Graduates Showband Feature(1963 -
Photo Gallery -
Band Lineups -
- Audio samples -
Where Are They Now?
Our thanks to George Hand for
some additional info on the band
The Graduates started out in Skerries, Co. Dublin tracing their roots back to the skiffle craze
of the early 1960's. Tony Keeling, who had been singing since was
seven, knew he had always wanted to be a singer and musician and
formed a skiffle group. In a 1968 Spotlight article Tony explained
that there were two rival skiffle bands in Skerries at the time and
not enough work to go around, so they joined together to form a
showband and called themselves the Euphonics (the name was "Greek
for pleasant sounds.")
They had just left school and
started playing local dances and relief. As were most showbands in
the beginning, the boys basically played at the weekends and were
"semi pro." (They would remain that way for two years). At a gig in
the Pavilion Ballroom in Blackrock in 1962, their big break came
when soon to be manager, Gerry Wickham, heard the band and offered
to take them on full time.
George Hand picks up the story, "We
were a band from a small town that put ourselves on the road with no
financial help from promoters. When Gerry Wickham took on the job
of managing us we were young and he advised us like a father. He
had the Pavilion Ballroom in Backrock, Co. Louth and he gave us the
opportunity to play relief to many famous names such as The Capital,
Johnny Quigley, Kenny Ball to name a few. He gave us the break to
follow out dreams."
The original lineup (and one they
would keep, except for one change) was, Tony Keeling (guitar and
lead vocals), George Hand (guitar),
Andy Radley (sax), Colm McCormack
Gerry Bradley (sax), Tommy Coleman (bass), Fergus O'Brien (trumpet) and Paddy Landy
With Gerry's management in place,
the band continued to play more and more ballrooms and soon faced
the inevitable decision on whether to turn pro in November, 1965.
They changed their name to The Graduates and ended up playing two
seasons at the Red Island holiday camp in Skerries, which exposed
them to a new audience of fans from Great Britain who came over to
enjoy the Irish summer.
In January 1965, they released
their first single, Kelly, an old Del Shannon number. It proved to
be a hit and broke into the Irish Top Ten, peaking at number 8 in
the charts. Said Tony, "Being such a well known number helped us a
great deal. It was very popular with all the dance hall crowds
throughout Ireland and was an easy title to remember." The band went
from strength to strength in the next few years and by late 1967,
were considered one of Ireland's most popular showbands. During this
period, the band experienced it's only lineup change when Tommy
Walsh replaced Fergus O'Brien on trumpet.
They undertook their first tour of
Irish clubs in America during Lent (April), 1967 and played to
audiences in New York, Chicago, Detroit and Boston and they also
returned the following year. 1968 saw Tony win the top prize at the
Castlebar Song Contest, where he beat out Eurovision veteran Pat
In late 1968 they appeared on the
RTE programme, "Like Now" and in an article in the February 1st,
1969 issue of Spotlight, B.P. Fallon reported that Tony Keeling was
attending classes at UCD 4 to 5 nights a week. In his own words,
Tony said, "If Larry Cunningham can run a supermarket and still be
in the Avons, why can't I go to college and get a degree?"
the band decided to call it quits. Said George, "We all went back to
the day jobs in 1972 with the exception of Tommy Walsh who joined
the Garda Band. Music took second place to rearing a family until
we were asked to reform to raise funds for the Skerries Community
Centre. We played four gigs then and it was a very memorable
reunion because our children had never heard the Graduates play."
More to come....
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