By Anthony O’Hagan


On Sunday, the 13th of October 1963, the night that Johnny Cash appeared in Dundalk, County Louth, although he had been advertised as being the seller of over 11 million records, not too many in the large crowd there that night knew him for anything more than being just a one-hit wonder.

This became obvious when he asked what song (of his) they wanted to hear and someone yelled out ‘500 Miles’ which was a popular song of the day, and he replied, “Sorry, I don’t know that one”, but he was more than happy to oblige with a reprise of his massive big hit ‘Forty Shades of Green’.

The Adelphi ballroom in Dundalk had opened its doors to the public on Saint Stephen’s Night, the 26th of December 1962, and already an impressive array of star performers had played there.

To the younger generation of today names like Chubby Checker, Emile Ford and Jim Reeves may not mean very much, but to the older generation they are legends and their music is heard quite frequently on radio programmes dedicated to that era of 60 years ago.

At 16, going on 17, I was already a seasoned campaigner in the dance halls and going to listen to someone that, in all probability, would be just another nine day sensation did not mean very much to someone like me who had already seen some of the greats, like Kenny Ball and his Jazz Men, Brendan Bowyer and the inimitable Joe Mac of The Dixies, then called the Dixielanders.

The Lorne Gibson Trio, a group that had some chart success with a number of records came and went on the 6th of October 1963 and now Johnny Cash had come and gone.

When June Carter with the Tennessee Three and the slightly inebriated Cash had finished their gig, it was my chance to go about the real purpose of that evening, dancing with and chatting up young ladies.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own