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All About The Mainliners (1963-1982 and 2004-present)

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

The Story

Article GSM Productions

The history of Irish country music (or maybe more accurately, "Country and Irish") has been much maligned over the years, and no band more so than The Mainliners. Although the band did not gain prominence until the mid to late 1960's, in an article in Spotlight in May, 1970, Tom McBride told reporter Donal Corvin that he formed the band with Henry McMahon when Tom returned to Ireland in 1963 after working in England for two years. Henry had also been in England. 

Born in Oram, near Castleblaney, Tom McBride was one of four siblings. Reared on a farm, he left school in his teens to help out at home. In the September 30, 1976 issue of Starlight magazine, Tom told his story in his own words.

"I suppose it must have been five years that I remained working on the local farm because I was about 19 when a pal and myself headed for Scotland. Actually it was the friend who took the notion and I fell in with the idea." Tom and his pal stayed in the Scottish highlands for about four months before returning home to Castleblaney. He was only back for two months when he started traveling again, this time to England.

"I got fixed up with Walls, the ice cream factory and there I remained for a year and a half working the night shift all the time." Tom continued, "it was around that time that I started fiddling around with a guitar, playing it at parties, things like that." Soon after, Tom headed for the Channel Islands where he got work picking tomatoes, a job that lasted another year and a half. "I liked it there," said Tom. "They had this country group whom I grew to like. They called themselves the Mainliners."

Tragedy struck when Tom's 17 year old brother contracted meningitis and died. Tom came home to stay this time. A couple of local lads asked him to sit in with them. The lads played mostly Ceili and called themselves the Fincarn Band, more importantly, the lineup included Henry McMahon and brother Seamus on guitar. After the band broke up Henry went off to England for a spell, but when he returned the boys reformed, adding more local lads to fill out their numbers. The original lineup of the band was: Tom McBride (vocals), Henry McMahon (sax), Seamus McMahon (guitar), Ginger Morgan (bass), Ronnie Duffy (drums), John Beattie (keyboards), and Cyril McKevitt (trombone). The Mighty Mainliners were born and for the next three plus years the band laboured away in obscurity making as little as 30 a night or just 5 a man!   

In an Spotlight article in 1975 Henry told of their early struggles playing for 30 a night, but they got their first "big" gig in the Maple Ballroom in Rockcorry. The owner of the ballroom, John McCormack, was so impressed with the lads, he offered to manage them, an offer they gladly accepted. "After all," recounted Henry, "if this guy owns a big ballroom and has a traveling shop that takes him around the country, maybe we might pick up a few extra dates."

True to form at the time, most of the 60's showbands didn't have official "front men" and the Mainliners were no different. In the early days Ginger Morgan was considered the lead singer with the band, and although Tom also sang, he was mainly the band's sax player. Neither were featured in the band's name. A new RTE TV series provided the band with their first break. They featured an unknown artist every week and producer Adrian Cronin, selected the Mainliners.

John McCormack took up the story. "We had recorded a couple of songs for Phil Solomon's Emerald label, one featuring Ginger which was to be the "A" side and the flip featuring Tom. Ginger naturally was to be given the TV slot to plug the single, but Adrian Cronin told us that he had a extra few minutes and could we come up with another number from the band." McCormack went on, "The obvious choice was the B side featuring Big Tom so that's what went out on TV. Neither the Mainliners or RTE were prepared for the result. Literally thousands of letters poured into RTE asking for details about the Big Tom song."  

Although originally slated to be the B side, in late 1966 Emerald flipped the disc to feature "Big" Tom McBride's recording of "Gentle Mother" and it hit the Irish charts for the first time in January, 1967. The single, which reached number seven in the charts, was the first in a long line of hit records that firmly established Big Tom and the Mainliners at the forefront of the Irish country scene. They followed it up in late 1967 with yet another hit, "Old Log Cabin For Sale," which reached number 4 in the Irish charts and firmly cemented their place as a top draw on the ballroom circuit.    

The band soon dropped the "Mighty" moniker and became just the Mainliners. It was around this time that everything changed in the showband scene. Stars like Brendan Bowyer, Dickie Rock, and Butch Moore stepped forward and took center stage. The Mainliners followed suit and became known as Big Tom and The Mainliners.

In May, 1968, the Mainliner undertook their first tour of England, and their fame and fortunes continued to grow. Throughout the next seven years the band would be one of the top drawing bands on the circuit in both countries.

In t5he late sixties and early seventies, the band defined "Country and Irish" music in Ireland, taking over the mantle from Larry Cunningham and the Mighty Avons. They were huge stars and packed ballrooms and marquees from one end of the country to the other. Castleblaney singer, Tom McBride, known to fans as "Big Tom" became so popular, he was dubbed "The King" of Irish country music. Although their popularity was staggering, their detractors were equally vocal in bashing the band and their brand of bastardised Irish country and folk music in quick step or waltz time signatures. It is possible that no band has ever polarized the Irish punters like Big Tom and the Mainliners...folks either loved them or hated them, and there was (and still is) no in between.

Tom and the band had a string of hits, including Bunch of Violets Blue, Sunset Years of Life and many others. They also released a string of best selling albums as well. During this period the band could do no wrong. Big Tom's records pulled at the heart strings of the older generation, while the band's upbeat dance tempos kept the punters jiving all night long. Young and old alike seemed to worship Tom, while others wondered what was going on!   

Then, in April, 1975, in what was then one of the all time shocking events in Irish show business history, Big Tom announced he was leaving the band and formed a new group, The Travellers. Big Tom and the Mainliners played their "Farewell Dance" in the Lilac Ballroom, Enniskean, Co. Cork on Sunday, 4th May, 1975.

To the dismay of their loyal fans, the Mainliners and Tom went their separate ways. This triggered a series of lineup changes that would plague the band for the next decade until Tom and band reunited in 2004 for a short tour, enjoying the same success they did thirty years earlier.   

With the departure of Tom, the band immediately drafted singer John Glenn (real name-John Hanratty) to fill the big man's shoes. The band made its debut at the Annadown Carnival on 8th May, 1975. They rush released a single, Sunny Side of the Mountain, which reached Number 5 in the Irish charts.

The band's fortunes continued to grow and John also had a string of hit records. After several years, however, in May, 1978, John left the Mainliners and formed his own band, The Wranglers. In the aftermath of John's departure, there was a major court case involving the Mainliners and their manager, John McCormack. It seems there was a disagreement about existing dates for John and the Mainliners being played by new band, The Wranglers. Top Rank Entertainments had taken on the management of John's new band and had advised promoters to contact Robert Irwin (John's new manager) to confirm future John Glenn dates.

In the meantime, the band landed on their feet as they lured country singer Tom Allen away from his band, The Sailors. However, Tom Allen and the Mainliners had a short stint as in January, 1979, long time vocalist Ginger Morgan left the band to form his own pop group, Hot Fever. A few months later, Tom Allen was also gone, having changed his name to T.R. Dallas to release Who Shot J.R. Ewing? which became a huge Irish hit and established him as a strong act in his own right with his own band, the TR Dallas Band.

For a short time in the summer of 1979, the band toured as a six piece using the name The Mainliners, but the lineup changed again in late 1979, when they drafted Shelly (a.k.a. Jan Lynch), who had been touring with Hank Locklin and her band Startime. Shelly reverted to her real name, and Jan and the Mainliners took to the road.

As of writing, we are unsure when (or if) the Mainliners finally called it quits. However, good news for die hard fans is that they are back after nearly 30 years as Big Tom and the Mainliners. Sadly Cyril McKevitt, the band's trombone player for all those years passed away suddenly on 15th September, 2009, just two days after completing the band's 2009 tour.

The story opf the Mainliners still continues as of 2013. Although Tom has had some health scares in the past few years, the band continues to tour, although on a sporadic basis and remains one of Ireland's top drawing live acts still packing them into dancehalls and hotel ballrooms across the country. 

Photo Gallery

Click on thumbnails for full image

Mighty Mainliners - late 1960's

Mighty Mainliners - late 1960's Mighty Mainliners Showband Mainliners Showband Mainliners Showband
Mainliners Showband Mainliners Showband Mainliners Showband Mainliners - early 1970's

Mainliners - early 70's.

Big Tom and the Mainliners  - 1968

Mainliners - early 70's.

Big Tom & The Mainliners Big Tom & The Mainliners Big Tom & The Mainliners
Big Tom & The Mainliners Big Tom & The Mainliners Big Tom & The Mainliners Big Tom and the Mainliners Big Tom & The Mainliners
Ginger grows a moustache. Big Tom & The Mainliners Big Tom & The Mainliners Big Tom & The Mainliners Big Tom & The Mainliners
Big Tom & The Mainliners Big Tom & The Mainliners Big Tom & The Mainliners Big Tom & The Mainliners Big Tom & The Mainliners
Big Tom & The Mainliners Big Tom & The Mainliners - 1969

Big Tom and the Travellers

Big Tom & The Travellers John Glenn fronts the Mainliners - 1974
Tom Allen and the Mainliners - 1978

The Mainliners - 1979

Jan and the Mainliners - 1980

Big Tom (BF) Big Tom (BF)
John Glen & The Mainliners - 1976 (KS) Big Tom (KS) Big Tom (KS) Big Tom & The Mainliners (KS) Big Tom & The Mainliners (KS)
Big Tom - 1967 Mainliners - 1967 Big Tom & Larry 1969 Big Tom & Larry 1969

Mainliners

Mainliners John Glenn Mainliners Mainliners John Glenn
Mainliners - 2009 Big Tom - 1970 Big Tom - 1970 Big Tom - 1969 Big Tom - 1968
Big Tom - 1970 Big Tom - 1972 (JR) Big Tom - 1968 Big Tom - 1968 Big Tom - 1967
Big Tom - 1973

Mainliners - 1972

Big Tom - 1974 Big Tom - 1972 Big Tom - 1974
Big Tom - 1969 Big Tom - 1972 Big Tom - 1972 Big Tom - 1971 Big Tom - 1971
Big Tom - 1973 Big Tom - 1975 Big Tom - 1975 Big Tom - 1973 Big Tom - 1976

Mainliners - 1973

Mainliners - 1972

Big Tom - 1971 Big Tom - 1968 Big Tom - 1968
         

Coming Soon

Coming Soon

Coming Soon

Coming Soon

Coming Soon

Years Vocals Guitar Bass Drums Keyboards Trombone Sax
1966 Tom
McBride
Seamus
McMahon
Ginger
Morgan
Ronnie
Duffy
John
Beattie
Cyril
McKevitt
Henry
McMahon
May,
1975
John
Glenn
Seamus
McMahon
Ginger
Morgan
Ronnie
Duffy
John
Beattie
Cyril
McKevitt
Henry
McMahon
1978 Tom
Allen
Seamus
McMahon
Ginger
Morgan
Ronnie
Duffy
John
Beattie
Cyril
McKevitt
Henry
McMahon
1979   Seamus
McMahon
Unknown Ronnie
Duffy
John
Beattie
Cyril
McKevitt
Henry
McMahon
1979 Jan
Lynch
Seamus
McMahon
Unknown Ronnie
Duffy
John
Beattie
Cyril
McKevitt
Henry
McMahon

The Mainliners disbanded from the early 1980's until 2004 (we think)

2004 Tom
McBride
Seamus
McMahon
Ginger
Morgan
Ronnie
Duffy
John
Beattie
Cyril
McKevitt*
Henry
McMahon

*Cyril sadly passed away on September 15 2009.

Discography

Singles:

Gentle Mother (Big Tom) - #7 Irish Charts
Emerald Records - MD 1060 - December, 1966
An Old Log Cabin For Sale / If You're Lonesome At Your Table (Big Tom) - #4 Irish Charts
Emerald Records - MD 1084 - September, 1967
The Old Rustic Bridge / Please Mama Please (Big Tom)
- #16 Irish Charts
Emerald Records - MD 1099 - 1968
Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain / The Old Rustic Bridge (Big Tom)
Emerald Records - MD 1183 - 1968
Flowers For Mama / Wheels Fell Off The Wagon (Big Tom)
- #16 Irish Charts
Emerald Records - GES 1130 - August, 1969
Sunset Years of Life / I'll Settle For Old Ireland (Big Tom)
- #3 Irish Charts
Emerald Records - MD 1147 - May, 1970
A Bunch of Violets Blue / BJ the DJ (Big Tom)
Emerald Records - MD 1149 - August, 1970
Back To Castleblaney / Pins and Needles (Big Tom)
- #13 Irish Charts
Denver Records - DMC 1003 - January, 1971
Broken Marriage Vows / Tears In My Eyes (Big Tom)
- #1 Irish Charts
Denver Records - DMC 1007 - January, 1971
I Love You Still (Big Tom)
- #1 Irish Charts
Denver Records - December, 1972
Old Love Letters / Satisfied Mind / Music In My Heart (Big Tom)
- #1 Irish Charts
Denver Records - DMC 1012 - May, 1974
Sunny Side of the Mountain / I Haven't Seen Mary In Years / Wagon Load of Love (John Glenn)
- #5 Irish Charts
Denver Records - DMC.1015 - May, 1975
Call Me Darling / How Do I Say Goodbye To A Girl Like You (John Glenn)
- #9 Irish Charts
Misty Records - MYS.102 - April, 1976
Back Again (John Glenn)
Misty Records - Unknown - 1976

Tribute to Brian Coll (John Glenn)

Misty Records - Unknown - 1976

Turn Back The Years (John Glenn)
- #14 Irish Charts
Misty Records - January, 1977
A Little Country Town In Ireland (John Glenn)
- #6 Irish Charts
Misty Records - February, 1977
The Family That Prays (Tom Allen)
Unknown label - May, 1978
You Are My Sunshine (Tom Allen)
Unknown Label - Dec., 1978
Time Will Prove That I'm Right / Farewell Party (Jan Lynch)
Play Records - PLAY 133 - Feb, 1980

Albums:

Little Bit of Country and Irish (Big Tom)
Emerald Records - SLD 33 - 1969
From Ireland (Big Tom)
Emerald Records - SLD37 - 1970
The All Time Hits of Big Tom & The Mainliners*
Emerald Records - GES 1051 - 1971
Requests

Denver Records - October, 1972 - Unknown
I'll Settle for Old Ireland (Big Tom)
Emerald Records - GES 1102 - 1974
The Image of Me (Big Tom)*
Denver Records - LPDNV2 - 1974
Ashes Of Love (Big Tom)
Denver Records - LPDNV 3 - 1975
Smoke Along The Track (Big Tom)
Denver Records - LPDNV 4 - 1975
Souvenirs (Big Tom)
Denver Records - LPDNV5 - 1975
Sunny Sdie of the Mountain (John Glenn)
Misty Records - Unknown - November, 1975
Hits By The Dozen (Big Tom)*
Unknown Company - DEB105
The Best of John Glenn and the Mainliners (John Glenn)
Mint Records - Unknown - 1979
Favourites (Big Tom)*
K-Tel Records - KLP55 - 1980

Info on releases marked with an asterisk * provided by Richard Cooke

Audio Clips

     

Bunch of Violets Blue

Gentle Mother

     

Where Are They Now?   (More to come)

Tom McBride: Tom split from the Mainliners in 1974, forming his new band, The Travelers. For Tom, the hits kept coming, further cementing his standing as the top Country and Irish artist in the country. After the Travelers disbanded Tom and the Mainliners reunited and have been playing to packed audiences regularly. Tom had a scare a couple of years ago when he suffered a heart attack, but has recovered and continues to tour a couple of times a year. Truly one of the legends of the Irish entertainment scene, Tom continues to pack them in, whenever he chooses to perform.  
Seamus McMahon: Gerry Fitzmaurice writes to tell us Seamus plays with a small band in Monaghan when bBig Tom is not on tour these days>  If you know more, please email us 
Ginger Morgan: Ginger, who was always the "pop" singer with the Mainliners left the band in 1979 and went his own way forming The Ginger Morgan Band which eventually became known as Hot Fever. When the Mainliners reunited, he rejoined the band and has been playing with them since.
Ronnie Duffy: Gerry Fitzmaurice writes to tell us Ronnie plays with Paddy Cole's Band when Big Tom is not on tour. If you know more, please email us 
John Beattie:  Unknown - if you have info please email us 
Cyril McKevitt: RIP: Cyril sadly passed away suddenly on 15th September, 2009, two days after completing the Mainliners 2009 tour.
Henry McMahon: During the years since the Mainliners first retired, Henry continued to be a presence in the Irish music business, writing songs for artists from Declan Nerney to Jimmy Buckley. Today Henry is booking manager for Jimmy Buckley and several other Irish country acts. Our thanks to Sean for much of this info about Henry. Of course, he still tours with Big Tom and the Mainliners on a regular basis these days as well. 
John Glenn:  Unknown - if you have info please email us 
Tom Allen: Tom went on from the Mainliners to form his own band taking the stage name of T.R. Dallas after having a massive hit with "Who Shot J.R. Ewing?" Tom still plays the dance and theatre circuit as TR Dallas and was recently featured on an episode of RTE's Nationwide programme. (Photo left by Colm Connaughton)
Jan Lynch:  Unknown - if you have info please email us 
Unknown Bass Player:  Unknown - if you have info please email us 

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