All About The Magic Band (1974-1981)
(as the Swallows-1970-1974)
Photo Gallery -
Band Lineups -
- Audio samples -
Where Are They Now?
Johnny Carroll started his career in 1958 with the
Ballintubber, Co. Roscommon based Pioneer Showband (so named because all
of the band were non drinking Pioneers). They soon changed their
name to The Premier Aces and became one of the best known bands in
rural Ireland. In 1969, the Aces called it quits.
At that time Johnny, Jimmy O'Neill and Sonny Ward decided to form
their own band. They approached Glenamaddy's music mogul, Joe
O'Neill (Jimmy's brother), to help finance the band and Joe agreed.
The first lead singer the band had was Jim Nash, a 6'2" country
crooner from Tipperary. They released a record, Just Between You and
Me, and hit the road. However, Jim didn't last long with the band
and they soon needed a new lead vocalist and Joe suggested local cabaret singer,
Margaret Murphy and Murphy and The Swallows was born. During the early 70's, the
Swallows did very well on the growing country circuit.
satisfied, Jimmy and Johnny started over yet again and switched from
country to pop in 1974. The first hint of the new band's existence
came on August 22, 1974 when a couple of small adverts which simply
said "Magic" appeared on page 30 of Spotlight magazine. The
following week, the magazine was peppered with three images of the
new lead singer, Kevin "Magic" Walsh. A week later, eight adverts
announced "Magic Are Coming." Finally in the September 12th issue,
the magazine sported a half page advert for the band's first single,
"Calendar Girl" which had been recorded before the band was even
ready to perform.
The band brought together musicians from all
around the country including Joe Bernie (Leaders Showband and
Swingtime Aces) from Castlebar on sax, Gerry Gallagher (Ritchie
Fitzgerald Ceili Band and Sandy Duskey's Easy Listenin) from Sligo
on guitar, Frank Clancy (Stylos Showband and Gerry and the Ohio)
originally from Sligo but living in Tuam, on keyboards, John McKenna
(Silver Pennies) from Kingscourt on bass and Kevin Walsh, younger brother of the
Nevada's Willie Walsh from Drogheda on vocals. Mickey Belton,
drummer with The Swallows, and Johnny himself were the only
musicians kept from the old band. At this point Jimmy O'Neill
(keyboards) retired from
performing, but stayed with the band as their road manager. Magic
had previously played with the relief band in the Ashling Ballroom
in Clogherhead using the name Bandy Blondy.
band came together in the Fall of 1974 and released their first
record, Neil Sedaka's Calendar Girl, which became a hit and
reached number four on the Irish Charts. The Magic idea was thought
up by Johnny and Joe O'Neil, who financed the design of a £2,000
"magic" suit, which was actually some 12 volt twinkling lights hook
up to a battery back. Magic also employed one of the country's first
wireless microphones, allowing him to roam the hall showing up in
the most "magical" places during the night, often down in the crowd.
The band's debut gig was in Banagher, Co.
Offaly on September 6th, 1974. The band did well on the ballroom circuit serving
up a mix of danceable pop as well as classics from the fifties by Sedaka, Fats Domino and Paul Anka among others
(although this fact did not always go down well with some punters
who described some of their material as "dated"). On September 25th,
the band was introduced to the Irish media with a gala champagne
dinner and show at the Old Sheiling Hotel in Dublin.
The band was
featured on RTE's Ken's Club in early 1975 and continued to do well.
They released a second single, Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen,
another Sedaka classic, which was on the Irish Charts for 7 weeks
and reached number 5.
For almost a year, the band remained unchanged,
but then the lineup began to change regularly. The first to leave
was John McKenna, who was replaced by Finny Thomas (RIP-Craughwell)
on bass, a couple of months later Gerry Gallagher left to return to Sligo and was replaced by Mike Mannion (Glenamaddy)
Around 1976, two more original members, Joe
Bernie and Frank Clancy left the band. Frank was replaced by John
Murphy on keyboards, but the band did not add a sax player and went
to a six piece for the rest of its history. Also in 1976, Finny
Thomas left the band and Mike Mannion moved over to bass when they
added Gerry Kelly on guitar. During the mid to late seventies, other
musicians came and went including Dean Lane (Castlerea - bass),
Padraig Crehan (Athboy - bass), Don Woods (Drumshanbo - guitar), Eddie
Keating (Portlaoise - guitar), Joe Beggy (guitar) and Gabriel Donohue
(Athenry - guitar).
Although the band continued to change its
lineup throughout the seventies, the powerhouse vocal style of Magic
(a.k.a Kevin Walsh) kept the band growing and moving forward.
More chart singles followed including Run Samson Run (No.
11), Lend A Hand this Christmas (No. 6), and Reaching Out
In late 1979, after five years on the road, Kevin
Walsh called it
quits and moved to local cabaret in Galway. In his place, the band drafted Cornelius
an eighteen year old from Donegal to step in and fill Magic's shoes,
which he did admirably. In fact, the singers had quit similar
voices. Cornelius had previously played with Geraldine and the
Cufflinks from Co. Donegal. The band continued to make singles
which made the charts including Fiesta De La Playa (#19) and
He's Got the Whole World in His Hands (#15).
In 1981, original drummer Mickey Belton called
it quits and was replaced by Tuam drummer John Brogan. This left
Johnny Carroll as the only remaining original member of the band.
Around this time, Magic and Kim Newport recorded a demo song for
Eurovision in Headford Studios. Written by Gerry Gallagher, the song
did not make the finals.
In early 1983, the band packed it in.
The ballroom scene had finally succumbed to the discos and hotel
extensions and Johnny Carroll went on the road as a solo act. As "The Man With
The Golden Trumpet," Johnny enjoyed a great deal of success over the next
20 plus years and still performs today. Kevin Walsh still performs locally around Galway
as does Joe Bernie, who released a CD a few years ago. Frank Clancy
ran a company in Tuam and is now retired. Gerry Gallagher is still gigging around
Sligo and runs this website. John McKenna is living in his native Kingscourt and performs regularly in the area with his one man show.
Mickey Belton continues to be one of Galway's top session drummers
and performs regularly on the jazz scene.
Click on thumbnails for full images
(Magic): After moving to Galway from Drogheda, Kevin married and made his home in Galway.
After leaving the scene in 1979 he started singing on the
local cabaret scene around Galway. Today he works for a major international manufacturer in Galway, but still sings on a part time basis
around the area.
As the last original member of the band, we are pretty sure
they called it quits around 1983. At that point Johnny went on the road as the
"Man With The Golden Trumpet"
and has never looked back. Having started in 1958 at the age of
13, in 2008 Johnny celebrated 50 years of continuous
entertaining in and around Ireland and has seen it all! He
still plays regularly, although he has cut back a little on
his touring. He often plays outside the country these days
having recently been playing in Australia, Fiji, Hong Kong,
and Spain. As of March 2017, Johnny, now 73, is still on the
road mostly doing showband shows and concerts as well as the
||Mickey Belton: Mickey
left the band in 1981, before they called it quits and
became one of the main session drummers in the Galway area,
playing on many tracks recorded at Headford's Greenfields
studios. More recently, Mickey
plays regularly in Galway with a variety of bands. He
still does some session work, but his main gig is with the Black
Magic Band which also includes Joe Bernie on sax.
Gallagher: After leaving the Magic Band, Gerry returned
to Sligo and played locally with the local group Sundown
with Joe Foley and Dick Lynott for a few years. In 1978, he formed
The Kim Newport Band with his wife, Kim. They
played from 1978 until 1983 when they called it quits and emigrated to the States.
He entered the business world and finally sold his company
in 2003. In 2006, he returned to Sligo to run an
international entertainment production and licensing
company which he left in 2009. After a stint teaching at IT
Sligo, he now plays locally once in a while. In late 2012, Gerry joined up with
members of the original Smokey Mountain Ramblers for their
40th reunion tour playing bass.
||Frank Clancy: At one
owned his own company in Tuam. In January 2014, we received
an update from Frank. He said he doesn't play music much
any more and is 80% retired but he is still partly involved
in a small GPS company called Celtrak and
plays golf regularly.
||Joe Bernie: After
leaving the band, Joe continued to play music, but also
managed Star Records, a local music retail shop. He still
plays regularly in the Galway area, although he now lives in
Athenry after spending many years living in Galway. Joe
released a CD in 2005. A January, 2014 update from Joe tells
us he is still playing regularly with the Black Magic Big
Band around Galway along with Mickey Belton.
||John McKenna: After
leaving Magic, John returned to his native Kingscourt and
has been playing music on the local scene for the past 30+
years, first with a pub group, but for the last few years as
a solo artist.
Finny Thomas: RIP
Finny emigrated to Canada after leaving the showband scene,
Finny passed away some years ago.
||Mike Mannion: Unknown - if you have info please email us
||Dene Lane: Unknown - if you have info please email us
Gabriel emigrated to the United States
after leaving the band and
now calls New Jersey home. He
usually performs throughout the New York area, although you
can catch him at many festivals along the east coast. In
addition to his solo albums, Gabriel has produced a variety
of recordings for other Irish artists and his talents are
often sought out to accompany artists in recording sessions.
||Cornelius Ward (Magic
II): Cornelius joined the Gardai after leaving the music
scene, but we understand he now lives and works in Galway in the
||Gerry Kelly: Gerry's
career included stints with both Har and the Escorts and the
Pirates before Magic. He left the band to join Joe Dolan and
the Drifters where he stayed for seven years before leaving
the scene. He now lives in Kent and works for Citibank in London.
He also still gigs occasionally with Sean Holland, formerly
of Kilkenny's Black Aces.
||John Murphy: Unknown - if you have info please email us
||Joe Beggy: Joe had
done a short stint with Gloria and Mississippi before
joining Magic and after leaving, he went back to the local
pub scene in Navan. He went back to college and completed an
architectural course and works as a consultant today. He is
still playing with local groups.
||Eddie Keating: Unknown - if you have info please email us
||Tony Ryan: After a
short time with Magic, Tony returned to Donegal played music
on a part time basis. Up until 2008, Tony was playing with
Patrick Feeney and he now plays in a two piece group in his
native County Donegal.
||Don Woods: I am not
sure what Don did after leaving Magic, but we know that
these days he is currently on the road with Mike Denver's Band.
If you have any more info please email us
||Padraig Crehan: Unknown - if you have info please email us
||John Brogan: Unknown - if you have info please email us