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Derby Showband Feature (1966-68)?

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The Story

The Derby showband had its beginnings when a trio got together in the early sixties which was rhythm guitar (Steve Talbot) and two other local lads. The band had a two names, firstly the Squares and lastly The Strangers. They specialised in Shadows music although they had no bass guitarist. For authenticity, they used Vox amps, Fender guitars, a Baby Binson echo chamber and of course, Shure mics. They played locally and mostly things like school concerts but they did manage to get an appearance at the Olympia in Dublin one Sunday afternoon for a charity concert.

The group also were the backing music for an album made for sale in the U.S., backing a local baritone singer for a number of traditional songs. The L.P. was called Sean Breen sings Irish Favourites and the group changed its name specially for the recording to The Short Grass Trio.  Eventually they broke up and Steve got together with a group of lads in the area who were anxious to form a band. The manager, a local businessman  had contacts in the showband world as he was an accomplished artist and had done some portraits of a few prominent bands.

They started practicising in the CYMS hall in Newbridge, Co. Kildare and the Derby Showband was born. They had one or two lead vocalists for a time but in short, they finished up with the following line-up: Betty Gibson (vocals) who hailed from Inchicore in Dublin and was sister of the late talented guitarist Liam Gibson; the other members were Steve Talbot (vocals and guitar), Tommy Murphy (guitar), Louis Melia (bass), P.J. Byrne (sax / accordion), Christy McNamara (trumpet), and Tony Farrell (drums).

Their manager used his contacts and from getting dates across the country they got the usual tours of Scotland and London. The Scotland run was by driving to Stranraer, taking the boat and on to Glasgow for a two night gig. The UK trip saw the band getting four nights, two in Banba Hall, London one in the 32 Club Harlsden, London and one in Trinity Hall Coventry.

By now the Derby had established itself in many of the bigger halls in Ireland and once they broke into the Dublin circuit, they were starting to gain some recognition. The first Dublin gig was in St Anthony's Hall on the quays on a Wednesday night after a bingo session. After that they progressed on to the more notable venues such as the Town and Country Club (just behind the Ambassador cinema and off Parnell Square), The Crystal in South Anne St, The Television Club which was formerly the Four Provinces and a few others. There were frequent dates at the Ritz Ballroom in Carlow and the Entertainment Centre in Arklow, as well as the CYMS in Newbridge and KIldare, and a host of lesser-known venues across the country.

Unfortunately, the band's manager left the area to follow a different line of business and it just wasn't feasible to continue. Steve continued, "I have no doubt that we might have gone on to greater things eventually. Interestingly enough, there were no support bands in those days and bands of the day could be on stage from 9pm until 2 a.m. or from 10 pm until 3 a.m. It was hard work with no such thing as a 'Roadie' we unloaded and set up our own gear and took it all down after the night."

The band never turned professional and had no recordings, often getting in at 5 or 6 am and heading into work. Steve added, "Fortunately the best dates were at the weekend by nature and we were, like most bands, rarely out on a week night. The Ritz in Carlow is the only one I recall being on a Wednesday night but that was only 28 miles from base and we be home and in bed by 4or 4.30. I remember the lads discussing one time that there were about 800 bands jockeying for about 10 top positions and I think anyone below that wasn't making much money."

"In our case, as I'm sure in many others, equipment and dress as well as travel expenses etc had to be paid for and if the manager was getting a cut, I'd say it was small. I don't recall that we got much out if and it was largely done for the sheer fun of it. As a fully formed band on the road, we didn't survive too long as we simply didn't have the financial resources to continue."

Steve concluded, "The other aspect of dancing in Ireland at the time was of course the Saturday night Ceili's which were held in every hall around the country and of course the big winner here for years was The Gallowglass Ceili band. On the  another hand, there were the Ballad groups. I believe that one of the major factors in their favour was that the showband scene was changing and the singing lounges were coming more and more into play. These venues were ideal launching pads for talented groups and helped to project them into the larger venues."

As far as the other band members, Steve tells us Christy McNamara is still around as is Louis Melia and Tony Farrell was last known to be working in the UK and may still be there.

Our thanks to Steve Talbot

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Audio Clips

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Where Are They Now?  

Steve Talbot:
Betty Gibson:
Tommy Murphy:
Louis Melia:
P.J. Byrne:
Christy McNamara:
Tony Farrell:


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