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Hoedowners Story (1962-1973)

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

The Story

Our thanks to Mel Dean, former member of the band for help compiling this story.

Although Earl Gill got his start in the 50's playing with other bands around Dublin, the Hoedowners started life as the resident band in the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin. In fact, as were many bands of the day, they were actually more of an orchestra. During the winter the band played in the hotel ballroom, but during the summer they hit the road. In a 1969 Spotlight article Oliver Barry said that Earl was originally a piano player, but had an accident that severely injured some of his fingers and he turned his talents to the trumpet. However, his early training made him one of Ireland's most talented arrangers.

Around the same time in the early sixties, Sean Dunphy was a carpenter by trade and sang part time with a group called the Keymen. He went to England after serving in the Irish Army where he continued to work by day as a carpenter and sang by night in the Hibernian Ballroom in Fulham. When he heard Earl Gill was looking for a vocalist, he sent a tape and was signed immediately.   

The original "road band" included Mel Dean (guitar), Steve Pickering (guitar), Gerry Ryan (bass), Vinnie Keane (drums), Earl Gill (trumpet), Claude Phibbs (sax), Frank Mangan (trombone), Sean Dunphy and Amy Hayden (vocals). At the time, the band was known as the Earl Gill Band. In the mid sixties, RTE (then known as Telefis Eireann =TE) started a television show called the Hoedown and Earl and the band were hired to provide backing for the singers. They took on the name The Hoedowners for the show and it stuck. Around the same time, they teamed up with manager Oliver Barry, and set their sights on conquering the ballroom circuit. At that time the band was known as Earl Gill and his Hoedowners.

The band's next big break came in early 1966, after changing to their new name, they released Wonderful World of My Dreams and it went to number five in the Irish Charts, starting a string of hit records which would become legendary as there were very few weeks in the mid to late 60's that there wasn't a Hoedowners record somewhere in the charts. In the 1960's and early seventies, the Hoedowners were one of the most successful Irish recording artists with 14 singles hitting the Irish charts between 1966 and 1973.

In 1967, Sean was selected to represent Ireland in the Eurovision Song Contest. This was Ireland's third attempt - Butch Moore and Dickie Rock had preceded Sean. The song was If I Could Choose. Sean came in second behind England's entry, Sandie Shaw's Puppet on A String. In Ireland, the record reached number two in the Irish Charts and provided the band's fourth hit single. The same year the band released "Sunset" one of very few instrumental songs to be released during the showband era.     

In early 1968, Sean was hospitalized in Birmingham with tonsillitis and missed several dates in March.  In mid-1968, Sean and the Hoedowners became the first artists to release a single on the new Dolphin Records, started by their then manager, Oliver Barry and Jim Hand, manager of the Capitol. Sean and the boys also released the first album on the new label, Ireland's Own Sean Dunphy. In December, 1968 the band underwent a shuffle when several new members joined including guitarist/vocalist Dave Carlisle from Newtownards.      

In early 1969, Sean and the boys had their first number one hit with The Lonely Woods of Upton. In July, the band followed this up with the song, When The Fields Were White With Daisies which was arranged by Noel Kelehan and provided them with yet another number one hit and they became one of the few Irish artists ever to have a single in the top twenty for 12 months straight. A chart survey published in Spotlight in January, 1970 showed that Sean Dunphy was far and away the top recording artist in Ireland based on the number of weeks and position in the charts for all of 1969, ahead of Joe Dolan and in third place, The Beatles. The only other Irish acts in the top ten of the survey were the Real McCoy and Dixies.

In 1971, the band went the "gimmick" route when they released Poor Poor Farmer as Darby O'Gill (Tim Pat), who was actually Earl Gill. The single got to Number 3 in the Irish Charts and the band got plenty of press. The trend would continue in 1972, when the band donned costumes as circus performers and changed their name to the Ho-Down Circus. Joining the band around this time (late 1972) was fiddler, Tony Kirby, and former Gentry drummer, Shay Murphy. Each member of the band dressed as a different character from a typical circus lineup. However, the writing was on the wall for the Hoedowners.

An article in Spotlight dated December 20th, 1973 described Sean as the "former lead singer" with the Hoedowners, so we are assuming the band split up in mid to late 1973. He went off to do a residency in Canada (which seems to have been all the rage at the time), but was due back in Ireland in early 1974 for cabaret dates around the country. Also, around this time Earl Gill took over the management of Hugo Duncan and the Tallmen.    

Photo Gallery

click on thumbnails for full image

Hoedowners Earl Gill (JB) Earl Gill (PL) Hoedowners (LR) Hoedowners - 1966 (LR)
Hoedowners (LR) Sean Dunphy - 1966

Sean Dunphy - 1967

Sean Dunphy - 1967

Hoedowners - 1967
Hoedowners - 1967 Sean Dunphy-1967 (LR)

Earl Gill - 1967

Sean Dunphy - 1967

Hoedowners - 1967
Hoedowners - 1968 Hoedowners (TP) Hoedowners (LR) Hoedowners - 1968 Hoedowners - 1968
Hoedowners - 1968 Hoedowners - 1969 Earl Gill & his Hoedowners (BF)

Hoedowners (LR)

Hoedowners - 1969
Hoedowners - 1969 Hoedowners - 1969

Sean Dunphy - 1969

Sean Dunphy - 1969

Hoedowners - 1969
Hoedowners - 1969 Hoedowners - 1971 Darby O'Gill (LR) Hoedowners - 1971 Hoedowners - 1971
Hoedowners - 1972 Hoedowners - 1972 Hoedowners - 1972 Hoedowners - 1972 Hoedowners - 1972
       
1972 Coming Soon Coming Soon Coming Soon Coming Soon
 
Hoedowners - 1969 Sean- April, 1967 Sean - Aug. 24, 1967 Sean - Jan. 8, 1971 Coming Soon

Lineup Changes (More to come)
 

Years Vocals Vocals Guitar Bass Drums Trumpet Guitar Sax Trombone
1964 Sean
Dunphy
Amy
Hayden
Steve
Pickering
Gerry
Ryan
Vinnie
Keane
Earl
Gill
Mel
Dean
Claude
Phibbs
Frank
Mangan
1966 Sean
Dunphy
Amy
Hayden
Unknown Pat
Keohane
Vinnie
Keane
Earl
Gill
  Claude
Phibbs
Frank
Mangan
Dec.
1968
Sean
Dunphy
  Noel
Guthrie
Pat
Keohane
Vinnie
Keane
Earl
Gill
Dave
Carlisle
Eamonn
Young
 
1972 Sean
Dunphy
Tony
Kirby
Noel
Guthrie
Pat
Keohane
Shay
Murphy
Earl
Gill
Dave
Carlisle
Eamonn
Young
 
                 
                 
                 

Discography (More to come)

Singles:

Wonderful World of My Dreams / I'm Gonna Change - #5 Irish Charts   
Pye Records - 7N.17056 - February, 1966
Showball Crazy /  
- #2 Irish Charts   
Pye Records - Unknown - June, 1966
4033 / Come To The Bower 
- #17 Irish Charts   
Pye Records - 7N.17266 - February, 1967
If I Could Choose / Yellow Bandana
- #2 Irish Charts Ireland's Eurovision Entry   
Pye Records - 7N.17291 - March, 1967
Talking Love / The Blizzard
- #13 Irish Charts   
Pye Records - 7N.17345 - June, 1967
Sunset (Earl Gill) / If I Could Choose (Sean Dunphy)
Target Records - 7N.17420 - November, 1967 
Two Loves / Gold and Silver
- #2 Irish Charts   
Dolphin Records - DOS.1 - February, 1968
Christmas Polka / She's Mine  
- #2 Irish Charts   
Dolphin Records - DOS.21 - December, 1968
Lonely Woods of Upton / Yellow Haired Woman
- #1 Irish Charts  
Dolphin Records - DOS.22 - January, 1969
When The Fields Were White With Daisies / What Am I Doing Hangin' Round?
- #1 Irish Charts  
Dolphin Records - DOS.36 - July, 1969
Old Fenian Gun / I'm Gonna Be A Country Boy Again
- #5 Irish Charts  
Dolphin Records - DOS.58 - February, 1970
The Old Refrain / 
- #19 Irish Charts  
Dolphin Records - DOS.74 - November, 1970
Poor Poor Farmer / Hairy Eggs and Bacon - Released as Darby O'Gill (Tim Pat) who was Earl Gill
- #3 Irish Charts  
Dolphin Records - DOS.78 - Maybe April, 1971
There's An Island In The Sun /
- #10 Irish Charts  
Dolphin Records - DOS.93 - February, 1972
Michael Collins / Skibbereen
- #2 Irish Charts  
Dolphin Records - DOS.96 - April, 1972
The Rose of Mooncoin /
Dolphin Records - DOS.108 - 1973
Pal of My Cradle Days / Love Has A Mind of It's Own
- #3 Irish Charts  
Dolphin Records - DOS.110 - November, 1973
Christmas Polka / Angel // Christmas Is Coming / Santa Claus Is Coming Tonight (Re-release)
  
Dolphin Records - DOS.160 - December, 1981

Albums:

Ireland's Own Sean Dunphy
Dolphin Records - DOL.1001 - 1968
The Best Of Sean Dunphy & the Hoedowners
Dolphin Records - DOLB.7003 - 1970

Audio Clips

       
Showball Crazy        

Where Are They Now?  

Sean Dunphy - RIP: Sean immigrated to Canada in 1973 and stayed there for many years. He returned to Ireland near the end of his life and continued his career after the demise of the showbands and formed his own Sean Dunphy band. Today his son, Brian, is part of the High Kings, the musical act. Sadly, Sean passed away on May 17, 2011. 
Earl Gill: Earl continues to play in and around Dublin with various jazz groups. He recently was a featured performer with David Hull's "Do You Come Here Often Show" in 2008. 
Amy Hayden: Unknown - if you have info please email us 
Steve Pickering: Unknown - if you have info please email us 
Gerry Ryan: Unknown - if you have info please email us 
Vinnie Keane - RIP: Vinnie sadly passed away October 31, 1997 of a heart attack. (From his granddaughter Sinead) 
Mel Dean: Me Dean left the Hoedowners and joined the Caroline Showband which emigrated to England in the late 60's. He settled in the Manchester area where he is married and lectures at Salford University. He still works as a composer/musician and runs his own recording studio. Mel also worked as Tony Christie's musical director for a number of years.   
Claude Phibbs: Unknown - if you have info please email us 
Frank Mangan: Unknown - if you have info please email us 
Pat Keohan: Pat wrote to us in June, 2011 to say that after leaving the band he spent several years playing as a backing musician to the Wolfe Tones before becoming a taxi driver. He is retired now and living in west Dublin with his wife Catherine. He has three grown children  
Noel Guthrie: Unknown - if you have info please email us 
Dave Carlisle: Unknown - if you have info please email us 
Eamonn Young: Unknown - if you have info please email us 

 

 

 


2002-2014 GMS Productions

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