Wednesday, January 04, 2006
The Irish showband era is gone but
not forgotten as the legends live on
Twelve months ago we told readers about an exciting new
website which explored the cult of the Irish showbands, now largely forgotten,
but so much a part of Ireland's music scene up to the 1970s.
The website, www.irish-showbands.com, is run by Gerry
Gallagher and his wife Kim Newport, themselves a part of the showband scene of
the late ’60s and early ’70s (the Kim Newport Band played all over Ireland).
Since our profile of the website, thousands of you have
been to visit it, but more importantly, a handful of you have added to it,
providing Gerry with more photographs, more stories, more band names and
line-ups and today the website is almost 50 per cent bigger than it was.
Gerry has added two new sections to the website. The first contains articles
written about showbands and the showband era in Irish newspapers. The Weekender
features here, as does its sister papers the Western People and Irish Examiner.
Some of the articles are actually from the era, others
reflect on it with a nostalgic air, recalling the big bands and venues of the
The other section is even more interesting. Over the years
Gerry has received large collections of photographs from individuals with an
interest in showbands.
Billy Swan, Joe Dodd, Dick Lynott, Shorty O'Kane, Liam
O'Reilly, Mike Niblett, Teddie Palmer, Kathleen Smith and Western People
Entertainment Editor David Dwane have all contributed collections ranging from
27 to 172 photographs.
Kathleen Smith's collection is probably the most
Kathleen met Big Tom when she was fifteen years old, and for
the next ten years, she remained a huge fan of the Castleblaney legend.
During that time, she collected every photo she could get
her hands on and has been kind enough to contribute them to our website so they
can be shared with the rest of the world.
"We need to say a very special
thanks to several members of our community that have made their collections of
band handouts and photos available for display," said Gerry.
"Although many of these images are also incorporated under
the appropriate heading in the main galleries, they are presented by
contributors for your enjoyment."
Gerry also extended another invitation to those who want
to join this elite group.
"If you have a collection that you would like to
donate, we require only that you have at least twenty images to qualify for your
own collection, and they must be representative of a variety of bands
also want to assure you that all photographs are now clearly identified with the
contributor's name clearly printed on the image itself.
"So, if you only have a couple of handouts, were will
clearly label them and join the rest of the website's visitors in thanking you
sincerely for helping make this a better archive and the most comprehensive
Another new part of the Irish showbands website is the
forum, where you can recall your own showband memories and dancehall days and
share in the memories of other contributors.
A quick glance through the forum
reveals some stories which will no doubt jog the memory of many.
"The first dances I ever went to were in the summer of
1971 in Pontoon Ballroom, a few miles from Foxford," one member recalled. "I
remember seeing Chips there and the Plattermen.
“I also remember that the
song Tom Tom Turnaround was a big hit at the time and a great number for the
A lot of Irish men and women who moved to the UK in the
’60s and ’70s recalled the dancehalls and showband scene in Ireland with great
“One of my fondest memories are of a regular Sunday night
dance in St Clare’s Hall, Glenavy,” said one Irish man, now living in the UK.
“We all had a surprise that night. Unknown to anyone The Dubliners made a
surprise appearance. ‘Seven Drunken Nights’ was high in the charts and there
they were singing it live in front of us. They only stayed for a couple of songs
and were on their way.
“I never did get another chance to see them live again.”
Another recalls: “Embassy Ballroom Castleblaney every
Sunday night where love stories began. Young famers lined the back wall in there
black wellies on a summer’s evening to catch the last few songs of the night.
Met my first love in the Embassy (not one of the famers I might add) - happy
As well as general nostalgia for that era, the
contributors also shared memories of their favourite bands and singers. “Two
bands really were my favourites, Nevada were the good news band, who always had
some great singers and who always enjoyed themselves both on and off the stage.
Tina, though, for me, was their best singer who always had time to chat to her
fans, everyone loved her!
“New Blues played country and pop, had two brillant young
singers in Keith Beattie and Carole Wallace plus some great musicians. They were
a very versatile band who had a loyal following. Keith had a hit with 'Spanish
Disco', while Carole had a hit with her debut single 'You Never Can Tell' in
1977. She had a great voice probably better suited to country rather than pop.
Offstage she was a very friendly lady.”
One contribution summed up the attraction for many people
of the website: “I found your site by accident and love it. Looking at the
pictures (handouts) was like looking at an old family album. I'm in some of them
and I saw so many old friends and faces that I hadn't seen in years and some I
had forgotten about. I'll be back to visit many times and will send some photos
I've got for inclusion on the site.”