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Showband era recalled in Waterford exhibition
From June 6th through August 20, 2006

From Waterford Museum's Rosemary Ryan and our own special correspondent....

Visitors and locals alike are being given a trip down memory lane in Waterford this summer with an exhibition running in Waterford Museum of Treasures at the Granary from June 6th through August 20 that charts the phenomenon that was the showbands era in the 1950s, 60s and 70s. The exhibit was opened on Tuesday, June 6th, by National Museum of Ireland Director, Dr Pat Wallace and showband star Brendan Bowyer and is called Hucklebuck Time - A Celebration Of The Generation That Danced Their Way Into History. The exhibit concentrates on the special contribution made by Waterford bands to the showbands scene.

The exhibition features hundreds of contemporary photographs of the showband stars on stage and many pieces of memorabilia including a Royal Showband jacket from the 1960s and the saxophone used by the leader of the Royal Showband, Michael Coppinger, in the now famous 1965 recording of their smash hit ‘The Hucklebuck’.

Speaking at the exhibition opening which featured performances by the de Braam School of Dance & Theatre Arts, Dr Wallace said, “Brendan Bowyer first captured the public imagination in the early 1960s when he was the lead singer with the Royal Showband who helped put Waterford on the map as a dancehall heaven. Brendan’s recordings with ‘The Royal’ as they were fondly known yielded an unprecedented seven number one hits. Indeed, in 1962 the Waterford band were supported on one of their British tour dates by an up-and-coming Liverpool band called The Beatles.

“Perhaps best remembered for the hit record, The Hucklebuck which charted in 1965, the Royal Showband were also the first Irish pop act to make it in the entertainment mecca that is Las Vegas and it was there during the 1970s that Brendan caught the eye of Elvis Presley who made a dream come true for the Waterford man by attending one of the Royal’s shows.

“Given the massive contribution made at the time by Brendan and many of his Waterford contemporaries, it is entirely fitting that Waterford Museum of Treasures should mount this exciting exhibition of social and music history. It is particularly satisfying because it comes in time to still be enjoyed by many of those with first-hand memories of the showband era.”

For his part, Brendan Bowyer said he was “delighted” to be back in his native city for the opening of an exhibition which he said was a trip down memory lane for those who played in showbands as well as those who crammed in to dancehalls to see them. “I’ve had a great life in showbusiness but I’m always delighted to get home to Waterford and it’s especially exciting to be here for the opening of this exhibition which takes us all back through the decades to a very different time and place.

“Waterford was a great place to be during the showband era and there was an awful lot happening here with different bands making their name on the national and indeed international stage. The city and county are enjoying a renaissance at the moment and I’ve been delighted to come back over the last 12 months or so to play during the Tall Ships’ Races in Waterford last July and at this year’s Feile na nDeise in Dungarvan. Waterford has a great future but we can, I think, be forgiven the trip down memory lane that this great exhibition gives us.”

According to curator Eamonn McEneaney, “the exhibition chronicles the amazing roller coaster ride from the big band orchestras of the 1950s to the dynamic showbands that dominated the Irish dancehalls of the 60s and achieved success not just at home but also in Britain and the United States. Waterford showbands held a particular place in this story with nationally acclaimed bands such as The Blue Aces, The Savoy, The Derek Joys and of course the Royal Showband, the superstars of the time and a household name throughout the country.

“The showband craze also saw a whole new architectural feature develop on the Irish rural landscape in the famous Ballrooms of Romance sometimes known as the Breeze Block Basilicas! By the end of the 60s there were some 400 of these dancehalls up and down the country. In an era blighted by mass emigration the showbands brought a touch of glamour and their success was one of the great catalysts for change in modern Ireland.”

Photo Gallery (click on photo for full size image)

Photos contributed by Rosemary Ryan of the Museum and taken by Joe Evans and Eoin Murphy



  • ‘Hucklebuck Time - a Celebration of the Generation That Danced Their Way into History’ continues at Waterford Museum of Treasures until August 20 and is open from 9.30am-6pm, Monday-Saturday and 11am-6pm, Sundays.





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