CONTINUING THE FORTNIGHTLY SERIES OF ARTICLES BY JOHN BAIRD ,LOOKING
BACK AT THE SHOWBAND ERA AN IN PARTICULAR BANDS THAT PLAYED LOCAL
VENUES, AND DONEGAL BASED SHOWBANDS IN PARTICULAR. IN THIS ISSUE WE LOOK
AT A VERY POPULAR DUBLIN BASED SHOWBAND THAT PLAYED IN THE FIESTA ON MANY
OCCASIONS, THE PACIFIC SHOWBAND.
One thing that cannot be said about the Showbands was that they lacked image! The way they presented themselves on stage, their dress, dancing programme etc were rehearsed and researched to the full. They also had this great ability to bring together 7 or 8 musicians of different musical abilities, and with an astute Manager at the helm, transform them into an effective Ballroom Dancing attraction. This can certainly apply to Dublin,s Pacific Showband, a band that provided dancers in the Letterkenny area with many enjoyable nights of entertainment.
How did the Pacific Showband come to be! Well known vocalist and sax player with the band , Sonny Knowles takes up the story. “ There was a band in Dublin called the Royal Olympics, playing semi-pro., and when like many other outfits they decided to go “on the road “ as full time professional musicians, some of the lads didn’t want to risk it as they had “ the day job”, so vocalist Sean Fagan, Guitarist Jimmy Dumpleton, and myself joined forces with Shay Curran (Keyboards/Trombone), Freddie Martin(Trumpet), Marty Fanning (Drums) and Harry Parker (Bass Guitar) and the Pacific Showband became a reality,
Back Row L-R , Sonny Knowles, Marty Fanning, Shay Curran, Freddie Martin R.I.P.
Front, L-R. Jimmy Dumpleton, Sean Fagan and Harry Parker.
All through the 1960,s this excellent Showband
entertained crowds the length and breadth of Ireland , the UK and the States
. Easily recognisable in their red blazers, white slacks, and red and white
striped ties, the Pacific featuring Sean and Sonny , between 1964 and 1966
turned out Irish chart hits including “She wears my Ring” and “ Distant
Drums” from Sean , and “No one will ever Know” by Sonny. Sonny and Sean
also recorded a duet entitled “I only came to dance with You” “ We were
a good musical band doing a varied programme , Sean and I handled the big
ballads , Harry Parker the Rock numbers and Marty the drummer did the Country
stuff” Sonny recalls. Managed by Mick Quinn, they played the Fiesta many
times for the late Leo Keeney and his brothers, and were always booked
to play at the Board of Works annual Dance. When playing Letterkenny they
always stayed in Gallaghers Hotel and usually played Strabane or Lifford
the following night , thus keeping travel to a minimum between “gigs”.
On a personal note, I,ve danced to the Pacific regularly and as I,ve stressed many times , both the Pacific and the Cadets were two band that played a varied dancing programme to suit all tastes in music. The Pacific were a fine musical outfit and most of the musicians had their musical foundations laid in bands like Jack Butler, Earl Gill and the Arm School of Music etc. They were never out of New Spotlight Magazine,s Top Ten Showbands Poll, and featured many times on RTE ,S Showband Show, and also were pictured on the cover of Britian,s New Musical Express Magazine which the jointly shared with the Capitol Showband in 1964. As the Showband Scene began it,s decline in the late 60,s, changes took place in the band and Sonny Knowles left to join Dermot O, Briens Band , The Clubmen, replacing Denis O, Loughlin on tenor sax. Peter Lawlor , stage name Peter Law from Naas, replaced Sonny as lead vocalist ant they became known as Peter Law and the Pacific. They also recorded an album with Peter. However the band decided to emigrate to Canada , like many other Irish bands and musicians and in doing this they changed their name to Dublin Corporation where they proved to be a very popular attraction.
When Sonny Knowles left Dermot O, Brien,s Clubmen he decided to try
his talents on the now thriving cabaret circuit, an instant success on
his part , paving the way for such TV Shows as” Live at Three” and
“Cabaret”, Sean Fagan has settled in Canada with his family ,but returned
a few years ago to do a spot on the BBC Northern Ireland Showband
Nostalgia comeback show hosted by George Jones at the Waterfront Hall,
Belfast entitled “Do you come here Often”. Sonny also done these
shows but is still a successful cabaret artist and has just done a week
in the USA with Anna Mc Goldrick of Opportunity Knocks fame. A month ago,
he sat in playing alto sax with the Black Magic Big Band in residency at
Galway,s Bar Cuba nightclub. In their line up is 71 year old trumpeter
John Merrick from Carndonagh, ex Michael Galbraith Showband.
So, that’s the story of the Pacific Showband, a very]popular and successful Showband here in the North West, Sonny Knowles asked me through this media to pass on his best wishes to all his many fans in the North West, especially in Letterkenny. Next band on the bandstand will be the popular Trend Showband from Derry. I take this opportunity to wish you all a Happy and Peaceful Christmas and a Prosperous New Year and thanks for your great response to these articles,
“Le gach Dea ghui I gcomhair na Nollaig agus na hathbhlianna”
Bye for now…
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