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Top League Story (1972-1975)

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

The Story

The Top League owed its existence to the origins of the Monarchs showband which started innocently enough when Jim Connolly, Frank Hogan and Brian Meehan started playing local dances as the Monarchs Trio. Several of the members were also part of the Bob Madden Band, one of Limerick's most popular bands in the mid to late 1950's. We are unsure whether they left to form the Monarch Trio and then expanded into a showband, or had played as a trio before joining with the Madden Band.

One way or another, the band made its debut in May, 1960 in Abbeyfeale. We think the original lineup included: Jim Connolly (founder-keyboards and trumpet), Frank Hogan (drums), Brian Meehan (sax), along with Raymond Heraty (vocals), In 1960, the band added Dermot Heraty on bass and Terry Malone on trumpet. In 1961, Terry would be replaced by Joe Louis who proved popular with the fans, but left the band in late 1962 and was replaced by Brendan Moynihan, who would stay with the band until around 1969. 

In mid 1963, the band declared itself Limerick's first "professional" showband. In the early showband days, most bands were part timers, working day jobs and playing music more as a hobby than a profession. However, the band's biggest change would come as the year came to a close. Tommy Drennan, a boy singing sensation who had impressed audiences with his singing talent as a child winning numerous awards for vocal performances had decided to turn professional in early 1963 and joined the Freshmen, one of Ireland's best known showbands. However, by the end of the year, he had grown homesick and returned to Limerick where he joined the Monarchs and became the final piece to the puzzle that would catapult the band to national stardom.

The band released its first single, Boolavogue, in late 1964 and the record reached number 4 in the Irish charts, firmly establishing the Monarchs on the dance scene and Tommy Drennan as one of the era's foremost stars. The record's climb also provided the first TV exposure for the band as Tommy was featured on RTE's (then TE's) show "Pickin The Pops." In 1969, the band lineup included: Bryan Meehan (keyboards/sax), Dermot Heraty (bass), Frank Hogan (drums), John Frawley (vocals), Dave McCormack (trumpet), Tommy Drennan (vocals) and Ray Fitzgerald (guitar).

In August 1970, young vocalist/songwriter Denis Allen joined the band, replacing Ray Fitzgerald on guitar who left to study music in Germany. At the same time, Frankie Coughlan replaced Dermot Heraty on bass. Dermot left the band to take an executive post with a national company.  

In March, 1972, after 10 years together, the Monarchs split up with Tommy Drennan and Sean O'Dowd (formerly with the Donie Collins Band) forming a new band, The Top League. Managed by Anna McGoldrick's husband, Michael Nolan, the new band made their debut in Easter Sunday, 1972. The band included girl singer, Marianne (last name unknown) and released it's first record, When My Summer Sunshine Is Gone the same month.  The record did not make the charts, which was somewhat unusual as Tommy had several chart hits previously in his career with the Monarchs. By the way, we are not sure of Denis Allen did at this point as he was not part of the new band's lineup, although he wrote Summer Sunshine for the band.  

Launched with a big splash, at this point in time we don't know much about the history of the Top League other than it was relatively short. The band started out as an eight piece, but within 7 months (November, 72) a photo of the band appeared in Spotlight (see below) with only six members and Marianne was no longer with the band.

A couple of weeks later, a blurb in the Insight column of Spotlight reported that "when Mick Nolan rang Tommy Drennan to congratulate him on his Promise and the Dream reaching number one, he was told he was no longer Top League's manager." It would be safe to assume that at this point management of the band changed to Limerick's Paddy O'Connell, who would also later manage Candi and Dynamite, Ding-A-Ling, and the Kim Newport Band.

The success of this second offering, Promise and the Dream (written by Tom T. Hall) helped re-establish the success of the band on the ballroom circuit.   

Sometime in early 1973, Dennis Allen, former band mate in the Monarchs, rejoined Tommy and Shaun in Top League. It would appear this lineup stayed in place until 1975.  

In August, 1975 in a shock announcement, Tommy Drennan left the Top League for a career in cabaret, although he would later form his own Tommy Drennan Band. It was announced in Spotlight that Shaun O'Dowd would be taking over and the band would be changing its name. The band would become Dingaling. 

For the short time Top League was together they really carried on the musical direction of the Monarchs, something which occurred quite often on the showband scene as lineups came and went, only to be reunited in a different band, or under a different name. They were able to boast three members who would eventually front competing bands in the late 70's and early 80's. After authoring his massive hit, Limerick, You're A Lady, in 1979, Denis formed his own band.    

More to come....

Photo Gallery

click on thumbnails for full image

Top League - (JB) Top League - 1974 (LR) Top League - 1973 Top League - 1974 (RF) Top League - 1972 (RF)
Top League - 1973 Top League - 1972 Top League - 1972 Top League - 1973 Top League - 1972

   

Top League - 1972

Top League - 1974 Top League (RF)

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Years Vocals Vocals Vocals Drums Guitar Bass Trumpet Brass?
March
1972
Tommy
Drennan
Shaun
O'Dowd
Marianne
Unknown
Unknown Unknown Unknown Noel
O'Toole
Unknown
Nov
1972
               
                 
                 

Discography

Singles:

When My Summer Sunshine Is Gone / Try A Little Kindness 
Play Records - PLAY 017 - March, 1972
The Promise and the Dream / Beggar To A King -
 #3 Irish Charts
Columbia Records - IDB.818 - September, 1972
Lead Us Through / Doreen
Columbia Records - IDB.826 - February, 1973
Love and the Country
- #8 Irish Charts
EMI Records - Unknown - September, 1973
Beautiful Peace / December Song
- #2 Irish Charts
EMI Records - EMD.4011 - December, 1973
Silver Moon (Shaun O'Dowd) / Smile Little Lady
EMI Records - EMD.4014 - June, 1974
Harvest Moon / Sunny Side of My Life
EMI Records - IEMI.5017 - April, 1975
All Our Loves Are Gone
EMI Records - Unknown - November, 1975

Albums:

Love and the Country
EMI-Leaf Records - LEAF 7003 - 1974

Audio Clips

Coming Soon

Where Are They Now?  

  Jim Connolly (b. May, 1937):
  Frank Hogan (b. 1937):
  Brian Meehan (b. 1943):
  Terry Malone:
  Joe Louis:
  Dermot Heraty (b. August, 1935):
  Raymond Heraty:
  Brendan Moynihan (b. 1944):
  John Frawley (b. 1938):
  Tommy Drennan (b. Aug 14, 1942):
  Ray Fitzgerald:
  Dave McCormack:
  Denis Allen:
  Frankie Coughlan:

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