IN THE 5 th. OF OUR FORTNIGHTLY SERIES LOOKING BACK TO THE SHOWBAND ERA,
JOHN BAIRD FEATURES THE MELODY ACES SHOWBAND FROM NEWTOWNSTEWART

The musical traditions of the North West as we have seen in these articles, has been well known and documented , in Showband Circles, both in Donegal and our neighbouring County Tyrone. We,ve had the Clipper Carlton from Strabane, ledgends and role models for other bands who followed them. The Melody Aces from Newtownstewart,were pioneers also, but in a different field, as they were probably the first Showband to feature Country and Western music as an essential part of their dancing programme.

     Coming from virtually the same area as their illustrious neighbours the Clippers, the Melody Aces like many other bands had their origins in the local Town Band , in their case , The St, Eugene,s Flute Band. Eddie Mc Namee later to play tenor Sax. in the Showband, played the triangle in the Flute Band, which was formed by J.J. Mc Anulla. Also about this time ,late 1940,s 50s a local traditional fiddler Barney Molloy decided to form a small ceili band, to play at functions in the Town Hall. In this band were Eddie,s brother James, Charlie Duffy, Frank Mc Sorley, Barney Molloy, and John Devine , later to become a member of the Melody Aces  and also their manager, and Eddies younger brother Eugene, later to join the “Aces” as drummer. In 1950 John Devine, together with the Mc Namee brothers and Omagh trumpeter Gene Turbett decided to form the Mourne Dance Band. They started by playing at local dances and hops, but things were about to change for the lads when they were asked to play a date in the Star Ballroom, Omagh. Proprietor Noel Donaghey liked what he heard and offered them a residency there, on the condition that they become a six piece band, They brought in Lifford born sax player Jim Henderson, and Bass guitarist/vocalist David Coyle, who was to feature prominently in the bands vocal repertoire, and the Melody Aces were complete when guitarist/vocalist Shay Hutchinson, another prominent vocal member  and guitarist Tony Catorie and trombonist Patsy Mc Gonigle joined.

    John Devine set to work finding dance dates for the band, and find them he did ,In the West of Ireland, Mayo, Galway they were very popular and also in Dublin, where they played their first date in Swords . Co. Dublin. and the City Ballrooms, The Olympic, Crystal etc. The sad death of Jim Henderson caused a great void in the band so they reverted to an eight piece till they finished. As well as tours of England and Scotland, the Melody Aces went to the USA in 1959,and returned again in 1962 and 63, such was their popularity there. Needless to say they were a big draw here in Donegal and played all the local and rural venues to large attendances. The Recording Studios beckoned in the mid 60,s and Shay Hutchinson recorded their first single “Highway to Nowhere” coupled with a harmonious rendition of “Oft in the Stilly Night” on the “flip side”. This was followed by a further disc by Shay “From Nowhere at All” with David Coyle singing “The Holy City” on the B side.

     In the early 1970,s with the popularity of the “Pop” Showbands increasing , the conventional bands like the Melody Aces , found it hard to get dates in Dublin, and places South, so with more travelling involved to single date venues, and rising costs, they decided to “call it a day”

But again like the Clipper Carlton,they came together for a reunion in the Hillgrove Hotel Monaghan.to celebrate along with other Showband personnel from that great era , Country Singer Brian Coll,s 25 years in showbusiness . This was in the early 80,s To celebrate the event , they decided to record some CD tracks , augmented by Bill Rice and Roy Hurst, of their popular dancing numbers. This was merely a personal venture and was never released for general sale, but it is a  fitting tribute to a most entertaining and popular Showband, the MELODY ACES. Sadly Jim Henderson ,David Coyle, Eugene Mc Namee, Tony Catorie and John Devine have passed on, but Shay Hutchinson , Eddie Mc Namee, Gene Turbett and Patsy Mc Gonigle are still with us as ex members of the great days of the MELODY ACES Showband,
     My thanks to Gene Turbett for his valuable information and incidentally Gene has recorded a single CD “The Team they call Tyrone” to coincide with their All Ireland Final appearance versus Armagh , Well done Gene!

       In two weeks time we will feature a Donegal Showband .
The excellent MIGHTY RHYTHM BOYS from Buncrana.
Bye for now.    John Baird
 

From John Bairds collection
bairdart@iol.ie
 

 
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