Paddy started playing during the Showband era and went on to become one of Ireland’s most enduring performers. He talks to Seán Creedon about his long and distinguished showbiz career.
It’s now 60 years since Ireland witnessed the start of the showband era. In the early Sixties musicians began to dispense with their music stands, and started to play their electric guitars and saxophones while standing up.
They were joined by good looking young singers dressed in colourful suits, who were able to move around the stage as they sang. Most of the young musicians and singers were male, while Eileen Reid was very popular when she joined The Cadets and sang about ‘giving her wedding dress away’.
The Clipper Carlton from Strabane are credited with being the first ‘showband’, as the country emerged from the dreary fifties into the Seán Lemass Ireland of the sixties.
By 1967, it was estimated there were around 700 showbands touring the country. That was a country that didn’t have any by-passes or dual carriageways as bands criss-crossed the country in their buses.
Most of the bands were from the Dublin area and Northern Ireland, but nearly every town and village in the country eventually got their own showband. It was claimed that this new industry employed up to 10,000 people as new dance halls sprung up all over the country.
Brendan Bowyer was the lead singer with the Royal Showband. Other big names who would dominate the sixties included Joe Dolan and the Drifters, Dickie Rock and the Miami and Butch Moore and the Capitol.
One of the members of the Capitol who thankfully is still going strong is Paddy Cole. Recently I spoke to the man known as ‘The King of the Swingers’ and we chatted about the halcyon days of the ‘Swingin Sixties’.
Paddy took me back to his nervous debut. ‘‘My father Paddy, who drove the mail van in Castleblayney, also played saxophone with The Maurice Lynch Band and I suppose it was only natural that I would take an interest in the saxophone.’’
‘‘I made my debut as a 12 year-old with The Maurice Lynch Band in my hometown of Blaney, but I must admit that I froze on the stage. Thankfully my father started to play and then I just followed him. One of my sisters still has that poster advertising my debut all those years ago, but she won’t part with it,’’ added Paddy.
Paddy progressed to become a full member of The Maurice Lynch Band, who played mostly in the north of the country.
‘‘It was easy for me as I was young, but my father would sometimes have to go straight to work driving the mail van after returning home to ’Blaney having played at a dance for five or six hours the night before.’’