Shortly before he died, 20 years ago on April 3rd, 2001, Ireland’s Eurovision legend Butch Moore reflected on his career in an interview with Colm Keane.
Mayhem and madness erupted at Dublin Airport on the night of March 22, 1965. The uproar was prompted by the return of Butch Moore from the Eurovision Song Contest in Naples. More than 5,000 fans screamed their heads off on the airport balcony and in the arrivals hall. They waved banners and placards and chanted “We want Butch! We want Butch!”
Guards, airport officials and security men struggled to keep the fans in check. Hundreds of teenage girls jammed the doors of the airport lounge. Some made it onto the apron, close to where the singer’s aircraft had come to a halt. The place had seen nothing like it before, not even when The Beatles had arrived there in November 1963.
Adding to the chaos, the St. James’s Brass and Reed Band played For He’s A Jolly Good Fellow, while Dublin’s Deputy Lord Mayor, members of the Capitol Showband and Butch’s parents welcomed the singer home. Reporters from the national press were also present, looking for a scoop about Butch’s domestic arrangements.
“The press had made a big deal that I was married and had a wife, Nora, and a family,” Butch recalled. “There had been headlines in the evening papers, as if it was some big exposé. But I hadn’t kept it a secret. The fans were interested in the music, and it wasn’t something you’d really publicise. It’s just that no one had asked me about it before.”
On Butch’s departure from the airport, 1,000 fans swarmed his car, forcing it onto the grass margin in front of the departure lounge. Airport officials had to intervene to save those in front of the car from being knocked down.
To avoid disaster, the car exited via the airport’s arrivals lane, adding further to the turmoil.
The frenzy came as a shock to the singer, whose song, Walking The Streets In The Rain, had been placed a creditable sixth in the competition. That it hadn’t won didn’t matter. Not only was it Ireland’s first-ever Eurovision entry, but the fact that it was up there with Europe’s best was seen as a symbol of the nation’s arrival on the international stage.
“I was half-asleep after the flight and the excitement in Naples,” Butch remarked. “I was suddenly greeted by this mighty roar and the sound of a brass band. It was wild. It was like I had won it. The song was great, and it had gone really well. The Beatles had only recently come out, and there was Beatlemania. This was their way of doing it in Ireland, I think.”
At the time of his arrival in Dublin, Butch Moore was 27 years old and lead singer with the Capitol Showband. A Dubliner, he came from a talented family with achievements in music and sport.
His father, Tommy Moore, chief usher in Dáil Éireann, had won the Free State Cup – now the FAI Cup – with Drumcondra. His brother, Des, was a well-respected guitarist.
Butch – a noted swimmer – had swum for Ireland as a teenager. Back then, his official name was different. “I was christened James Moore,” he said. “My mother called me Seamus, but when I was a baby, apparently two years old, neighbours or cousins were at the movies and there was a character called Butch in it. That’s how I got the name, and it lasted through the rest of my life.”
Having first performed with the Blue Clavons and the Billy Carter Band, Butch was enlisted by the Capitol Showband in late 1960.
“We were known for the blue blazer, white shirt, tie, white pants and white boots,” he recalled. “We had other suits as well, but that was our trademark. We always had three suits, three outfits each, and we were forever changing them.
“When it came to getting a new suit, there would be murder over colours and styles. And I mean murder!”