Clefonaires Feature (1958-1964)
Photo Gallery -
Band Lineups -
- Audio samples -
Where Are They Now?
The story of Sligo's Clefonaires
started in 1957 when a few lads in Tubbercurry started a skiffle
group to play at local dances. Like so many young musicians of the
era, it wasn't long before they realised they would have to up their
game to compete in the growing ballroom circuit.
In 1958, they set about forming a
showband and they called themselves the Clefonaires. Based in
Tubbercurry, their original line-up was: Peadar Leonard (vocals),
Pearse Leonard (guitar), Sean Hunt (bass), Eddie Brennan (drums),
Sean Haran (accordion), Mickey Brennan (trombone), Bernie Brennan
(sax), Pauric Potter (clarinet and sax) and Carl Neilson
(RIP-trumpet). Bernie Brennan was the leader of the band and they
set about conquering the dance scene with an advert in the Irish
Independent newspaper which was a bold move for s small local band
at the time.
Within a few months, the "Clefs"
as they would eventually be called, were playing ballrooms across
the northwest including Mayo, Leitrim and Donegal (as well as
Sligo). They were being advertised as the Clefonaires 10 piece
Orchestra or Dance Band, having added Tony Doyle to the line-up.
Their reputation continued to grow
during 1959 and they eventually played their first date in Kerry in
the CYMS Ballroom in Killorglin on St. Stephens Night, 1959. The
dance was actually held on Sunday the 27th of December because back
in those days, dancing was banned on Saturday Nights, thanks to the
influence of the Catholic Church.
By 1960, the band had adopted a
new name, The Clefonaires Combo, but more often they were being
advertised as the Clefonaires Showband, but we think this was often
the title used by promoters just to ensure they got the benefit of
the rising use of the name by bands like the Royal and others. The
band was now playing all across the country including many dates in
Dublin ballrooms like the Ierne and Crystal (the holy grail for
rural bands). They were also now an eight piece band. The band was
truly nationwide now and playing all the best ballrooms across the
In late 1961, the band underwent a
major change in line-up and joined with several members of the Savoy
Swing Seven to form a new Clefonaires outfit (this may have been
when they started using the name "Combo"). New into the band were
Roddy Gillen (guitar), Noel Morrison (bass), Dominic Smyth (drums)
and local man Frankie Brennan (guitar). The band was now a seven
piece, more in line with the standard showband lin-e-up at that
time. They were now being managed by Louis Chapman of Tubbercurry.
In May, 1963, a small article in
the Sligo Champion announced the addition of two new members
to the band. Both from Derry, they were Bobby Tyson on vocals and
Bobby Browne on trumpet. We not 100% sure whether Bobby Browne
stayed with the band as the only photo we have of this line-up has
Billy Tyson with Michael Burns still on trumpet.
The band appears to have broken up
in early 1964 as the last reference we can find to them playing a
gig is in February. At this point, we know Mickey Brennan joined the
Victors Showband based in Cork, Paraic Potter went to the Ohio
Showband based in Tuam and Michael Burns joined the Caroline
Showband based in Dublin.
In June, 1966, two ex-members of
the band, Roddy Gillen and Dominic Smyth, joined local balladeer
Donal McLynn as the resident cabaret act in the Baymount Hotel
(adjoining the Silver Slipper Ballroom). For the next few
years, Roddy and Dominic would provide the nightly music in the
cabaret room joined by other musicians including Liam Finan.
Eventually in the early 1970's Mickey Brennan and Pauric Potter
retired from the slog of the showbands and came back to Sligo where
they played with Roddy and Dennis Phelan in the Baymount initially
as "The Ladds" but they would eventually adopt the name the Jazz
Ladds and have been playing to this day (as of late 2017).
More to come.....
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