Chips Feature (1969-1986)
Photo Gallery -
Band Lineups -
- Audio samples -
Where Are They Now?
Chips stands out as one of the most innovative bands ever to tour the Irish
ballroom scene. The band's roots date back to the mid-to-late 60s with
several Belfast bands, including The Dominoes, The Group, and
Heart 'n Soul.
In the mid 1960's, The Dominoes were
formed in Belfast as a laid back pop and soul band. By 1968, they had started to
attract some attention in the local press. Included in the five member band were
Bill Morrison, Dick Pentland and the late Fred Isdell. Soon to be glitter rocker, Teddie
Palmer, actually sang with The Dominoes on one occasion in The Boat Club on the
banks of the Lagan River.
When Dick left the band to join Heart 'n Soul,
the remaining members formed The Group. Managed by Colin McClelland, the line-up was Bill
Morrison (vocals and piano), Fred Isdell (bass and vocals), John Smith (drums and vocals), and Sez
(Michael) Adamson (lead guitar and lead vocals).
Everything changed when Sez Adamson left the
band to emigrate to South Africa. The Group needed a new lead singer and Colin and Bill decided to try a novel idea...two female singers! After a call went out for auditions, Linda Martin, still a schoolgirl, and Annie Ferguson
(both of Belfast) got the jobs. It was 1969 and at around the same time,
Heart n' Soul were in transition and Dick, along with a few other members of
the band, decided to rejoin his old band mates in the newly formed group, Chips (photo
top right - L to R): Bill Morrison (piano and vocals), Annie Ferguson (vocals), and Linda Martin (vocals), Robin Irvine (bass and vocals), Dick Pentland (organ, vocals, woodwinds), and Robin Lavery (drums and vocals).
The solid musical knowledge of the band, coupled with six voices, led to some pretty adventurous repertoire for the time. The band actually did a great version of the Beach Boys' "Good Vibrations" live, and included in the act were incredibly accurate cover versions of the Mamas and Papas, Fifth
Dimension, and other harmony groups. The original Chips became the top pop band in Northern Ireland, were featured on TV, both North and South, and had a whole series written about them in the Belfast Telegraph, and were extensively covered in other media. They
recorded one single for Emerald Records, released in the UK and Ireland.
1970, Bill Morrison left to pursue his civil service career, and was replaced by Paul Lyttle. This was to be a pivotal move for the band as Paul became the driving
musical force behind the band for
rest of its career. Almost more importantly, the number of band members with day
jobs were outnumbered for the first time and the band turned professional. Shortly afterwards, Dick Pentland
left and formed the group, Dunno, but would eventually join Clubsound and was replaced by Adrian Mullen on keyboards. Dick
eventually emigrated to Canada in 1975. In a 1974 article, Adrian was described
as the "band leader" but that title was really used in those days to
describe the band's "arranger."
In September, 1971, the band was involved with
some controversy when their single, "Today I Killed A Man" was banned by RTE,
who refused to play the song because of the tense situation in Northern Ireland.
Around the same time, they pulled out of an appearance on Jimmy Saville's
"Speakeasy" show on Radio One as they were unable to rearrange prior commitments
(Spotlight, September 16, 1971). On the bright side, Ulster TV aired a
documentary about the band in late September. However, more trouble was on the
horizon for 1971's premier band.
January 1972, Paul and girlfriend Linda quit Chips to form Lyttle People.
The band's original lineup included Mike Brown (Sunshine -
bass), Joe Traynor (Candy - drums), Gerry O'Neill (Gentry
- keyboards), and Billy McCoy (guitar). In explaining the move Paul
said, "We left Chips because they had changed. Linda and I couldn't
go along with the way things were going. Lyttle People are going to
do what Chips could have done."
Meanwhile, Robin and Chips
found replacements with Ken Wilson taking over
on guitar, and Eleanor Cave replacing Linda as the second female vocalist and the addition of
the late Damien O'Reilly as a second keyboard player (although it was reported
in Spotlight that Damien was replacing Paul). Later, Nicola Kerr would
join the band. The band expanded to a
seven piece for the only time in their history. They were back on the road less
than a month after the departure of Paul and Linda.
Eighteen months later, a report in Top
Rank News of July, 1973 reported
that Robin Lavery had left Chips and he was replaced by Renaldo "Reno" Smith
from Chicago who had met Robin Irvine after playing with the group
Truth some years earlier. Meanwhile Lyttle People had also
undergone some personnel changes when they added Barry Woods (keyboards) and Joe Hanratty
(drums) from the Newmen,
along with Allan Holland (bass) and Liam Taggert (guitar) from The Friends.
It was reported that Robin Lavery was going to form his own band in
the Sept. 6, 1973 issue of Spotlight, but this never happened. Joe Hanratty was
soon replaced by Jimmy Compton. Meanwhile, Robin was replaced in Chips by
drummer Reno Smith. In the October 11, 1973 issue of Spotlight it
was reported that Robin Irvine had left the band and was being
replaced by Frank Boylan.
However, all the changes made
little difference as apparently Lyttle People disbanded in October, 1973.
A blurb in the October 25th, 1973 issue of Spotlight announced the
launch of "Original
Chips." The band was reformed with Paul, Linda and Robin Lavery rejoining Robin
Adrian and Annie. Despite the name, only 4 of the 6 members were actually
"original" as Adrian and Paul were not part of the original
lineup of the band. The band was being managed by Peter Bardon.
This is the lineup pictured left: (left to right) Robin Irvine
(bass), Annie Ferguson (vocals), Adrian Mullen (keyboards), Robin Lavery
(drums), Linda Martin (vocals) and Paul (guitar).
What is interesting is that Nicola Kerr was gone from the lineup in the
"Original" Chips, but returned a few months later in 1974 when Annie
left the band.
Not long after reforming, in June 1974,
founding member Robin Irvine left the band to form Bananas, a rock group that
played the Dublin and Belfast club scenes. Robin was joined by Ken Wilson, the
guitar player with Chips during Paul Lyttle's absence. Also in the band were
Mick O'Hagan (brother of Johnny Logan-vocals), Jodi Pollard (guitar) and John
Donnelly (drums). Annie Ferguson had also announced her intention to
leave the band at the end of March, 1974.
In 1975, Robin and several members of
the band emigrated to New York where Bananas played for about a year,
only to go their separate ways by 1976. With his departure, no member of the
band had been with it since the beginning and by 1975, the only "founding"
member left would be Linda Martin. In 1974, the band had some measure of success in France with a single
called King Kong under the name
Lily and Chips.
Back at home in June, 1974, Robin was replaced by Shaun Magee, who had previously been with
Sunshine (which also featured ex-Lyttle People member, Stuart Bingham).
Shaun would stay with the band until 1978. 1974 was a big year for the band, as
they were given their own series on BBC Northern Ireland. The show, which was
sub titled, Chips and Friends featured appearances by Glen Curtin, Fran
O'Toole, McMurrough and Tina. The same year they appeared on Britain's "Opportunity
Knocks," and RTE's "The Likes of Mike" and "Johnny McEvoy Show."
The following year, in 1975, Nicola left
and joined Dublin group, Stacc, where she met and sang with Catriona Walsh.
Nicola would take part in the Irish Song Contest on several occasions: In 1976
as a backing singer for Red Hurley, in 1977 as part of the Swarbriggs Plus Two
with Alma Carroll, and in 1978 with Stacc where they finished second. In
1979, both Nicola and Catriona would join Britain's popular New Seekers.
Nicola was with the Seekers from February and Catriona joined in September. Both
would leave the following September before striking out on her own doing musical theater
in London and then back in Ireland.
was replaced by Irene McElroy who had also been a member of
Sunshine. Irene stayed with the band into the 80's. Robin Lavery also left the band in
1975, reportedly to join former member Robin Irvine in Bananas in the States,
although that arrangement was short-lived. He was replaced by drummer, Brian Donaghy. This lineup (seen at right)
stayed together for about three years. In 1975 the band hit its stride appearing
on TV a number of times including "Top of the Pops," and "Opportunity Knocks" in
In 1976, Chips toured with the Bay City Rollers, one of the world's biggest pop acts at the time.
This was the "golden age" for the
band. After their appearances on British TV, they were asked to tour with the Rollers
and followed that up with several hit records and appearances in
Ireland's National Song Contest several years running: 1976 - they placed second
with We Can Fly; 1977 - they finished fourth with Goodbye Goodbye;
and in 1978 - finished fourth again with Happy Days. Although they never quite
got the top spot, they continued to build their reputation as one of Ireland's
top pop bands. In 1977, their entry, Goodbye Goodbye failed to win, but became
the top selling Irish single several weeks later, a tribute to their loyal fan
base and talent.
In 1978, keyboardist Adrian Mullan left the band to team up with
Des Lee and Starband. Des had originally been with the
Miami which reformed in 1975 after
the tragedy in which three members of the band were killed in a terrorist bombing. Steven Travers also left the
Miami to start Starband. They added Aonghus
McNally, a guitarist from the
Celtic rock band, Mushroom who would go on to fame as
a presenter with RTE television. Steven eventually went on to form rock band,
The Crack, a few years later. The same year, Shaun Magee left and ended
up with Gibney and Donovan.
The band's leader, Paul Lyttle, was one of the pioneers of Irish
pop music throughout the seventies and beyond. The band never played the same
old top forty fare as other bands and always included songs that were more
technically complex from artists such as Steely Dan. Paul is a talented songwriter, as well as a producer and guitarist.
The line up left is pictured from a December, 1978 edition of Entertainment News and is the last photo of the band we have,
but we know they stayed on the road for quite a while. This line up is: (L. to
R.) Brian Donaghy (drums), Linda, Paul, Irene, and Trevor England, who took over
for Shaun Magee on bass and by coincidence, had also played in Sunshine!
In 1981, RTE produced a six week series called the "Best of the Bands" which featured the top Irish pop groups of the time. Along with
The Memories, Shaun O'Dowd and Dingaling, Tweed, The Miami, and
Hughes and the Paddy Cole Superstars, Chips had their own hour long show.
In 1982, Chips was in the Irish National Song Contest singing "Tissue of Lies."
They placed last and it would be their last time in the contest as a group.
However, Linda Martin would go on to perform in the Irish Song Contest many more
times, winning it the following year with Terminal Three and winning the
Eurovision in 1992 with the Johnny Logan penned Why Me?
By the time 1983 rolled around, Paul and Linda were all
that remained of this lineup. Both Irene and Brian left that year and Paddy Duffy
came in on drums, he had been the band's road manager prior to picking up the
sticks! The bass player was
We came across an advert in the
August 15, 1986 edition of the Sligo Champion which shows "Linda Martin and Chips" appearing in the Astoria Ballroom in Bundoran on August 17th.
They also appeared on a UTV television special the same year and were back to a
five piece. We're not sure what the lineup was except there was only one
vocalist (Linda) and Paul was on keyboards (at least for that show).
Linda eventually went on to International fame by winning the Eurovision Song Contest in 1992 with Why Me, a tune written by two time Eurovision winner, Johnny Logan. Linda's win started an unprecedented string of wins as Ireland took the top
spot four out of the next five years! She and Johnny also teamed up in 1984 with Terminal 3 and came in second.
More to come hopefully......
click on thumbnails for full image
Martin: Linda was the only original band member still there at the end of
the band's career, almost twenty years (except for her stint with Lyttle People
in 1973). Along with Paul (who joined a year after
they started), she stayed until the band called it quits in the late 1980's.
Linda went on to a successful solo career, winning the Eurovision Song Contest in 1992.
She recently released a solo CD entitled, You Needed Me, a collection of love songs.
Ferguson: Unknown - if you have info please email us
Morrison: After leaving Chips, Bill played for a
time with the band, Dunno. He then left Ireland to live in
St Lucia and on his return in 1981 brought about a reunion
of the original Dominoes. He has continued as lead guitarist
and singer with the Dominoes to the present day. He is an
architect-planner now living back in his hometown, Belfast.
Irvine: Robin, of course, left Chips and formed
Bananas which played the Dublin and Belfast club scenes in
1974. In 1975, he emigrated
to the States to play with a couple of members of Bananas
and was joined by Robin Lavery when he left Chips. We received an
email from Robin and he tells us that over the years he has
a musician, a roadie, a sound
man, a tour manager and since 2001, a boat salesman. Today
he is married with 3 girls and live in Westchester County,
about 20 miles north of Manhattan, but, in his own words,
"sadly I do not play any more."
||Robin Lavery: The
last report of Robin is that he was working in Crymbals
Music Store in Belfast, but that was some years ago. As far
as we know, he is living in Bangor and still gives regularly
with several of the musicians who were part of Dunno and the
John Smith Band in the 1960's. Our thanks to Robin Irvine
for the update.
Chips went fulltime pro in 1972, Dick left to form Dunno
with other former Dominoes members. When this broke up, he
joined Clubsound, playing keyboards, tenor sax and
percussion. While in Clubsound he played baritone sax
with the BBC big band. He gave it all up in 1974, and
emigrated to Canada in 1975, where he still lives in Nova
Scotia. He works as a management consultant to the
international port industry.
Paul was (August, 2011) the representative for
Marshall Amplification in Ireland. This came after several
years as the
Retail Manager with X Music, the largest music retailer in
Ireland. Previously he had been the manager with Music
Maker. Additionally, he is still playing, these days with
Tequila Sunrise doing weddings and corporate gigs. The band,
which has been on the road since the early 80's, also
features Joanna Farrell.
Keyboard player Adrian left the band in 1978,
shortly after Shaun Magee to join the newly formed
Starband with Des Lee. He still plays in and around Dublin with a two man show and performs in the Middle East from time to time.
In 2012, we saw Adrian playing keyboards with Dickie Rock's
band on RTE television.
After leaving Chips, Nicola spent time around Dublin doing
session work and was in the Irish Song Contest every year
from 1976-1978 with different groups. She joined Stacc in
1978 and then went to England and
joined the New Seekers in 1979 through Sept, 1980. During the eighties she lived
in England and sang with such popular acts as Murray Head
and Level 42, appearing on numerous TV shows, including Top
of the Pops. In 1994 she looked after a sick friend's
children and got the idea for the business which she now
runs. In 2008, she released Sleepytime Lullabies, a CD of
children's lullabies designed to help infants and young
children get to sleep.
After leaving Chips, Shaun went on to play with
Gibney and Donovan,
The Joe Cuddy Band and finally
Vienna (with Dee Mahon, formerly
Julie of Starband) before emigrating to Canada in 1985. Today, Shaun lives and works in Toronto where
he manages a construction company. We thank him for all his help in putting
together this feature.
After leaving the band, Irene moved to Scotland where she teamed up with Alex Mathieson and they toured Scotland and the North of England, before moving to
Tenerife where they stayed for four years. Irene then came home to Ireland and did not sing for a couple of years, until she met Jerry McLarnon and they have played together for five years under the
name It Takes Two. She lives in Ballymena, County Antrim with her husband, Derek Archibald
and we thank them for the update.
Brian Donaghy: Brian lives in Dublin and works as a travel agent, but
still plays in local clubs. In a recent email, Brian
confirmed that information.
Our thanks to Joe Reid, who told David Martin that up
until recently, Trevor was teaching in a school in Belfast.
We understand that as of March 5, 2008, Trevor is
teaching music in SERC College in Bangor, Northern Ireland.
Our thanks for the update.
If you have more info
please email us
Unknown - if you have info please email us
Unknown - if you have info please email us