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.
This week we begin an occasional series in which Francis K. Beirne takes a look back at the Showband scene and remembers some of the singers, songs and bands that defined that era.
He begins by recalling some of the bands that had a colour in their name!


Back in the 1960s, at the height of the ballroom dancing era, new showbands were sprouting up like ragwort in Ireland’s towns and villages. Before the outfit could accept a booking, they had to decide on a name and colours featured prominently throughout the land.

Probably not inspired by successful groups such as Pink Floyd and Deep Purple, many bands nevertheless included a colour in its name. Let’s go through the rainbow and explore.

In Arklow, we had the Red 7, led by Pat Tyrrell. The band morphed into the Columbia Showband and had a hit record with ‘Way Out Of Reach’ sung by Eddie Mack. Up north we had the Red Admirals in Ballymena, a band which featured Malachy Cairns and Ray Fynes. The Red Barons, from Armoy, Co. Antrim included three brothers, Harry, Barney and Paul Mulholland, and the Red Sunbeam Dance Band was based in Swanlinbar, Co. Cavan.

Orange? Hmmm . . . not a showband but there was a very successful beat-group in Dublin named Orange Machine. With RTÉ presenter Jimmy Greeley on drums, they had a hit record with ‘Three Jolly Little Dwarfs’ in 1968.
Yellow? Stuck already. Well, the Gentry had a hit with ‘Yellow River’ in 1970 and the Hoedowners recorded ‘Yellow Bandana’ on the B-side of Sean Dunphy’s Eurovision hit, ‘If I Could Choose’. Yellow wouldn’t have been a popular colour to use because of its connotations of cowardice.

Ah, green. No problems here. The Green Angels, another band from that musical Northern town, Ballymena. The band featured ace trumpeter Roy Adinell, Jimmy Halferty on trombone and piano and again, Malachy Cairns on tenor sax. Who remembers the ‘Showband Show’ on the then Teilifís Éireann (now RTÉ)? The resident band was The Greenbeats with John Keogh on piano and vocals. Though a 4-piece then, they later added a brass section and embarked on the showbands’ circuit.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own