Mick Delahunty: Ireland's Glen Miller
1915 Clonmel - R.I.P. 1992 Limerick)
Mick Delahunty and the Mayor of Clonmel Jim Taylor.
Holding mike Jimmy O'Dea (star of "Darby O'Gill)
Mick Delahunty was one of Ireland's first music stars. When asked
during his silver jubilee as a bandleader how long he was going to continue
for he replied: 'As long as I can generate a little fun and as long as dancers
come to hear me.' By this date Mick Delahunty or 'Mick Del' had travelled
nine million miles and played to seven million dancers. It is said that
thousands were prepared to cycle thirty miles and back to a dance hall where
'the Del' was performing, in an era when cars were scarce.
The heyday of the Mick Delahunty Orchestra, the 1950s, coincided with the gradual post war modernisation of Ireland. This was set against a backdrop of external influences. One of these was Hollywood, films from which were widely viewed in cinemas across Ireland. The big band had emerged in the US in the 1930/40s with the growing popularity of jazz. Mick styled his band on the saxophone dominated 'Miller Sound' of the Glen Miller Orchestra; one of the most acclaimed of these US bands.
With his band he travelled to England to perform on two separate
occasions. In 1959 they toured the States and Canada, the first Irish
band to do so, returning there in 1961. He performed at New Ross, Co. Wexford
during President John F. Kennedy's visit in 1963. Two years later he headed
the entertainment line up at Powerscourt House in honour of Prince Rainier
and Princess Grace of Monaco's visit to Ireland.
By the 1960s the scene was changing. People were looking for a different type of music: rock and roll. The era of the big band was coming to an end. However, Mick continued to tour Ireland and perform right up until his death in the 1992.
Band leader Mick Delahunty
Although he came from a different era to the Irish showbands, Mick Delahunty
was supportive of the new, younger scene and
helped to launch the career of The Royal Showband, by letting them open for him.
Reprinted from the book "Faces & Places
By Justin Nelson
Mick Del Intro
Mick Del Goodbye
From the collection of "Justin
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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