, while Give It To Me Now was on release. The lineup of the band was listed as Bobby Kelly (guitar), Fran Byrne (drums), Kevin McAlea (keyboards) and John Drummond (bass). We think this band was short lived.   

Tony Kenny, Brendan Grace & Kim NewportBack in Ireland, Tony enjoyed his role in musical theatre after being selected, along with Colm Wilkinson, Jim McCann and Luke Kelly of the Dubliners, to star in "Jesus Christ Superstar." The show opened in Dublin's Gaiety Theatre with some protests as Heart of Stone climbed the English charts.

Said Tony, "at the time, Ireland was a very religious country, and 'Jesus Christ Superstar' had never been performed there. It immediately drew protesters, who presumed that it was disrespectful of Christ, and it wasn't. But the Vatican radio played the entire 'Jesus Christ Superstar' album and the protesters vanished the next day." Tony gave up the grind of the road to star in several musicals in Dublin, including Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. During this time, he also hosted his own TV series on RTE, Ireland's national television station.

In February 1975, Tony was voted Personality of the Year for 1974 by Spotlight Magazine. They cited his transition from the world of showband singers to stage performers as one of the main reasons for the honour. 

After the run of Joseph, Tony wanted to get back on the road and manager Louis Walsh drafted a Belfast-based pop/rock group, Dirtywork, to be Tony's backing band. Tommy Lundy, Ronan Callaghan, and Brian O'Kane The members relocated to Dublin and Tony was playing the ballrooms once again, but this time under his own steam. In 1979, he released Bluer Than Blue, a song which reflected the more easy going style he had adopted as a solo performer. Around this time, he also released Key Largo and Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song. For the next few years, Tony concentrated his efforts on the ballroom scene, but like all bands, he had to face the reality that by the early 1980's, the era was truly coming to an end.

In 1980, the band broke up with Tommy Lundy and Ronan O'Callaghan joining Aonghus McAnally and Stephen Travers in Crackers. Bobby Kelly went on to join up with late Dubliner Ronnie Drew. Barry Patterson would later rejoin Tommy and Ronan in The Crack.

As the 80's progressed, Tony mixed continual TV appearances with a growing involvement in the cabaret scene where many of the bigger names of the showband era could still pack them in. He joined the Jury's Irish Cabaret show as the show's headliner and began singing more Irish traditional numbers. 

Regular visits to the United States followed, and like many Irish artists, Tony began to make annual trips to the States, dividing his time between appearances in the two countries. For the past ten years, he has been thrilling audiences with his renditions of Irish classics, as well as songs of inspiration and standards. He tours the United States in the Spring and again in the Fall with his show.

On St. Patrick's Day, 1995 Tony was invited perform at the White House for then President Bill Clinton. The following year, he was honored by Jurys Hotel for his 2000th appearance in the Irish cabaret. In 1998, Tony was honored as Ireland's "Entertainer of The Year," a tribute to his enduring talent as one of Ireland's greatest performers. In 2001, he was invited to sing the National Anthem at a football game between the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins.

Today, Tony lives in Dublin with his wife, Joan, and their two children. He has continued to release recordings in a variety of genres, always making each song his own. A list below highlights just some of his recordings. When Tony received the Performing Artists Trust Society's award for lifetime achievement in the performing arts, it simply consolidated his place in the history of Irish Entertainment as one of the best loved stars from the Showband era. In early 2008, Tony was a part of the "Do You Come Here Often" showband show and later in the year starred in "Celtic Nights" a cabaret show at the Regency Hotel in Drumcondra, Co. Dublin alongside his daughter, Victoria.    

Vampires (JD) Sands (BK)

Sands (KS)

Tony Kenny - 1967 Tony Kenny - 1968
Tony Kenny - 1968 Tony Kenny - 1968 Tony Kenny - 1968 Tony Kenny - 1968 Tony Kenny - 1969
Tony Kenny - 1969 Tony Kenny - 1969 Tony Kenny - 1969 Murty Tony - 1969 Tony Kenny - 1970
Tony Kenny - 1970 Tony Kenny - 1970 Tony Kenny - 1971 Tony Kenny - 1971 Tony Kenny - 1971
Tony Kenny - 1971 Tony Kenny (KS) Tony as Jesus - 1973 Tony in Joseph - 1974 Tony Kenny (LR)
Tony in 1974 (DL) Tony Kenny - 1974 (LR) Tony Kenny Band - 1979 (BK) Tony Kenny Band (BK) Tony Kenny Live - 1979 (BK)
     
Tony Kenny Band (BK) Tony in 2008   Coming Soon Coming Soon
         
Coming Soon Coming Soon Coming Soon Coming Soon Coming Soon
         
Coming Soon Coming Soon Coming Soon 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) Mar. 22, 1973 (V6/#39) May 3, 1973 (V6/#45)

Lineup Changes More to come
 

Years Vocals Guitar Bass Drums Sax/Keyboards Trumpet Trombone/Gtr
SANDS
1967-
1972
Tony
Kenny
Bobby
Kelly
Denis
Murray
Fran
Byrne
Martin
Phelan
Tommy
O'Rourke
Murty
Quinn
TONY KENNY BAND
1978 Tony
Kenny
Bobby
Kelly
Shorty
O'Kane
Niall
Power
Ronan
O'Callaghan
  Tommy
Lundy
1979 Tony
Kenny
Bobby
Kelly
Shorty
O'Kane
Barry
Patterson
Ronan
O'Callaghan
  Tommy
Lundy

Record Releases (partial list):

Tony Kenny & The Sands: (singles)

Help Me Rhonda / Some Enchanted Evening - #9 Irish Charts
Tribune or Major Minor - MM 555 - January, 1968
Yummy Yummy Yummy / Peanuts
- #7 Irish Charts
Tribune or Major Minor - MM 573 - June, 1968
Dance Dance Dance/The Cheater
- #4 Irish Charts
Tribune Records - TRS.122 - November, 1968
Bubblegum Music / Sherry
- #6 Irish Charts
Tribune Records - TRS 129 - June, 1969
Venus / Cara Mia
Major Minor - MM.681 - 1970
Walkin' In The Sun / Marlena
- #20 Irish Charts
Release Records - RL.540 - August, 1970
Candida/Love Me Tender
- #6 Irish Charts
Release Records - RL.553 - December, 1970
Knock Three Times / See You In September
- #5 Irish Charts
Hit Records - HIT 1 - March, 1971
Lend A Helpin Hand (Murty Quinn) / The Sound Is Music (Tony)
- #7 Irish Charts
RCA Records - RCA 2136 - October, 1971
She Is Me (Tony) / Salvation Sally (Murty Quinn)
RCA Records - RCA 2210 - 1972

Solo Singles:

Heart of Stone (as Kenny) - #11 English Charts -  #4 Irish Charts
Ram and Rak Records - RAK 144 - February, 1973
Give It To Me Now (as Kenny)
- #38 English Charts
Rack Records - RAK  - June, 1973
Yesterday When I Was Young
- #12 Irish Charts
Ram Records - November, 1974
Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song
- #10 Irish Charts
Ram Records - RMS 1014 - April, 1975
I'll Have To Say I Love You In A Song
- #16 Irish Charts
Ram Records - November, 1975
On and On*
Ram Records - 1978
Bluer Than Blue / Hubba Hubba
Ram Records - RMS 1029 - April, 1979
This Night Won't Last Forever*
Spider Records - 1979
Key Largo
Spider Records? - Unknown
I Go To Rio*
Spider Records - 1979
Sunshine Lover*
Spider Records - 1980
Rock and Roll You're Beautiful
- #21 Irish Charts
Lunar Records - January, 1983
Always On My Mind / Danny Boy
- #24 Irish Charts
Loon Records - LOON 32 - June, 1985
The Wedding Song / Summer In Dublin / Wind Beneath My Wings
- #5 Irish Charts
Loon Records - July, 1989
Any Dream Will Do / Pretty Paper
Loon Records - LOON 35 - August, 1989

Sands Albums:

Time With The Sands
Major Minor Records
Sand Doin's
Tribune Records

*Our thanks to Brian O'Kane for info on several of Tony's records.

 

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