The Stage 2 Story

by Alan Carr

Stage Two evolved from The Dixie's split in 1972. The band was based out of two cities, Cork: Joe McCarthy (drums) & Brendan O'Brien (vocals) and Dublin: Alan Cranny (lead guitar/vocals), Ernie Durcan (bass/vocals), Paul Duffy (keyboards/vocals), Dermot Ryan (vocals/tenor/baritone sax and flute), Danny Ellis (trombone/vocals), Mike Nolan (trumpet). That lineup however did not last more than a few months (musical differences and all that).

The following lineup (with a few slight changes) was the one that lasted for the duration of the band.  Joe McCarthy & Brendan O'Brien of course and from Dublin: myself, Alan Carr (vocals/piano/guitar and trumpet), Dermot Ryan (vocals/saxes and flute), Des Hickey (vocals/lead guitar), Mike Shortt (vocals/bass) and Mick Dunne (vocals/keyboards).

We traveled in two twin wheeled Ford Transits, one for the gear and the roadies and the other (a mini-bus) for the band members ("the heads" as we were called). The personnel driver's name was Eamon Travis. 


The original manager was none other than Robin Power from Cork (yes, the multi millionaire); he was involved for about a year. Robin was asked why he got involved in the showbands as he was a dentist in Cork at the time. He used to run the "Dinosaur" dances at the Arcadia Ballroom on Wednesday nights in the late 60's through the early 70's, thus the connection with the bands. He said he always wanted to taste the "showband life", so he got together with Joe Mac and Brendan O'Brien and so the second stage (Stage 2) of Joe's and Brendan’s careers began.

The head road manager at the time was Ronnie McGinnis (Cork); Ronnie looked after the gear setup, sound and lighting with his trusty helper, Mickey from Drogheda. He also had a keen interest in the business side of things, so when Robin moved on, Ronnie stepped up to the plate and did a fine job. 

The Music:

Originally Stage 2 tried to lean towards Chicago, Blood Sweat and Tears (in the genre), but found of course that it was not the best dance music for the ballrooms at the time, so the band switched the Top 40's (the rock "n" roll of the day), this got the punters back. The band played to packed houses for many years after that and became a very successful lineup on the circuit.


Brendan of course had a string of hits in the late 60's with The Dixies. Stage 2 recorded and released a song called "Beautiful Sunday" which went to the top to the charts. The band had lots of air time on the radio and we did a couple of TV stints until Joe Mac said a "no no" word on a live TV broadcast, thus, we were banned from the live airways (oh well, that's our Joe and we love him). 

"Sky Diver" was released next, which would have done a lot better except for the fact that Brendan O'Brien was electrocuted on stage at a charity gig in the Stardust ballroom in Cork, which knocked him out of commission for many years. This was a very unfortunate accident and affects Brendan’s lifestyle to this day.

Following Brendan’s accident, I was asked to step out front as lead vocalist and the band never missed a beat. We released “You’ve Grown Up” (written by Mr. Lucy of the T.V. Club fame) with me on vocals, which had moderate success.  Mick Dunne left for Toronto and was replaced by Ray Clifford on keyboards. 


The band toured throughout Ireland and England. The crowds were great for the band and they played to thousands each night. The band slogan was "All the Worlds a Stage 2"--it looked good on bumper/window stickers!

A funny incident from the road

 Well, for those of us who remember when "The Streak" was all the rage, we pulled a prank on Joe Mac one night at the end of a gig. The song” The Streak" had become part of Joe's comedy routine at the time, so for some reason at the end of the night when we were signing autographs at the edge of the stage Joe (now and then) would streak across the back of the stage, he would do this only where there was a stage door/exit on both sides of the stage, so he could run from one to the other.

On about the fourth time he did it we were ready with "the plan".  We carried on as usual and waited until we were sure he was going to Streak and when we saw him just about to make his move we went into action. He took off in full flight but I had reached his exit on the other side of the stage before him, closed and held it firmly, he made a bee line for the door where he started from but alas it too was closed an held firm by Dermot Ryan and Mick Dune. At this point he had attracted a lot more attention then he had wanted and about 200 people or more were now enjoying the new live act.  We of course held fast through the tears of laughter leaving Joe to his fate. He unscrewed a cymbal from his drum kit and used it as a cover and went into his usual comedic self and tried to laugh it off. We left him there for a good two or three minutes which to him was an eternity. Needless to say that was the end on Joe's streaking days.

The End of an Era:

Yes it came and we have talked about it before, the days of "Send Them Home Sweatin'" were on the decline.  What with hotels and pubs getting their closing time extended and their licenses changed to "cabaret" it became increasingly more difficult to fill the huge ballrooms and maintain the larger six plus piece showbands. There are many other factors to this but I guess it comes down to change, so, I left for Canada in 1976. The band continued into the early 80's, but soon all went their separate ways, but oh!!! What a time we had and have never forgotten.

Where did the members of the band go?

 Joe Mac is still playing around Cork, Brendan O’Brien (who I was just talking with on the phone) is still singing here and there and still living in Cork, his daughter is now singing full time. Mick Dune is still playing full time and living in Toronto (I talk to him often). Dermot Ryan still plays around Dublin and also owns a school bus company (I talk to him a couple of times a year. Mike short is living in Bray. Co. Wicklow and owns a grocery store I am told. Des Hickey is also playing in and around Dublin. Yours truly (Alan Carr) is still singing full time on the North American casino circuit using the stage name Alan James.

I remain to this day thankful that I had the opportunity to have lived and be part of the showband era, it educated me well and remains the backbone of my success as a professional entertainer to this day. I have been playing music full time now for over thirty-five years and I still love it, it’s in my blood I guess.

Thank you to all "The Heads" and everyone I have met along the way, it has been and still is a wonderful way to live my life, and I would do it all over again in an Irish Heartbeat. 

“Oh! What A Ride”

Alan James Carr

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