Brotherly Love Feature (1969
Photo Gallery -
Band Lineups -
- Audio samples -
Where Are They Now?
The Duggan Brothers from Sligo were one of the most unique groups to
happen upon the Irish ballroom scene in the early 70's. Not only
were they a family band (all brothers), but they wrote their own
music, specialised in tight harmony arrangements, and never gave up
their day jobs.
The band started out like most
families, each brother taking up an instrument at an early age.
Gerry and Ian played accordion, while younger brother Joss started
banging on the drums. Early on, youngest brother Vinnie was not yet
involved. In their native Sligo, they started playing in local
concerts, but soon graduated (with the addition of Vinnie on bass)
to play school dances, dinner dances and weddings. The lineup was:
Gerry (guitar), Ian (keyboards), Joss (drums) and Vinnie (bass). By 1969, the boys were playing
dances across the Northwest.
Their first major break came when
they secured the relief band gig at the Silver Slipper Ballroom in
Strandhill run by Sean Byrne. At the time, the venue ran multiple nights every week
and provided both a showcase for the boys and their talents, as well
as an opportunity to improve their playing and songwriting skills.
They were also exposed to the top bands in the country on a
regular basis. Bobby Kelly of the Sands, tells the story about how
they gave a set of their band suits to the lads after switching to
new gear. The relief gig was, at one time, the place where many
eventual showband musicians honed their skills.
Known exclusively as the Duggans
or Duggan Brothers in those days, they played an unusual blend of
harmony pop with numbers like Crosby, Still, Nash, and Young's
Carry On as well as their own compositions. In 1972, the boys
played relief to The Mighty Avons in a
local marquee and caught the attention of Jimmy
Smith. He immediately signed them to his own Velvet record label and
in January 1973 they released their first single, the originals My Kind of Girl
and 21st Rock Jig on the B side. It caused quite a stir locally as it was
unheard of in those days for a group (outside Dublin) to record
original material. Although it did not sell, it helped promote the
band in areas outside of Sligo as all airplay in those days was on
the national station, RTE. They were still the relief band in the
Silver Slipper as well...but they had a new name, Brotherly Love were finally on their way.
Around June, 1973 (as with most relief bands band in
the "good old days") the lure of the road beckoned and the lads
left their relief gig in the Silver Slipper to hit the road. They
had caught the eye (and ear) of the Tommy Hayden organisation and
were managed by the soon-to-be entertainment mogul, Louis
Walsh. In fact, they probably could best be described as Louis' first
For obvious reasons, the boys became known as Ireland's answer to
the Osmonds (who were huge at the time), a tag they never really liked, but which they could not
shake. There were very few "pop groups" in Ireland at the time as
most four piece bands tended to be playing heavier rock or blues
music, or have more members (5-8).
Prior to signing with Louis, the
boys had been managed by their father, Alfie, who continued to drive
them to gigs and help set up the gear. During this time, the boys
were all still attending school. They released their second single,
the John D'Ardis penned song, The Dark In The Dawn in 1973 again on Velvet and it got more
didn't crack the charts. More importantly though, it got the
attention of EMI records and in mid-1974, the band signed what was
described as a "three year deal" with the international label.
In August 1974, the band were chosen to support British hit makers
Mud at their concerts in Cork and the National Stadium in Dublin.
Around this time, the band considered changing their name to "Family
Band" as there was also a band in England with the name Brotherly
Love, but this didn't end up happening.
The first release on EMI in late
Skooby Doo, a pop record produced by John Drummond and written
by Andy Kim (Rock Me Gently), that did little for their careers,
but helped reinforce their "Osmonds" image. On September 27th,
1974, the band appeared on the Late Late Show singing the new
single. The following year they release Sweet Summer Kisses, but again, it made little impression on
the record buying public.
1975, younger sibling Paul joined the band on a full time basis
although the band was still semi-professional. Under the watchful eye of Louis,
the band was gigging around the country, but only on the weekends as
they continued their studies, preferring to build their work careers
while maintaining a "semi-professional" status as musicians. This
limited their ability to crack the big time, and also they were up
against 6 and 7 piece showbands (and an increasing number of pop
bands like The Memories, Rascals and Tweed) who brought a much
bigger sound to the stage.
In April, 1975 the band appeared
on the RTE show Aimen High and as well as that Joss and Gerry
played major roles in the Sligo production of "Joseph and his
Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat."
In 1976 it was reported that the
band would be featured on Hughie Green's "Opportunity Knocks," but
apparently they were bumped from the show on two different occasions
and never took part.
Throughout the late 1970's the band
continued to play, travel while continuing their school studies and
started their professional work careers. They eventually switched management
from Louis Walsh to Tom Kelly of Ballina who also managed the
Duskey Sisters/Fairways and
Kim Newport Band.
On January 1st, 1979 an explosion
in Gerry's house, injured the guitarist and his injuries were
serious enough that the band had to temporarily go off the road for
Unfortunately, the band never
really cracked the top of the ballroom circuit, always "little
brothers" to the larger pop and rock groups of the era. By
June, 1979, the professional work side of the brothers' lives won
out and they gave up music for their careers, which were very
successful and they had disbanded by September of that year,
although Gerry and Ian continued to enter songs in contests like
Castlebar Song Contest and the National Song Contest.
A decade after forming and
initially taking the local scene by storm, the Duggan brothers had
to make the all important decision as to whether work or music would
be more important moving forward and they made the decision to give
up the band and the road. In retrospect, anyone who grew up in Sligo
in the 1970's will remember with fondness, the young boys with major
talent that went up against the best bands in the nation and held
their own, making their home town of Sligo proud.
In the last few years, brothers
Ian and Joss have started playing local pubs and functions first
under the name Take Two and now as The Duggan Brothers. Sadly, Gerry
Duggan, who built a very successful career in the architectural
field, passed away on September 13, 2008 after battling Leukemia for
several years. Youngest brother Vinnie is a retail manager in the
furniture industry in Sligo and has not gone back to music. Ian and
Joss released a new album, Reflections, in September, 2012,
their first recording in nearly 30 years.
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