The Show band Era in Co. Mayo by James Reddiough
There were some leading show bands from this county. Jack Ruane Show band, Doc Carroll and his Royal Blues, Shay Cribben with the Riviera; and the Brose Walsh Band also. Jimmy Higgins called Mayo the land of a thousand dances and they also had a large number of bands. What about Vin Brogan and the San Atones from Foxford? They were very popular band and so too was the Bobby Mccaffrey band from Ballina. There was also Phil Munnelly and the Scarlet Seven from Crossmolina.
In an earlier era you had the orchestras or dance bands such as Stephen Garvey’s orchestra from Castlebar and the Jack Ruane Senior Orchestra from Ballina who were the first band to tour England in 1947 and the show band featuring Judd and Jack Jnr. Would continue this in the 1960’s. The Paschal Cosgrave show band was from Foxford too and there was the Pat Friel show band from Westport. The Royal Blues were from Claremorris and the Riveria were from the Ballyhaunis Charlestown area near Kilkelly and there were dancing meccas in all these towns.
When the Starlight was opened in Westport in February 1969 Vin Brogan and the San antones played support to Dickie Rock and the Miami the starlight had a revolving stage and as one band left the stage another came around to play for the dancers. The Royal Blues started in 1963 and remained at the top of their game until 1972 during that time they played support to Jim Reeves in Galway in May 1963 and they were the first show band to have a number one hit west of the Shannon with Old Man Trouble in 1966. They broke up around 1971 but featured in the charts during the late 1960’s with Doc Carroll and Shay O Hara from Carlow. Andy Creighton from Claremorris was the manager of the band.
Jack Ruane Jnr was from Ballina and he was a leading show band singer of the time with his rendition of the River Moy in Ballrooms throughout England and Britain in general when the band toured during the Lenten season and these dates would be advertised in the Western People each lent for the major ballrooms of England. You had singers and musicians like Jack Ruane, Eugene McCaffrey, Joe Sweeney, Johnny Crean, Judd Ruane, Ray Wordsworth and George Hunter and these were just some of the names that played with The Jack Ruane Show band. Along with the River Moy they enjoyed success with My Heartaches got Heartaches and I get the Fever also. Jack Ruane Jnr. Featured on BBC’s Monday Show in 1967 with Lulu a major milestone for the band at the height of their fame.
Shay Cribben and the Riveria made their fame as pop band with Love and the country and they recorded country songs too but they were better known as a pop band. They were together from 1964 to 1971 and they turned professional in 1967. The members of the Riveria were Shay Cribben, Mulchay Tiernan, Gerry Foley, Brendan O Grady, Keven Maloney, John Conway and Patsy Haugh, their manager was Seamas Cox from Aghamore. It was an Aghamore Man Thomas Anthony Tighe who gave the band their name; other popular recordings included Give Your Love a chance and Just a girl I used to know. Their last recording was The Latchyco in 1970.
The manager Seamas Cox summed it up best with this quote a few years back:
“The band were on the road for around six years from 1964 to 1971. They always enjoyed big popularity in their home area. We played dates all over the country. The marquees were all the go in the summers of that era. We also toured England several times. The lads always went down well because there were so many young people from the west of Ireland over there.” The brose Walsh band was popular all over the country and in England also.
The show band era in Mayo was a golden era mayo made a significant contribution to the period with some very well-known show bands and other lessor known but nevertheless important bands. There were at least 10 show bands of note from Mayo and they enjoyed success on the dance floor and stage as well as in the recording studio and charts.