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The Big Four (1961-1964 / 1969 / 1974-1983)

Photo Gallery - Band Lineups - Discography - Audio samples - Where Are They Now?

The Story

The Big Four were launched in late 1961 by manager Jack Barrett from Kells. They made their debut in the Crystal Ballroom in Dublin on November 4th, 1961 and have to be one of the most unusual outfits to ever play on Ireland's ballroom circuit. The original lineup was Pat McGuigan (McGeegan for the stage) on bass, Mike McGeady from Derry on sax, Bill Davidson from Glasgow on guitar and Doug Stewart from Dundalk on drums and vibes. In one sense they were basically a standard four pieces group with bass, drums, guitar and sax, but they also doubled on many instruments which made them somewhat unique in the early days of 7 and 8 piece showbands.

The band seemed to be an immediate hit, playing venues all across the country within weeks of their first gig which was quite unusual for most bands of the era which took some time to get established. It is difficult to imagine how a four piece band was able to compete with 7-8 piece showbands and 10-12 piece orchestras in the days when amplification was limited or even non existent in many rural areas.

After almost two years on the road and enjoying a steadily growing reputation as the "top quartet in the country" the band recorded its first single which was The Wedding with the Hawaiian Wedding Song on the B-side. The song was a major success and reached number 7 in the Irish charts. After this success, they appeared on several British TV shows including ITV's Thank Your Lucky Stars and the BBC's Stars and Garters. The record release coincided with the band having a new manager, Phil Solomon, who was also managing the Bachelors at the same time.

It appears that after the success of the record, the band was being billed as "Pat McGeegan and the Big Four" and they added a new member to the lineup, harpist Brian Rayner, making them a five piece. On May 1st, the band appeared at a charity concert in the London Palladium which was organised by Phil Solomon and included the Bachelors and Capitol Showband.

In November, 1964, Pat announced he was leaving the band to join the Cork-based Victors Showband. If is a little difficult to figure out what happened to the band as they did play several gigs at the end of the year (with no mention of Pat being in the band), but then they disappeared until 1968. We found a report in 1966 that said the Big Four had gone to Chicago and that Pat had stayed behind when he joined the Victors.

Pat would stay with the Victors until April, 1966 when he was lured away by Enniskillen's Skyrockets Showband. In 1968, while still a member of the Skyrockets, Pat was selected to sing a song in the National Song Contest called Chance Of a Lifetime. Pat did well. winning the National song contest and placing fourth in Eurovision, the country's second 4th place finish with 2nd and 6th place finishes in previous years. He came home to a hero's welcome and the ensuing publicity gave the Skyrockets a boost on the ballroom scene which would have not been possible without the contest win. 

Pat stayed with the Skyrockets for another 18 months before deciding it was time for a change. Said Pat at the time, "The reforming of the Big Four has always been an ambition of mine. When we working the (ballroom ) circuit (five years earlier) I felt the band was before its time. Since then, many new avenues that would suit us have opened up like cabaret." The reformed band would be managed by Hugh Hardy. Mike McGeady had return ed from the States along with Doug Stewart and a new guitarist, John O'Brien, was brought into the line-up as Bill Davidson had stayed in the States, moving to New York.

The boys hit the road early in September to great fanfare as memories of their early success almost a decade earlier pointed to a bright comeback, but it was not to be (at least this time). Despite huge amounts of publicity, the band failed to connect with a new younger audience there were hints of skepticism in the press about their pulling power during the country and western boom of the late 1960's. In late October, after only 7 weeks, Hugh Hardy quit as the band's manager saying he "just couldn't devote enough time to the outfit and it would be better if they parted company."

In fact, were off the road less than five months after returning to the scene. By the middle of January, it was reported that the band had split up with Pat going to do solo cabaret spots, guitarist John O'Brien joined the band Tumbleweeds. Pat spent the next two years back in Clones working with his family's grocery business. Suddenly in November, 1972, Pat resurfaced, this time as a member of Frankie McBride's new band Rio Grande

In September, 1974 the band reformed and went on the road yet again. Following its history is hampered by the fact that there was a band based in Co. Cork and managed by John Lehane of Macroom also called the Big Four on the road in the early 1970's and many articles in the news about he "big four" banks. The new lineup included Pat and original drummer Doug Stewart, joined by new guitarists Charlie Flynn (lead) and Danny Doran (rhythm). They were now being managed by Nelius O'Connell.  

What we do know is that the band was soon one of the top cabaret acts in the country as the era of the lounge bar had exploded with many pubs adding much bigger rooms to accommodate larger crowds and a plethora of new cabaret acts hits the scene. This growing segment of the entertainment industry would eventually pull many of the aging showband stars into its ranks and providing a good living and people began to get accustomed to paying a "cover charge" in the pubs. There was a new kind of band coming up like Just Four, the Rib Ticklers and artists like Brendan Grace.

By November 1976, the band was being managed by George McCarron and doing very well on the cabaret circuit but still had not released a record. Additionally, the whole band was new with Gerry Douglas (drums), Michael Quinn (guitar) and Eugene McElwaine (guitar) now backing Pat. Based on our research it is we have discovered that this was actually the band Eclipse as both Michael and Eugene were with that band and they were also managed by George McCarron. In August, 1977 Pat released "Loving Arms" on the Glen label, but it made little impression and did not chart. A year later, in November, 1978, Pat and the band issued their first album, "Be Nice To Me" issued on Quartz Records. 

As far as we can tell, Pat and the Big Four would continue to tour until 1983 when we found their last advertised gig. Pat would return to Clones and is family grocery business, but sadly, only four years later he would pass away after a short illness at the age of only 52.                           

More to come.....

Photo Gallery

click on thumbnails for full image

Big Four - 1961 Big Four - 1961 Big Four - 1961 Big Four (RF) Big Four (RF)
Big Four - 1963 Big Four (RF) Big Four (RF)   Big Four (RF)
Big Four - 1969 Big Four (RF) Pat McGeegan - 1972 Big Four - 1974 Big Four - 1974 (RF)
Big Four - 1974 Big Four - 1974 Big Four - 1976 Eclipse (RF) Big Four - 1977? (RF)
   
Big Four (RF) Big Four (PL) Big Four (PL)   Coming Soon
Years Guitar Bass Drums Sax Harp
Nov
1961
Bill
Davidson
Pat
McGeegan
Doug
Stewart
Mike
McGeady
 
Nov
1963
Bill
Davidson
Pat
McGeegan
Doug
Stewart
Mike
McGeady
Brian
Rayner
Sept
1969
John
O'Brien
Pat
McGeegan
Doug
Stewart
Mike
McGeady
 
Sept
1974
Charlie
Flynn
Pat
McGeegan
Doug
Stewart
Danny
Doran
 
           

Discography

The Wedding / Hawaiian Wedding Song - #7 Irish Charts
Decca Records - F.11756 - October, 1963
Loving Arms /

Glen Records - Unknown - August, 1977

Audio Clips

         
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Coming Soon

Where Are They Now?  

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In Loving Memory of Grant Gallagher: Sept. 21, 1990 - Nov. 18, 2006