As an introduction may I state that I was never a member of any showband
but was captivated by the versatility and standard of the music produced in a live venue.
As second generation Irish, born and raised in Manchester,
the music and pop scene at a local level, was dominated by beat groups and rock and roll bands.
My leanings were more towards folk and Country and Western.
When in 1962 I spent a two week summer holiday in Galway,
I went to a Marquee dance at Oranmore. To arrive at a Marquee in the middle of nowhere,
an illuminated tent resounding to the sounds of music comprising
of brass, guitars, piano/organ, drums and different vocalists playing
for four hours or more meant that there was never a dull moment.
All types of music with the latest chart favourites performed with
such authenticity meant that satisfaction was guaranteed.
Playing the Oranmore marquee that night was
the Regal showband, Cork.
The line up was:- John Minehan, Bantry (Sax, Trombone and Vocals), Kevin Lynch, Bantry (Barritone, Alto Sax and Vocals), Pat O’Sullivan, Bantry (Bass Guitar and Vocals), Gordan Hanly, Skibbereen (Trumpet, Piano, Vocals and Arranger), Benno Haussmann, Hamburg (Drums and Vocals), Len McCarthy, Cork (Tenor Sax, Clarinet and Vocals), Declan Ryan, Cork (Guitar and Vocals), Mick Ahern, Cork (Guitar and Vocals).
That night was to make a lasting impression on me. The mix of Folk, Pop and Country and Western music was just what I had been searching for. I still remember the band performing the Johnny Cash recording:- ‘Ring of Fire’ which at that time I had not heard, but bought on my return home.
Annual visits to Ireland thereafter always
included visits to Marquee dances and in between,
in Manchester, weekly visits to the Irish Ballrooms - Astoria/Carousel and Ard-Ri.
The Irish music scene in Manchester was very strong with a number of bands playing the City on the same night. The large emigration from Ireland meant that many young people had crossed the Irish Sea to find employment and careers. As a result towns like Manchester had had large influx of young Irish. In the early 60’s communication with home was difficult, either a long train and sea journey which meant visits had to be annual to fit in with works holidays. Most homes in Rural Ireland in particular, did not have a telephone, which in those days was a particular luxury. The only way to communicate was by letter, and if you were not good at the writing, in some cases communication was lost. The visits of the Showbands provided an additional means of communication. There were so many Showbands formed and the level of support of dances meant that they were very frequent visitors. During the emigration period relations and friends would follow each other and settle in the same cities and areas. When Showbands travelled over for a tour they would bring with them news from the emigrants parish homeland and in turn would take news of the emigrants back to Ireland. Thus the Showbands played a vital part in providing support for the emigrants and their families at home.
At the peak of the showband boom the Carousel
Club in Manchester adopted a policy
of flying top bands over from Ireland on the Saturday night, which was the big dancing night in England
and back to Ireland on the Sunday for the big dancing night there.
One of these bands was the Johnny Flynn Showband who ended the dance with their signature tune
‘The Magnificent seven’.
In the picture above the line up is:-
Back Row (l to r) Pete Creighton, Johnny Flynn, Jim Dalton.
Middle Row (l to r) Billy Kelly, Frank Flynn, Pat Smyth.
Front Row (l to r) Frank Hannon, Jimmy Hart, Danny Kelly, Joe McIntyre.
From Robert Merchant collection
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