The heyday of the Mick Delahunty Orchestra was
in the 40s and 50s, thousands of people would think nothing of
cycling 30 miles and back to a dancehall where Mick Del was playing.
musicians featured in the orchestra including the late Saxophonist,
Paddy Rafferty, and pianist and Keyboard maestro,
Bernie Flanagan who is still one of the best in the land.

The story of Mick Delahunty as a bandleader began on Easter Sunday night
1933 when he led his 6 piece band on to the stage at the Abbey Hall, Cahir,
Co. Tipperary to play for an Old IRA commemoration dance. It was called the
Harmony Band and on stage that night with him were Mickey Fennessey, Violin,
his brother Frank on Piano, Christy O'Riordan, Sax, his brother James on
Trumpet and Willie Power Drums. The admission price was 3 shillings
including supper. That year Mick Delahunty bought his new Saxaphone for £14
(pounds) . Some of the faces associated with Mick Del. Bands of the time
were Danny McNamara, Mary Mullins and Eddie Roberts (Vocalists)
BillyKenrick, Eileen Sloan, Peter Gaffney, Karl Weiss, Paddy Byrne, Billy Murphy,
Alex Frieberg, Bennie McNeill who later joined  RTE, and of course his
brothers Paddy Delahunty who played String Bass and Jackie Delahunty on
Drums. One of the most successful dances ever held in the Clonmel Collins
Hall was a gala event on Easter Saturday night 1958 to mark the occasion of
Mick Del's 25th Anniversary as a bandleader. Mick Del was a commanding
figure in dancehalls across the land but his fame also spread overseas. He
won international acclaim when he took his fifteen piece orchestra on
English and American tours. He originally went to London in 1951 for the
well known Bill Fuller organisation, playing a three week tour in the Irish
clubs and returned there in 1957. His orchestra also thrilled audiences with
his Glenn Miller sound in Irish clubs in Boston and New York. In the 60s,
despite the popularity of the new Showbands, Mick continued to pack in the
crowds for the Dress dances all over Ireland.
His favorites were "In the Mood" and "American Patrol".
Eventually the cost of employing 15 musicians became uneconomic,
but he continued playing for social and tennis club hops
around the Clonmel area to the very end .
After a glorious career that spanned almost 60 years and brought him fame
on both sides of the Atlantic the music finally stopped on
Feb 2nd 1992 when Ireland s greatest dance bandleader
collapsed and died shortly after his band s farewell appearance
at the Greenwood Inn, Ardpatrick, Co. Limerick.
He passed peacefully away just after coming off stage
A supreme showman to the end.

Reprinted from the book "Faces & Places Clonmel 1955-'60"
By Justin Nelson
With Permission


Audio
Mick Del Intro

Mick Del Goodbye
 

From the collection of  "Justin Nelson"

Justin's Home Page

Brendan Ward – A Long Long Way from Tipperary

Around 1950 a brilliant young classical musician called Brendan Ward  from Foxford joined the
Mick Delahunty Band as lead tenor sax.
 A graduate of Professor William O’Shaugnessy at Foxford Music School,he had long
entertained the ambition to arrange for a big band along the lines of  Glen Miller.
 Playing with the Castlebar-based Stephen Garvey band in the late forties
 he found this impossible as the instrumentation simply wasn’t there.
“It was six-piece outfit and you need more musicians to get a big-band sound,”
he recalls.  “Mick’s twelve piece band with five saxes was the real thing.”
Brendan remembers the first time playing with Mick Delahunty in the
Mansion House in Dublin. “We played a piece that I had arranged called
 ‘Love’s Roses’. It was one of those nights when everything went perfectly.
Since most of the Dublin dances ended at midnight at the time, and we were
playing until 2.00 a.m, a lot of the Dublin band leaders came by to hear us and were
 all very complimentary of our sound.”
In the following years Brendan wrote a lot of arrangements for the band in what
 Mick termed ‘the true Glen Miller style’ before leaving for America in 1955.
 In New York the big band era was winding down but Brendan was introduced
 to the legendary Dorsey brothers, Tommy and Jimmy,
and to Les Browne who was in Hollywood at the time.
The Dorseys were Irish Americans from Pennsylvania and Brendan
 got to know them – and their mother Tess – very well. “
The Dorseys were playing at the Sacramento Hotel at the time and I
 used to go there to hear them”, he remembers.
Soon he was being asked to orchestrate for the Dorsey Brothers Band
 and invited to play with them on a number of occasions.
Other doors started to open too and within a few months he was invited to become
band leader at the City Center Ballroom.
This provided him with the freedom at last to arrange for his own band.
“The musicians who used to play in the big bands were all looking for work so I
 was able to hire some of the best in the business”, he remembers.
“Men who had played with the Dorseys and even Glen Miller.
Stephen Madrick, my Alto player, played with Les Browne and was
 his lead Alto for seven years.
I also had Dick Bagney who had played with some of the biggest
 bands in the country, and Gerry Sanfeno who was one of the finest
lead Alto Sax players in America.
He is on recordings with people like  Frank Sinatra.”
The Brendan Ward orchestra became a big draw for the New York Irish American
community and increasingly in demand for lavish society weddings in hotels like the
Roosevelt, the Plaza, the Hilton and the Pennsylvania.
 A visit from Mick Delahunty in the late Fifties elicited a singular tribute:
 “Brendan – I’d give anything to have a band like yours!”


Brendan with his wife, Breege (April 2006).


The Snowy Breasted Pearl
Track from Brendan Ward CD
 


 

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