Around Ireland many couples have special memories of dancing to the music of Joe Dolan and his family continues to keep his spirit alive with their ‘Remembering’ show. Here Ben Dolan chats to Seán Creedon about his time touring with his brother as well as their formative years in Mullingar.


‘‘There is no show like a Joe Show.’’ That’s the mantra of the extended family, friends and fans of the late Joe Dolan. And Ben Dolan, older brother of the famous Mullingar-born singer is aiming to keep that phrase alive for a long as he can.

Joe, who died aged 68 on St Stephen’s Day, 2007 was one of the legends of the Irish showband era and now Ben and Joe’s old band are taking their show ‘Remembering Joe’ on a nationwide tour this spring.
Officially the tour started in Ballybofey just after Christmas and it will end in the Theatre Royal in Waterford on April 20.

Joe was the only Irish singer to have hits in six decades: sixties, seventies, eighties, nineties, noughties and 2010’s. He had more records in the Irish charts than any other Irish artist, a total of 38, and he recorded 19 albums.
Joe was one of the elite of the showband era, along with his peers Butch Moore and the Capitol, Brendan Bowyer and the Royal and Dickie Rock and the Miami.

In the new show Ben, who shared the stage with his younger brother for 47 years will highlight Joe’s successful singing career. Ben is being joined on stage by Joe’s niece Sandra, nephews Adrian and Ray along with singer Karen Carroll and members of Joe’s backing band.

Joseph Francis Robert Dolan was born in Mullingar on October 16, 1939. He was one of nine children of Patrick and Ellen Dolan (nee Brennan). Patrick Dolan was reared in Portloman outside the town of Mullingar and when he got married himself and his wife moved into Austin Friar Street in the town.

Joe’s mother, Ellen, used to sing in the church choir in Walshestown, where Joe is buried.
After finishing school in 1958, Joe joined the staff of the Westmeath Examiner where he served his apprenticeship as a compositor at their offices in Dominick Street. It was on the advice of his brother, Ben who told him, ‘‘It would always be good to have something to fall back on, should music not work out.’’

Ben served his time as a carpenter with Reynold’s Carpenters in Mullingar. He said, ‘‘When I was around seventeen I saved enough up enough money to buy a saxophone and got lessons from Danny Hughes, who had a band here in Mullingar. Joe had got singing and piano lessons from a lady named Molly Carroll, which stood to him.’’

Ben and Joe got a band together and called themselves the Drifters. The other original band members included: Charlie McMorrow, Jimmy Horan, Seán Connolly and Eddie Deehy.

Ben said, ‘‘Our first-ever booking was in Castletown Geoghegan here in County Westmeath in January 1960. Most of our bookings back then were local, playing for clubs, like the GAA or Soccer clubs or maybe a political party like Fianna Fáil or the Labour party.

‘‘There was already an American group called the Drifters, but they were mainly a backing group and we avoided any confusion by calling ourselves the Drifters Showband.

‘‘After winning a band competition in Rooskey, we got a bit of publicity and became a bit better known around the midlands and gradually secured more bookings. Seamus Casey, a local school teacher, was our manager.’’
In 1964 Joe and the Drifters recorded their first record The Answer To Everything, which had previously been a hit for Del Shannon. It went to number four in the Irish top ten.

The success of that record had a major impact on the band. Suddenly they began to get bookings from ballrooms and promoters from all over the country.

Ben said, ‘‘Not many showbands were recording singles back then and when the Answer to Everything went so well, it really helped to promote us. I remember it was recorded in the Pinewood Studios out in Bray.’’
In the following years, Joe released a string of hits, including: I Love You More And More Everyday, My Own Peculiar Way, Aching Breaking Heart, Pretty Brown Eyes, Tar And Cement, The House With The Whitewashed Gable, Love Of The Common People and The Westmeath Bachelor.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own