CONTINUING THE FORTNIGHTLY SERIES BY JOHN BAIRD ON THE SHOWBAND
ERA, WITH A SPECIAL EMPHASIS ON THE BANDS THAT PLAYED THE LOCAL AND
HIGHLIGHTING THOSE BANDS WITH DONEGAL MEMBERS AND THE LOCAL SHOWBANDS ESPECIALLY. IN THIS ISSUE WE FEATURE THE KEYNOTES SHOWBAND .
In recent years the Rosses and Gweedore areas have been very
much to the fore in the Music Scene,
Daniel O, Donnell, Altan, Clannad, Enya etc. are all major recording artists, touring worldwide.
Back in the late 1950,s early 60,s, this music rich area of the County produced a number of Dance Bands /Showbands, La Scala, Rosses Premier, Slieve Foy and our featured band, the Keynotes Showband.
Founder member and bandleader Condy Boyle told me their story.
An early photo of the Keynotes :
From Top…Johnny Gallagher(Guitar/Vocals), Condy Boyle (Sax/Bandleader),
Tony Boyle(Drums),Eddie Quinn(Trumpet). Charlie Mc Cole (Sax)
Paddy Joe O, Donnell(Bass/ Vocals) and young Margo O, Donnell(Vocals).
The band got together in the late 1950,s comprising of musicians
,that had played with other local bands. Condy Boyle joined from a band
called the Rosses Premier where he played the accordion and also the fiddle.
He took up tenor sax on the formation of the new band which comprised of Hugh Boyle (R.I.P.), Charlie Mc Cole, Eddie Quinn, and Tony Boyle and Hughie Ward.
This 6 piece was later to be joined by Paddy Joe O, Donnell on Bass and Johnny Gallagher , a fine versatile vocalist who also played guitar. They acquired their name in a simple but practical way. Condy told me “We went into Littlewoods in Derry to buy white shirts as they were to be part of our stage outfits.
At that time “Keynote “ was the brand name used by Littlewoods to market their products , so we adopted the name for the Showband”. Keynote was well known by shoppers in Littlewoods, and The Keynotes Showband was becoming a household name with dancers all over Donegal,
This part time band soon went full time and Condy , who operated a hackney service at the time , found himself playing in a full time showband and also managing the band,s affairs on the road ,
When Charlie McCole left the band he was effectively their manager but stayed at home looking after their bookings. In September 1964 a young local 13 year old girl Margo O,Donnell, sang a few numbers with the band at a dance in Ardara. “She was very young and only had rehearsed a few songs, but her mother was anxious that
she would get a start with the band, as at that time there was very little work and she did,nt want her
to emigrate” Condy told me . So Margo and the Keynotes became a reality. “She was a great worker in the band ,
always learning new material” Condy told me. Changes were also to take place in the band in the mid 60,s,
In came Letterkenny drummer Johnny Cullen, Trombonist Martin Campbell,Bass Player Francie Diver
and Derry Keyboard man Kevin Cowley . Eddie Quinn decided to leave the band in 1966 ,and
Condy was now bandleader of a Showband that was playing countrywide venues ,
especially for the Associated Ballrooms Chain, formed by Con Hynes, Jack O, Rourke and Donie Collins.
As this consortium had their own sponsored programme , it helped to promote the band which was
becoming so popular that the manager of theTalk of the Town Ballroom in Galway boasted that the
Keynotes could pull a crowd of 1800 dancers to his venue ,this only rivalled by Big Tom with 2,000.
Other favourite venues were the Gresham, and the Buffalo in London , Ierne, Town and Country and the
Crystal Dublin and all the local venues especially the Devlin Hall and the Fiesta ,
here in Letterkenny. Cross border venus played by the band were Bushmills, Cloughmills and Newry
and all these coupled with Scottish and English tours kept the dates diary full, and the dancers happy.
In 1968 they made their first single “Bonnie Irish Boy / Dear God” featuring Margo.
“It was hard to get airplay unless you had the right contacts at that time” relates Condy.
They released another single the A side being “The Road by the River” also featuring Margo ,
before she left the band in 1969 to form her own band , The Country Folk.
By for Now
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