I was born in a small town called Banagher in the midlands of Ireland on the banks of the River Shannon. It was there I spent many a happy day playing in the meadows and bog lands. Watching my uncles cut turf, jumping bog holes with my cousins and in the evening listening to the call of the Corncrake and the Curlew.
When I was six my family and I moved from the quiet town of Banagher to the hustle and bustle of Dublin City. We were a small close knit family but strangely enough there was no music in the house however my mother could dance a fine “Hornpipe.” My first introduction to the beauty of folk music came on cold winter evenings listening to Radio Luxemburg after homework was done. The station used to present a folk programme that featured well established names such as The Weavers, Rambling Jack Elliot and Hank Williams to name but a few. Folk music now became my first love, meaning the good ole Rock n Roll would have to take a back seat.
When I reached my teens I formed a folk duo with a fellow art student by the name of Michael Crotty. We called ourselves the “Ramblers Two” While together we toured various folk clubs in both Ireland and England during the mid sixties. However we eventually went our separate ways, Michael to join a folk group, and me, well I took the road less travelled and went solo…..This was to make all the difference.
My big break came in late 1966 when I recorded a song called “Mursheen Durkin” an old ballad from the west of Ireland. It topped the charts at Number 1 for three consecutive weeks and represented my first steps on the road to success. “Mursheen Durkin” was followed up by “The Boston Burglar” which also reached Number 1 in the charts. In 1966 in Dublin City I had played support to an up and coming band “The Rolling Stones” and for the very first time witnessed the mobbing and screaming of the fans, the band running for the back door and the all important getaway car….. Now this was happening to me!!!
My first tour of the United States was in 67. It involved seven weeks of concerts during that very hot summer of Hippies, Protests and Vietnam. One of the many famous venues I played was the “Hungry Eye” in San Francisco. However, my favourite was the famous “Carnegie Hall” in New York City. It was a most memorable experience for me at that time and still is to the present day. It was at this stage in my career that I had my third Number One Hit with the song “Nora” from Sean O’Casey’s famous play “The Plough And The Stars”
Later this song gained a well respected place on my album of prose, poetry and song called “All Our Wars Are Merry All Our Songs Are Sad” perhaps I will complete a similar project sometime in the future
I formed a band in the 1970’s and went Electric! My heart was now torn between the Fashionable Showbands of that era and my one true love Folk Music. Well let’s just say …. Love Conquered All.
On a golden August afternoon while sitting on a stone in the sun outside Kennedy’s pub in Doocastle Co. Mayo, came the inspiration to write my first song “Long Before Your Time” It too reached Number 1 and to this day I am still putting pen to paper or as Dylan Thomas might say “Labouring By Singing Light”.
I am happy to say that many of the songs that I have written over the years have become standards and have been recorded by many other singers. Song’s like “Long Before Your Time” “Michael” “Going To California” “The Ballad Of John Williams” “Richman’s Garden“Never Learned To Dance” and “The Ballad of Anne Frank”to name a few.
I consider myself most fortunate as my singing has brought me to many places in the world, places I would never have dreamed of seeing. I have seen the cold lands of Northern Canada, been stranded in blizzards throughout the U.S., Stood on the burning sands of the Persian Gulf, and sung my songs beneath the warm sun of Spain. I have sailed both the Caribbean and Mediterranean Seas, wondered at the many ancient sites in Rome and have been seduced by the beauty of Pompeii. Witnessed the beginning and the ending of the Cold War, shuddered at the atrocities of 9/11 and rejoiced at the coming of peace to Northern Ireland. Throughout all these experiences, both my writing and singing have been with me through the good and bad.
This year will the see the release of my first studio Album in 10 years. The new album “Basement Sessions” is due out in October and I have to say I am very excited about it. I believe it is some of my best work yet. I also make a return to Newfoundland this year, a place I haven’t been for a few years. I am also delighted to announce that I will be back touring Ireland for October and November.