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A History of the "Showbands" 1950-1990

An Introduction:

This website is an historical archive about the showband era in Ireland. As a word of introduction it is important to note that the word "historical" when  applied to this subject is a conundrum. Why, you may ask? The reason is quite simple: very little factual information about the era exists today. Most of the articles written during the era were usually part of public relations campaigns which often oversold the band and their music, often reporting on tours and albums that never actually happened. Additionally, many of the current sources of info on the topic (books and articles from former fans or musicians) are written from a more subjective perspective and blurred through the passage of time (and occasionally alcohol). Throughout this site, we have tried to thoroughly research and validate facts, only to have them disputed by other sources or sometimes the artists themselves. Because of this, we have tried to limit ourselves to newspaper articles which help us set names and dates for certain events. Added to this is the fact that in the 1950's and 60's communications in Ireland were poor and often claims were made by musicians and managers about their band or music which was being duplicated a hundred miles away in a different town or country, hence many bands with the same name existed. especially in the early days. We have done our best to remain factual and avoid terms like "best, biggest, youngest, brightest, etc."         

In The Beginning:

As most people already know, Ireland has a rich and ancient musical heritage. In fact, Irish traditional music forms the basis for other folk music styles around the world. Yet, Ireland has also had many successes in other forms of music, including rock and more recently pop. However, prior to the 1950's, Ireland had produced little original music outside of folk, traditional and Ceili.

Irish "popular" music was non-existent and purists have argued that creativity in Irish music, if not dead in the 50's and 60's, was definitely in a coma. However, I take issue with this view of Irish music history, as I think the Irish Showbands played an integral role in forming the foundation on which the success of the Irish artists that followed was built. For this reason, the Irish Showband will forever hold a special place in the annals of Ireland's musical landscape.

The chart above attempts to map the musical influences that came together between 1950 and 1990 to shape the course of Ireland's musical history.

In the early 1950's and before, the scene was dominated by Ceili bands, orchestras and ballad singers. This view leaves out the rich history of the Irish tenors and assumes that the Ceili influence includes the traditional Irish musicians from the earlier part of the 20th century.

Although a direct descendant of the orchestra, the "showband" also took influences from ballads and Ceili music in their attempt to be provide an all encompassing repertoire.

The early part of the sixties saw the folk scene and the showbands running in parallel and they were soon joined by the Beat Group scene which spread from the UK to Belfast, Dublin and eventually most of the major towns across Ireland. These different genres rarely crossed paths, although many musicians seems to move effortlessly from one to another. As the sixties came to a close, the Irish music scene was in disarray, mainly due to the falling off of the showbands and the ballrooms.

Searching for new sounds, Irish music made many of the changes that have remained to this day. As the folk and traditional influences came together in the form of bands like Planxty, a "new traditional" music was born which has set the pace for all that followed. Likewise, the showband split into the country and pop scenes, providing the impetus for a host of original bands that have resulted into today's healthy pop scene featuring bands like the Corrs and Boyzone. And finally, the Beat Groups matured to form the vibrant rock scene in Ireland that gave rise to bands like Thin Lizzy, Stiff Little Fingers, and ultimately U2.

Click here to read the history....

Click on one of the genres below to learn more. 




2002-2017 GMS Productions

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