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Every town in Ireland has bands and groups that play the pubs and local dances and rarely get any recognition outside the local area. However, many of the musicians that come through the local ranks end up being "stars" on the national and even international scene. We want to pay tribute to those Sligo based bands and
musicians who have influenced us, or entertained the people of Sligo and thank them for their contributions! If you know of any musicians or bands that should be included here, please email us with names, stories or photos and we will gladly add them!
Some Local bands come and go fairly quickly sometimes and even have
multiple names, depending on the gig, so it can be hard to provide accurate information on the bands and their members. Other bands, though, stay together and play for years and years with only occasional changes in the lineups. We will try to list as many bands as we can, based on our experience and the information we have on hand.
My recollection of bands in Sligo started in 1970 while I
was a student at Summerhill College. Hops at the college and Mercy and Ursuline
convents featured acts like The Pink Band, The Generation Gap,
The Lincoln Express, and The Duggan Brothers, among others.
Unfortunately, being under age, I didn't frequent the pubs much back then.
Perhaps someone who did could send me an email and let me know more about the pub
groups of the period.
the first showband from Sligo, and definitely the most famous 60's band were the
Clefoniares. Since starting this page, I have learned more about them and now
feature them up front. A recent email from the band's manager, Louis Chapman,
told me their story:
The members of the band were: Karl Neilsen (trumpet),
Mickey Brennan (trombone), Paraic Potter (sax/clarinet), Noel Morrison (bass),
Roddy Gillen (guitar/banjo), Frankie Brennan (Vocals), and Dominic Smyth
(drums). "The band was formed around 1960 and made
up by the bringing together of Gillen, Smyth and Morrison from the Savoy Swing
Seven and the rest of the guys were part of the original Clefonaires from
Tubbercurry, Co. Sligo. The new Clefonaires went professional and changed the
name to the Clefs. The band was very successful North and South of the border
and also toured in England and Denmark." My thanks to Louis, who also used to
book the bands in the Silver Slipper Ballroom for Sean Byrne.
It was the Duggans I remember best. The four piece band was already on the go and polished while I was still at Summerhill. They regularly played
at the College and were one of the very few "pop" bands in town which differentiated them from the sea of three and four piece pub groups that played mostly country, ballads, and standards. The photo at the right was taken, I think, when they became Brotherly Love, and signed
with entrepreneurial manager, Louis Walsh, who has since gained international fame guiding the fortunes of groups like Boyzone, B*Witched, and Johnny Logan. The brothers (left to right) Gerry, Joss, Vinnie, and Ian, played pop music, but were
so special because of their close vocal harmonies. Their set featured songs by
Crosby, Stills, and Nash and other material rarely heard on the local scene at the time.
The boys were the resident relief band in the now demolished Silver Slipper Ballroom
in Strandhill. In early 1973, the band hooked up with Louis Walsh, changed their name, and struck out on the national ballroom circuit.
They were replaced in the Silver Slipper by Aquarius. Although I'm not sure when they finally quit, I know that they were still active in 1979 and managed by Ballina's Tom Kelly for a
time. In 1974, they changed their name to Family Band for a short time as there was
another band in England already using the name, Brotherly Love. I
understand from Ian that he and Joss have recently hit the road locally after a 20 year
break as a two piece called Take 2. Guided well by their father, who I
remember always being with them, the boys all had good day jobs and all still
work and live in Sligo.
in the early 70's, another Sligo based band was already enjoying national
success, Pat Ely and the Rocky Tops. Originally, Pat and the boys were
part of the famous 60's band The Smokey Mountain Ramblers, who had enjoyed wide
success in the heyday of the showbands. However in the early 1970's Pat, along
with local musicians Tommy Higgins and Bernie Fallon, and fiddler George Kaye
formed the core of the Rocky Tops (and Smokies). Part of the Top Rank organization, Pat and
the boys had a string of hit records including Delta Dawn and The
Shores of Lough Brann. After packing in the fulltime band, Pat went into the
record business, representing labels like Himespun in the Northwest. Over the
years, though, he has teamed up with a variety of local musicians (usually
including Francie Lenehan) performing as the Rocky Tops. Tommy Higgins
started Star Records in the late 1970's and now runs Ticketmaster in Dublin.
Bernie continued to perform locally, especially with late John McLaughlin.
Around the same time, Sligo's other force in country music was The Lincoln Express. Front man Dee Leydon was a local favorite and for a short time, the "Express" were as close to a
bona fide showband you could come. The band played dinner dances,
halls, and cabaret spots and in late
1973, they took a major step when Dee changed his lineup and the band's name to
The Powermen and headed off to
tour the ballroom circuit. They released the single, The Best Is Yet To Come,
and within a year, headed off on an English tour. The original lineup was: Seamie McLoughlin (guitar), Tony O'Donnell (guitar), Joe McDonogh (bass), Phillip Lynch (drums), Garret O'Dowd (trumpet), John Collins (sax), and, of course, Dee on vocals.
However, before heading to England, Seamie McLoughlin dropped out and local
keyboard player, Gerry Feeney (later with Sandy Duskey & Easy Listenin')
joined the band (see photo at right-click to enlarge). The picture at the right
includes (L to R:) Dee, Gerry Feeney, Vinnie Summers, Tony O'Donnell, Joe
McDonogh, Tommy Conlon, and Sean Scanlon. Unfortunately, the
English tour ended up with the band's
break up. Dee remained in England, while the rest of the lads returned home.
The first I ever heard in Sligo was
The Pink Band, one of several
local bands that have served to highlight Francie Lenehan's virtuoso guitar playing. The band played heavy rock, and I distinctly remember a version of American Woman they played in The Mercy Convent in 1970. Other than
Francie, I'm not 100% sure who else was in the band, but I think Billy Kelly was on drums.
In the early 70's, Francie, brother John Lenehan and Billy Kelly, joined Ronnie Griffiths newly formed band,
American Pie. The band played country and toured extensively.
In 1974, the three Sligo members of American Pie quit, returned home and formed
the long standing trio, Southern Comfort. They changed their name to
Turning Point for a time, but soon switched back to Southern Comfort. Billy, Francie
and John played together until Billy emigrated to the United States in the early
1980's. Afterwards, John played solo gigs, while Francie would lend his talents to a variety of bands such as The Twink
Band, Cotton Mill Boys, and The Hennigan Blooze Band.
Another local pop band in the early seventies was The Generation Gap. The Gap featured singer, Frankie Langan, out front, as well as
eventual Lincoln Express member, Seamie McLaughlin on guitar. Rounding out the group was Noel, "Flukey" Gorman
on drums, and Vinnie Middleton on guitar. Notwithstanding the Duggan's, the Gap
was the "other" pop band in Sligo at the time. However, they broke up when
Seamie McLaughlin left to join Dee Leydon. Vinnie formed the Melotones (I think)
and Flikie went on to play with every band that ever existed in Sligo. In a
recent letter, Frankie told me he was singing again around town.
Other bands that played the pub scene in 1974 included The Relations, Bill
Quinn & Mick O'Hanlon,
Dave & The Friends (featuring Dave Gordon) , Des and the
The Melotones, The Allegros, The Foremost, The Rustlers,
The Rafters, and Marie and the Wild Life (featuring Joe and Marie
Scanlon with Whitey Conlon on drums most of the time).
Back around this time, a band called The Ladds (now The Jazz Ladds) were on the road locally as well. Back then, the band was Padraic Potter, Denis Phelan, and Mickey Brennan.
Padraic and Mickey had been in the showband scene for sometime, having both been
with Tubbercurry's Clefonaires Showband and I believe, after that they
both played with Jack Ruane's band (as did Stan Burns). In fact, Pauric
played extensively with the showbands. Through the years, the Jazz Ladds have
been a evolving group. The band has undergone many changes, but still plays today, making it one of the longest running bands around
the town. They
even have a website at www.jazzladds.com. Only Padraic remains from the original
group (although I think Carl has also been there from pretty much the beginning).
Today, The Jazz Ladds include Roddy Gillen, Padraic Potter, Eddie
McFarlane, Robert Burnside, Carl Neilsen, and long time Sligo bass player Liam
Gilmartin, formerly of the Hennigan Blooze band and Jargon.
musician with a long history on the local scene is Stan Burns. Stan plays sax
and has been involved with several local groups as well as the showband scene.
Stan was with the last lineup of the famous Capitol Showband, just before Paddy
Cole left to join the Big Eight in the early 70's. He
has also played with The Jazz Ladds off and on, and had his own group called
Katch in the 1980's. I also came across a photo of the Jack Ruane Showband of Ballina
recently and was surprised to see Stan in the picture. Stan has also made a name
for himself on the International scene as one of Sligo's biggest names in
surfing from his home in Strandhill, and he featured prominently as a member of
the Sligo All Stars basketball team in the 1970's.
Click here or on Stan's photo at left to see it
The town's other musical family in the 1970's were the O'Donnell
brothers. Oldest brother, Tony, was with
The Powermen, while siblings Liam and Michael O'Donnell were also in
local bands. Michael was in The Students with Gerry Feeney and both brothers joined with Henry McGlade and Linda Marshall in
Tangents in the early 1970's. Tangents broke up with Henry and Linda joining Gerry Gallagher and Patrick Phillips in
Aquarius. Liam and Michael recruited brother Joe, on bass and formed Trinity. The band took over relief from
Aquarius in The Silver Slipper Ballroom in September, 1973, and when Tony came back after his stint with
The Powermen, he joined his brothers to become Family Unit. I even
think they had a sister playing with the band, but I might be mistaken. If
anyone knows the O'Donnells. I'd love to have a photo!
In 1973, a new talent came to Sligo. Philomena Ellis moved from Wales back to her native Ballintogher. She quickly formed a new band call
Easy Listenin' and took the
stage name, Sandy Duskey. The initial lineup included Gerry Feeney, Gerry Gallagher and Ballisodare drummer, Sean Savage. After several months, Sandy was snapped up by the Ballina-based Gary Street and the
Fairways showband and left the local scene. Dick Lynott and James Blennerhassett joined Gerry Gallagher and played on as both
and Easy Listenin'. Gerry Feeney joined Bundoran based Stampede, who were formerly
known as The Quarrymen and featured Sean Gallagher. Sandy would go on to
lead the Fairways with her sister, Barbara and cousin Marian as The Duskey
Sisters after the departure of Gary Street. The sisters represented Ireland in
the Eurovision song contest. In the mid 80's Sandy took her married name, Sandy
Kelly and started a new career as a country singer, which proved very
successful. Teaming up with such luminaries as Johnny Cash and George Hamilton
IV, she has had a very long and successful career including a run on the London
stage as Patsy Cline.
Fintan and Maisie:
Also back in the early seventies, local couple Fintan
Stanley and Maisie McDaniel could be heard playing all around town. Fintan was
known as one of the finest accordion players in Ireland in the heyday of the Ceili bands, whose numbers also included such luminaries as Richie Fitzgerald
and Dermot O'Brien among their ranks. Fintan was a player of near legendary
status. He also spent a lot of years in the United States. Maisie was one of Ireland's
best loved female
vocalists of the 1960's. She was tapped to front the Nevada Showband at
one point, but was injured in a car accident shortly after and retired frfom the
showband scene. She also had her band, The Fendermen and had several hit
records in the 60's. John Conlon recently sent us copies of his Maisie McDaniel fan
club membership card from 1963. Click here to go
to the photos page to view them.
On the Folk
scene, American's Thom and Cathy Moore, along Rick and Sandi Epping, arrived in Sligo and formed the incredibly
successful folk group, Pumpkinhead. Their debut album, Pumpkinhead, and subsequent album
under the name Midnight Well, were both well received and brought Thom Moore's
songwriting skills to the fore, conquering the Irish folk and cabaret circuit
until they returned to the United States. Thom returned to the United States, and I bumped
into him on the campus of the University of California, Irvine playing his his band Train
to Sligo in 1978. Eventually he went to Russia where he taught
English, but recently returned to Ireland where he continues to play, teach, and
write and record new music.
Another folk act, Geantrai, was a major local attraction for some time in
the early 70's. The group were made up of Dick Snocks, Kevin and Philip Flynn,
Nicola Ryan (who I worked with at The Sligo Champion), Steve Scanlon and Tommy Grennan. The Flynns, of course, went on to fame producing the Boys of
Ballisodare Festivals for a time, but I'm not sure where the rest of the group
Following the departure of Sandy Duskey from Easy Listenin,'
we band continued to play as a trio with James Blennerhassett, Dic Lynott and
me. James left and was replaced eventually by Joe Foley. We came together more
or less in 1975 and 1976 and played as both Sundown and Aquarius (usually for
Rugby Club). Joe and Dick have played with many bands around town including the
Heartbeats, Staganua, Dave & The Friends (featuring the late Dave Gordon), the Jazz Ladds,
and others. When I returned to the States in mid 1976, the boys joined with Dave
Gordon and carried on the name Sundown.
The Late Seventies:
When I returned to Sligo in 1978, I enlisted the help of Dick and Joe and we
formed Kim Newport and California. Within a few months, we added Seamie
McGowan, who had been playing with Southern Comfort. We were managed by Tom
Kelly, who was also managing Sandy Duskey and the Fairways at the time.
Soon after, Sandy added sister, Barbara and cousin, Marian
(Nina), to the band and dropped the Fairways name to become the "Duskey Sisters," moving the band's base from Ballina to Sligo.
In 1979, we dropped the name California and became the Kim Newport Band, and
made some progress nationally, appearing on RTE many times. Eventually James Blennerhassett would replace Joe Foley in the band,
but left after six
During this time, a familiar local face, Pat Ely, often played
in the area as Pat Ely and the Rocky Tops, which was usually made up of Francie
Lenehan and several other local musicians, including myself on several occasions. Although
Brotherly Love was still on
the road, they were also focusing on their careers away from the music scene and
disbanded shortly after.
The Eighties and Rock:
Several new bands also made their first appearance in the
early 80's including Those Nervous Animals (TNA) and Reverb. TNA
featured Barry Brennan, Eddie Lee, Padraig Meehan, and Christy
Behan (I think). Eddie and Padraig supplied
much of the musical direction for the band. I was fortunate enough to be
involved with the band and helped them record their first demos, several years
before they released their only album (see below).
At almost the same time, Martin Harte and Joe Hunt were forming Reverb and still play together in Indian, after over 20 years and
several name and lineup changes. Link to
The mid 80's brought more changes. The Kim Newport Band
disbanded in 1983, Kim and I returning to the United States. Sandy Duskey
changed to her married name, Sandy Kelly, and became a major country artist,
teaming up with Johnny Cash and more recently George Hamilton IV. Sligo's rock
scene also came into it's own during this period. Seamie McGowan joined Those
Nervous Animals from the Kim Newport Band and in the mid 80's, TNA enjoyed
national success releasing a couple singles and an LP,
Another ex Kim Newport member, James Blennerhassett, joined
up with Francie Lenehan to form The Hennigan Blooze Band, having a national hit
with Don't Slow Down in 1986.
No history of Sligo bands in the 70's and 80's would be
complete without a mention of Noel "Flukey" Gorman. Flukey, a drummer of
undeniable talent, has played with just about every band mentioned above. Never
one to stay long though, Flukey has provided solid backing for Sligo based bands
since he first came on the scene in the early seventies. Most recently, I
learned that Flukey had been playing with Boyle's reformed Jivenaires.
Anyone who stood in the old Baymount in Strandhill on March
13, 1979 realized that Eric was in bad shape. Probably in the height of his drug
and alcohol days, Eric stumbled through his set, often handing lead guitar riffs
off to country guitar legend, Albert Lee. It is hard to believe that, given his
state on the night, the guitar legend would outlast the hall in which he was
performing. Alas, Eric is here and the Baymount is gone!
of our own
The poster, left, comes from a fundraising effort to send
Mickey Nielsen, one of Sligo's finest musicians, off to the United States to
study at the world famous Berklee College of Music in 1983. Guitarist Mickey,
son of former Clefonaire and Jazz Ladd, Carl Nielsen, also appeared on several RTE
television shows around this same time. The star-studded concert featured a
"who's who" of local talent including Jargon, Thom Moore and Janie Cribbs
of Midnight Well (formerly Pumpkinhead), Kim Newport, Donal McLynn, and the
Jazz Ladds (of course),
among others. Click on the thumbnail of the poster to see it full size.
More to come.....
For a full list of Sligo
based bands, click here.