EVERY FORTNIGHT JOHN BAIRD LOOKS BACK AT THE
SHOWBAND SCENE ESPECIALLY THE BANDS THAT HAD DONEGAL CONNECTIONS AND THOS
THAT PLAYED DONEGAL VENUES . IN THIS ISSUE THE SPOTLIGHT IS ON THE COASTER/
BARRISTERS SHOWBANDS, FROM DERRY CITY.
When my good friend, the late Seamus Creagh, Trombonist,(Man.Utd and Finn Harps Supporter) from Killea, was asked to join the Coasters Showband, from Derry in 1960, little did he know that he was joining a band that was to evolve into another Showband, therefore beginning a great musical journey, that was to be a big part of his life.
Seamus joined the Coasters from
a local Donegal Band , the Crescent Showband , St Johnston. in which he
played trombone. He took his places in a Coasters line up that included
Bonner Bros, Jackie (Trumpet /Bandleader), Billy (Tenor Sax/ Clarinet),and Joe (Bass Guitar,)
Gerry Doherty(Guitar), Liam Griffin(Drums), and Johnny Peel (Quigley) as Vocalist.
The first “gig” he played with them , was an 8-12 Sunday Night date in the Borderland , Muff.to a large appreciative audience . When the band decided to go professional, fulltime on the road , Tony Molloy left and was replaced by Mickey Cassidy , Charlie “Chuck” Mc Guigan also joined from another Derry Band , The Imperial All Stars, and the manager was Baney Mullan. All personnel except Seamus were from Derry.
They played together as the Coasters until
1964 , and one night while playing in Caproni,s Ballroom , Bangor Co Down,
they noticed a few men taking a great interest in their programme. These
men were about to embark on a new venture , a Ballroom/ Night Club in Belfast
, later to become known as the Boom Boom Room.and they liked the band so
much that they offered them the job as Resident Band there.After talking
between themselves , the boys decided to take chance and in 1965 ,they
became Resident Band in the Belfast venue. In order to facilitate this
a few changes had to be made. Firstly a Female Vocalist was added and Tricia
Dee (Tilly Doherty). A Derry girl who was already singing with the Big
4 , in whose ranks was Pat Mc Geegan, who also represented Ireland in Eurovision
, and was father of World Boxing Champion Barry Mc Guigan, and also a new
image, involving a name change .
The band became The Barristers Showband.
And as part of their image the wore long “legal” silk gowns and white wigs, as shown in the handout photo. As the wigs were hard to wear during a live performance, it was decided only to wear them for the last hour of their show ,only. As someone who has seen they band, I must admit That “they looked the part” when they were attired in their unusual regalia.
They played the usual Lenten Venues , in England and Scotland, and all the Halls on the local and National circuit. They were also a very popular attraction when they played at the many American Military Bases in the UK, and on one occasion they were offered a lucrative contract to play the US Bases in West Germany, but declined the offer , concentrating on the home circuit instead. However the Barrristers did a full month , playing at a US Base outside Madrid , Spain at the height of the Vietnam War. On an American Tour , the band were playing a venue in the Bronx, which involved the late Butch Moore as part of their Show. Butch , who had left the great Capitol Showband to pursue a solo career, came on each night to sing a few numbers with the band .” In effect he enjoyed singing with the Barristers so much that he sang with us for four weeks. Making him a band member “ Seamus joked. The Band made only one recording on the Emerald Label in 1966 , a single entitled Love looks Good on You/The Way it Feels to Die featuring Mike Cassidy on vocals.They felt that they were already a popular band and did not need recordings to boost their attendances.During their time “on the road” they played on the same bill as notable visiting artists such as , Gerry and the Pacemakers, John Leyton, Clinton Ford and the ledgendary Jim Reeves, whose exploits in Irish Ballrooms was well documented especially in Lifford and in the Adelphi , Dundalk where the Barristers played with him. Their manager then was Eddie Davis, and like all the Derry Showbands the Barristers had the reputation of being a good musical band, that ensured the dancing public a good night, s entertainment.
In 1966, some members of the band decided to go their separate ways and form a new Showband, The Bankers. Seamus Creagh was a founder member of this band and before he left them , the Bankers released a single on Columbia Label, in 1968 entitled Lovely Leenan Bay (Written by two Christian Brothers) on the A side and The Old Boreen on ththe B side , featuring Chuck Mc Guigan on vocals, They broke up a year or so after that.
Seamus Creagh sadly passed away earlier this year, an I personally miss a great friend , and a man I could turn to when I wanted to know anything about the Showband Era. It was only fitting at his funeral Mass in Killea Chapel , that his great friend and bandleader Jackie Bonner ,played the trumpet so beautifully . This article is dedicated to all members, past and present of the great Derry Showbands, but especially to the late Seamus Creagh, Rest in Peace Seamus, and thanks for the many years of great music.
Next issue we will look at a local Showband, the MARINES Showband
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