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.
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 looks at the showbands and singers who competed in the various song contests, including Eurovision.


For five consecutive years from Ireland’s debut in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1965, the song representing Ireland was performed by a showband singer. There was a star quality to Ireland’s entry in those days, no sign of any non-binaries and the singers were mobbed when they returned home.

The 1965 contest was held in Naples, Italy. To choose the best song, a National Song Contest was organised by the then Teilifís Éireann and hosted by Bunny Carr. Twelve songs took part, with the winner chosen by voting from twelve regional juries.

Other participants included future Irish representative Dickie Rock as well as John Keogh of the Greenbeats and Brendan Bowyer. The winning song ‘Walking the Streets in the Rain’ was written by Teresa Conlon with music by George Prendergast and Joe Harrigan and finished in 6th place in the final in Naples.

Dickie Rock sang three songs in the 1966 National Contest and won the trip to Luxembourg with a Rowland Soper ballad, ‘Come Back To Stay’. Sonny Knowles of the Pacific Showband sang two songs and had the unenviable distinction of being awarded zero points for both. Voting was by postcards from viewers. In Luxembourg, Dickie performed well and the song finished in 4th place.

The following year it was an even higher position, runner-up for the Wesley Burrows’ song ‘If I Could Choose’, sung by Seán Dunphy of the Hoedowners. He was the only showband singer in the Irish contest that year. No song was going to beat ‘Puppet On A String’ sung by Sandie Shaw that year in Vienna.

1968 was the first year that had two semi-finals before the Irish final. Unlike the previous year, there were quite a few showband singers selected including Pat Lynch, Tony Kenny, Tina Reynolds, Dawn Knight, Deirdre Wynne, Frankie McBride, Tommy Drennan, Roly Daniels, Gregory Donaghey and the winner, Pat McGeegan of the Skyrockets Showband singing ‘Chance of a Lifetime’ by John Kennedy. As in 1966, the song finished 4th in Vienna.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own