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Dermot O'Brien and his Clubmen (1959-1972)
Dermot O'Brien Solo - 1972-2007

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

The Story

Dermot O'Brien, Ireland's "Merry Ploughboy," is one of the few stars to have done it all, from Ceili band to Showband and finally, success as a solo cabaret star which continued until his death in May, 2007. Dermot's showband success can be traced back top his teen years when at age 14, he was learning piano at the local school in Ardee, Co. Louth. On leaving school he joined the Emerald Ceili Band out of Slane, Co. Meath in 1951. He also got a job with the County Council as a clerk and spent his spare time learning to play the accordion. In 1953 he joined the Vincent Lowe Trio, who were "big time" in those days. The trio was Vincent Lowe (piano), Dermot (accordion) and Gabriel McGuigan (drums). Vincent and Gabriel were from the Newry area and Dermot stayed with them for two years before getting the itch to start his own band.

In 1955, Dermot put together the St. Malachy's Ceili Band. He named the group after his piano teacher, Sister Malachy in the local convent. The band did very well as Dermot's reputation as one of the country's finest accordion players continued to grow. They also did two tours of the United States during this time. At the same time, Dermot was playing football for his native County Louth and during the 60's ended up playing in the All Ireland final at Croke Park...every footballers dream.

In 1959, the winds of change were blowing across the Irish entertainment scene and Dermot could see that the Ceili bands would have limited appeal in the new landscape. He started the Clubmen in 1959, initially as a semi-pro outfit. The band was made up of local lads and a female vocalist, Lillian Campbell. It was during this time that all the members of the band were members of Our Lady of Lourdes Boys' Club in Drogheda, hence (we think) the name, The Clubmen. This would be a gig they did on a regular basis for the first couple of years. In 1960, the band undertook its first tour of England.

By early 1961, the band status and reputation was growing and they started to play in Dublin ballrooms like the Crystal while still playing their usual gigs in the local boys club. It was becoming obvious the band could do better if they were professional and later that year Dermot gave up football for music.  

In 1962, the band turned professional but all the old members had to be replaced and a brand new set of musicians made up the Clubmen. The band's popularity grew along with the Showband era. In the mid sixties, Dermot finally got around to making his first record, Johnny Cash's I Walk The Line in 1966. The record did very well, and made it to number three in the Irish Charts. Instead of following up with another American country song, the story goes that the band's manager, George O'Reilly, suggested that Dermot's follow up should be The Merry Ploughboy, a song which would define his career for a generation. The record shot up the Irish Charts and reached Number One and stayed on the charts for 10 weeks. After the success of Ploughboy, the band went from playing to crowds of hundreds to over a thousand a night.

In 1967, after the success of Ploughboy, the Clubmen became one of the first Irish bands to undertake a concert tour of Britain. Previously, Irish outfits were limited to appearing in the Irish halls. In April, 1968, Dermot and the Clubmen went their separate ways, as did so many bands at the time. The band left behind their country and western roots as Dermot's backing band and went in a new pop direction. The band included five of the original Clubmen: Timmy Regan (guitar and lead vocals), Eamonn Campbell (guitar), Johnny Barton (drums), Denis O'Loughlin (sax) and Willie Healy (trumpet). The band was rounded out by two new members: Jim Newman on bass and Kenny Doyle on keyboards. 

In a blurb in the Insider column of Spotlight on July 13, 1968, it was revealed that the Clubmen were changing their name to the Tigermen. As an aside, In December 1970, the Tigermen were absorbed into the new band, Jubilee, which was a ten piece big band.       

In 1969, Dermot had his own show on RTE radio called The Styles of O'Brien on Friday's at 7:15 p.m. At the same time, his new  Clubmen featured some pretty heavy hitters including Sonny Knowles (formerly of the Pacific) and the late Mike Nolan on trumpet.    

The "new" Clubmen toured the USA, did stints in Germany and of course numerous tours in England, Scotland and Wales. In March, 1970, an article in Spotlight reported that Dermot had purchased a building site in Killarney, Co. Kerry and would be moving out of Dublin. Said Dermot, "I find Dublin too crowded for my liking...if I want, for instance, to bring my wife and children to the country or the sea, it takes about two hours to fight through traffic, and then when you get to the beach around Dublin or Wicklow, it's overcrowded."  

In late 1970, Dermot became ill and had to leave the road. He was hospitalized for three months, until March, 1971 and he had to disband the Clubmen. When he was well enough to tour, he put together a new version of the band and hit the road again, albeit with a scaled back's orders.

With a less hectic touring schedule, Dermot was able to devote more time to songwriting and production and gained a reputation as one of the country's best. He wrote and produced songs for Larry Cunningham, Mike Murphy and, of course, himself. A cover story article in Spotlight magazine on July 6, 1972 claimed he was "having his busiest summer in years, playing his box (accordion) in tents throughout the country."

Yet, a change was in the air, by the end of 1972, Dermot had disbanded the Clubmen and announced he was moving into the less hectic world of cabaret. For the next decade, Dermot was one of the most sought after record producers and songwriters in Ireland. He produced recording sessions for many of the top names on the Irish country and traditional scenes. At the same time, his own performing reputation continued to grow and he continued to release hit records including Spancil Hill which reached number 3 in the Irish Charts in 1974, Green Fields Round Ferbane (#11 Irish Charts in 1975), The Boys of Killybegs (reached #8 in the Irish Charts in 1975), and Skibbereen which peaked at number five in late 1976.

Like many of the showband era greats, Dermot saw the writing on the wall in the early 1980's as both ballrooms and cabaret succumbed to the power of the discos and night clubs across Ireland. He emigrated to New York in 1983 along with his wife, Rosemary. Although he had moved away from Ireland, he did not leave the country. Every year he would tour Ireland and the UK performing for new generations of fans.

Dermot joined the renowned Jury's Irish Cabaret in 1995 and spent six years performing with them in Dublin and on their US tours. After the 2000 season, Dermot left to once again focus on his solo career. He spent the summers performing in Ireland, after which he returned to his home base in New York. Dermot toured the U.S. in 2002 with a very successful Christmas Tour featuring himself and Deirdre Reilly. 

Sadly, Dermot's beloved wife, Rosemary, died on January 15, 2005. Following this, Dermot returned to Ireland and his family home in Ardee, Co. Louth. He himself battled cancer for the last few years of his life and sadly passed away on May 22, 2007. One of the true legends of the showband era, Dermot left us with a vast collection of recordings which continue to sell today.

Our condolences to Dermot's daughters, Catheryne, Grace and Roisin, his sons Ronan and Dermot, and the rest of his family and friends. 

Photo Gallery

click on thumbnails for full image

Clubmen - 1959

Clubmen - 1972

Clubmen (LR) Clubmen (JB) Clubmen - 1966 (LR)
Clubmen (LR)

Clubmen (KS)

Clubmen (LR) Clubmen (JB) Clubmen - 1966 (LR)
Cover Story - 1972 Dermot O'Brien (LR) Clubmen - 1966

Clubmen (LR)

Clubmen (LR)

Dermot O'Brien and the Clubmen (LR)

Dermot O'Brien (KS) Clubmen Dermot O'Brien - 1967 Dermot O'Brien - 1969
Clubmen - 1969 Dermot O'Brien - 1969 Dermot O'Brien Dermot O'Brien - 1968 Clubmen (RF)
Clubmen (RF) Clubmen (RF) Clubmen (RF) Dermot O'Brien (RF) Clubmen (RF)
Clubmen (RF) Clubmen (RF) Dermot O'Brien (RF) Dermot O'Brien (RF) Clubmen (RF)
Dermot O'Brien (RF) Clubmen (RF) Dermot O'Brien (RF) Clubmen - 1968 (RF) Clubmen (RF)
Clubmen (RF) Clubmen (RF) Dermot O'Brien (RF) Dermot O'Brien (RF) Clubmen (RF)
Clubmen (RF) Dermot O'Brien (RF) Clubmen (RF) Dermot O'Brien (RF) Dermot O'Brien (RF)
Dermot O'Brien - 1972 Dermot O'Brien - 1972 Dermot O'Brien - 1972 Dermot O'Brien - 1972 Dermot O'Brien - 1971
Dermot O'Brien - 1972 Dermot O'Brien - 1971 Dermot O'Brien (RF) Dermot O'Brien (RF) Dermot O'Brien (RF)
Dermot O'Brien (RF) Dermot O'Brien (RF) Dermot O'Brien - 1974 Dermot O'Brien - 1972 Dermot & Maisie - 1969
Clubmen - 1964 Clubmen - 1968 Coming Soon Coming Soon Coming Soon
Coming Soon Coming Soon Coming Soon Coming Soon Coming Soon
Years Acc/Voc/Trmb Guitar Guitar/Banjo Bass Drums Sax Trumpet
1959 Dermot
Lillian (vocals)
1962 Dermot
1965 Dermot
1966 Dermot
In 1968, the Clubmen split with Dermot and eventually changed their name to the Tigermen
1970? Dermot



I Walk The Line - #3 Irish Charts
Envoy Records - Unknown - August, 1966
The Merry Ploughboy / Come Down The Mountain Katy Daly - #1 Irish Charts
Envoy Records - ENV.016 - September, 1966
Home Boys Home / Alpine Slopes - #13 Irish Charts
Envoy Records - ENV.020 - December, 1966
The Ballad of Brian Boru
Envoy Records - Unknown - June, 1969
The Middle of Nowhere / Orange Blossom Special
Envoy Records - ENV.031 - May, 1970
Galway Shawl / The Flying Scotsman / The Turfman from Ardee - #13 Irish Charts
Release Records - RL.567 - May, 1971
Old Claddagh Ring / Connemara Rose - #7 Irish Charts
Release Records - RL.597 - October, 1971
Mother Malone - #17 Irish Charts
Release Records - RL.621 - April, 1972
4 Great Irish Hits EP - #4 Irish Charts
Release Records - Unknown -  July, 1972
Rocks of Bawn - #14 Irish Charts
Release Records - Unknown - October, 1972
Mary Ann Regrets
Release Records - Unknown - August, 1973
Spancil Hill - #3 Irish Charts
Release Records - Unknown - May, 1974
Green Fields Round Ferbane - #11 Irish Charts
Release Records - RL.756 - March, 1975
The Boys of Killybegs - #8 Irish Charts
Release Records - RL.779 - August, 1975
Sailing Home
Release Records - RL.813 - 1976
Skibbereen - #5 Irish Charts
Release Records - Unknown - September, 1976
Tribute To O'Carolan
Unknown Records - Unknown - October, 1979
Neansai / Rince Pilib A' Cheoil
Gael Linn Records - CESN.003 - October, 1980
What's Going To Happen To Us / A Bunch of Thyme
Ritz Records - RIRZ 021 - 1982


Dermot O'Brien Himself
Envoy Records - VOY 9145 - 1964
Envoy Records - VOY.9150 - 1965
Off To Dublin In The Green
Envoy Records - VOY.9178 - 1967
The Kindest Conversation
Target Records - NPL.18280 - March, 1969
Listen, They're Playing Our Song
Target Records - VOY.9187? - June, 1970
O'Brien's Cross-Road Ceili
Release Records - BRL.4014 - August, 1971
The Laughing Accordion
Release Records - BRL.4020 -  1972
The Merry Ploughboy
Release Records - BRL.4021 - 1972
The Accordion Sounds of Dermot O'Brien
Release Records - BRL.4022 - 1972
Dance - With Dermot O'Brien
Release Records - BRL.4024 - 1973?
The Enchanting World of Country Music
Release Records - DRL 2002 -
Dermot O'Brien Himself (re-release)
Release Records - DRL 2003 -
Songs of Ireland
Release Records - BRL.4032 - August, 1973
Tribute To Scotland
Release Records - BRL.4049 - September, 1974
Songs of Ireland, Volume II
Release Records - BRL.4050 - September, 1974
Old Claddagh Ring
Harp Records - HPE.628 - January, 1980
Roving Boy
Ritz Records - RITZLP.00007 - 1982

Audio Clips

Coming Soon

Where Are They Now?  

Dermot O'Brien - RIP: Dermot sadly passed away on May 22, 2007.
Paddy Farrell - RIP: Paddy sadly passed away.
Billy O'Neill - RIP: Billy sadly passed away.
Eamonn Campbell - RIP: After leaving the Clubmen, Eamonn went on to become one of Ireland's best known session musicians. He appeared on many recordings and was a regular with "house" bands on RTE shows and bands for shows on the Dublin stage. He played with Dermot in cabaret before joining the Dubliners. He became a well known producer and produced the Dubliner's 1987 album 25 Years Celebration (and every one since). He continues to be a mainstay of the group's current lineup as well as continuing to release music as a solo artist. When the John Sheehan retired in 2012, so did the Dubliners name, but Eamonn lead the Dublin Legends (formerly the Dubliners) and was keeping their music alive for future generations until his death on October 16th, 2017 after a short illness. He was 70 years old..    
Reggie Lloyd:
Johnny Barton - RIP:Johnny sadly passed away.
Denis O'Loughlin - RIP: Denis sadly passed away.
Willie Healy:
Timmy Regan:
John Moore:
Donal O'Dowda - RIP: Donal sadly passed away
Derek McCormack Derek McCormack - RIP: Derek sadly passed away
Mike Nolan - RIP: Mike sadly passed away
Sonny Knowles: Sonny joined the Clubmen in 1968 after leaving the Pacific. He later pursued a solo career on the growing cabaret circuit and became one of Ireland's most enduring entertainers. In the 2000's Sonny faced two bouts of cancer (prostrate and ashophyen) and survived both, releasing a best selling collection of his greatest hits in 2007.   



2002-2017 GMS Productions

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