In the heyday of the showbands – dating roughly from the mid-1950s to the late 70s – an estimated 1,500 bands of various musical genres travelled the country. In this occasional series Francis K. Beirne takes a look back at the Showband scene and remembers some of the singers, songs and bands that defined that era. This week he concentrates on bands that had a profession or job in their name.


Imagine the scene. It’s an evening in the 1960s in any small town or village in Ireland. Seven or eight young musicians are sitting around, maybe in a pub after a rehearsal. They’re trying to decide on a name for their newly-formed showband. “The Barmen” one suggests. “The Pints” says another. “The Musicians” suggests a third to a communal groan. “The Solicitors” says one, spotting the local lawyer coming in for a drink. “Let’s go up a step – ‘The Barristers’?” “That’ll do, we can get wigs and gowns and have photos taken. Cheers!”

A fictional scene but typical of how a showband’s name was decided on back in the 1960s. Quite a few groups of musicians felt that a profession or a trade gave their combo a touch of class. A “what do you want to be when you grow up?” kind of question.

Like the Barristers Showband from Derry, some outfits aimed high with highly-respectable names. Take the Chancellors from Drogheda (formed by members of the disbanded Toppers Showband), the Presidents and the Senators from Belfast and the Statesmen from Dublin (which included guitarist Norman Teeling).

Some had high hopes for the future. With a burst of religion we had The Saints from Athlone, led by Syd Shine, The Kardinals from Bangor in County Down, a band that moved first to Manchester and then to Europe to play the American Army base camps and The Friars from Limerick, perhaps looking to life after the showbands! In Belfast, The Prophets were fronted by Moses K. (Kenny McDowell).

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own Saint Patrick’s Day Annual