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Behind the Scenes...The Pat Egan Story

With special thanks to Pat Egan and an article by Jim Carroll in the Irish Times of January 4, 2014. 

Although the main focus of our website is covering the bands and ballrooms of the showband era, we also want to pay tribute to some of the people who worked behind the scenes to promote or report on the era as well. One such person must be the official historian of the Dublin Beat (and later Group) Scene, Pat Egan. Pat was there when the era produced acts like Rory Gallagher, Thin Lizzy, Granny's Intentions and many more whose names are now but faded memories to the musicians themselves and a handful of faithful fans.

Pat was was a big music fan from the time he left school at age 13 and first heard "Save the Last Dance for Me" by the Drifters. Says Pat today, "I thought it was amazing, blew my mind. At the same time I was into Cliff Richard when I heard "Move It" and progressed from there to the Beatles who along with Roy Orbison and Dusty Springfield, Billy Fury would be my favourite artists of all time."

As a kid growing up on Dublin’s Dorset Street, music and the radio were constants and, even when he was working in a hardware place in Smithfield, he knew he wanted to do something that involved music. During the sixties, Pat made it his business to know every member of every group, every producer and every record label. "I lived for Friday to buy my copy of the New Musical Express (NME) and keep myself up to date with the charts and stories of the day," he recollects.

He wrote to people such as the broadcaster, Ken Stewart, for advice and appeared on RTÉ’s Pick of the Pops show a few times (“my nerves nearly killed me”). Eventually, his love of music lead to him becoming the DJ in the Five Club  in Harcourt Street in Dublin. Pat says of the experience, "I had stage fright from day one and used to hide away in the corner of the stage to play my discs."

As his knowledge and reputation as a man who "knew the scene" continued to grow, John Coughlan, Editor of New Spotlight magazine gave Pat his first real job in the entertainment business. Pat was writing the Beat Group column in the magazine. The column was a huge benefit for the fledgling Dublin beat scene as it brought the local acts to national attention. Pat was finally getting to live the dream. "I hung out with DJ John Hodges, singer Mike O'Brien, and Phil Lynott and I was good mates with Rory Gallagher, Henry McCullough and Brendan "Brush" Shiels." 
When Pat was 20, he finally got his chance at a major radio DJ gig with Radio Caroline North. “I was brought out to the ship on a tiny boat from Greenore in Co Louth in the middle of winter and had to climb up on to the Mi Amigo. I’d never been away from home and here I was in a tiny cabin with gales and storms blowing and there was no way off until your three-week shift ended.” Pat admits his lack of education and shyness worked against him. "I was a good club DJ and bitterly disappointed that I could not make it on radio."

As with most opportunities in life, the closing of one door lead to the opening of another for Pat. He realised that although

DJs needed records to play at their gigs it was “really, really difficult” to get records on the week of release in Dublin. Delays of up to six weeks were commonplace. “There was just nobody in the (UK) record companies who was aware of the developing market here. You might get a Rory Gallagher a week after release, but that was the exception.”

In 1969, Pat had an idea for “an underground record shop which didn’t sell Nana Mouskouri or Elvis." With the help of a  £500 loan from showband management and promotions legend, Oliver Barry, Pat started his Sound Cellar rock record store in Nassau St. It became the  place to go for thousands of record fans who found it hard to get the new wave of British rock albums anywhere else.

Says Pat, "along with Oliver, I went to open six stores (2 in Dublin and 4 in Cork) which I sold off in the early eighties and started concert promotion. However the Sound Cellar remains to this day on the corner of Grafton St, still one of the best specialist record stores anywhere in the World . Its owned now and has been for the last 30 years by my old best pal Tommy Tighe The Sound Cellar has survived and has seen the likes of Golden Discs, Freebird, HMV, and dozens of other record retailers come and go. It remains one of the iconic establishments on the Irish Music scene."

Of course there were other reasons Pat wanted to get away from the clubs. “The disc-jockeying was great and I enjoyed it, but I was drinking too much scotch and coke and chasing too much skirt. I’d hang around with a gang of people like Phil Lynott and we had a good time. Too much of a good time.”

All the while, Pat was writing his column in Spotlight magazine. In retrospect, he was writing the history of Irish rock music from the early days of the Beat Groups through to the "Heavy Sounds" (the final name of his column) of Thin Lizzy, Rory Gallagher and Horslips. At the time, Pat felt the pressure of running the stores, "they (Spotlight) wanted me to keep doing DJ stuff and I wanted to move on with the record stores. They were paying me £5 a week for the column but I was losing touch with the group scene. I wanted to get more into the business end of things because I really was never cut out to be a personality." He ceased writing for the magazine in August, 1974. 

With the record shops came his foray into live-music promotion. His first show was Steeleye Span with Terry Woods and Tim Hardin in the National Stadium and it grew from there. In the late 1970's Pat made the major move of getting heavily into concert promotion. He recently told us, "Jim Aiken was the only other concert promoter at that time. Denis Desmond started in the early 80s. Along with Oliver Barry we broke new ground with the likes of Queen, Bob Marley, Status Quo. We ran the first real one day music festivals with Bob Marley and Black Sabbath (with Denis Desmond). Queen were the first act ever to play the RDS Simmonscourt. I took a back seat from promoting for a while in the 90s when I had some bars, night clubs and I started the entertainment poster business, IPA, which still runs today."

“It was the wild west,” he says of those early days of promoting concerts in the 1970s. “It was completely new because no one had done this before. At the start, we didn’t have a clue because you never got that many people at a gig before.”

He remembers a Queen gig in Dublin’s RDS where “there were maybe 7,000 or 8,000 people pushing against the gate and you could see the sand coming out of the bricks from the pressure”. There was a Status Quo gig in the Navan Exhibition Centre when “the doors came off the hinges” from the crush of bodies trying to get in.

Pat promoted Bob Marley at Dublin’s Dalymount Park in 1980. “We sold 19,000 tickets and there were about 5,000 counterfeit tickets. It was all paper then so that happened all the time. There was no Ticketmaster, no clickers, none of that. You paid the act a fee – I think it was £30,000 for Marley – and you didn’t even have to have a licence. It was much different for the promoter.”

Pat now specialises in events for the over 40's and work in the various theatres. Panto with Jedward at the Olympia has been a big winner and he also run up to 25 shows a year at the National Concert  Hall. "We tour with various acts and play Cork Opera House. Limerick UCH and all the major venues. I am agent for Phil Coulter, Red Hurley, Ronan Collins, Sandy Kelly the Dublin Legends (formerly the Dubliners) with Brian Hand. We tour shows in the UK and look after the irish interests of Billy Connolly, the Stylistics, Canadian Tenors. Air Supply and the like. I also started the National Entertainment guide on TV3 which gives smaller event and concert promoters the chance to get their events on TV at very low costs."
Looking back, Pats recounts, "I have lived a charmed life doing a job I have loved beyond anything. Working with and along side some of the world’s greatest talent. My favourite acts would be Sir George Martin, Billy Connolly, Eric Clapton and Air Supply. I have lived the rock 'n roll dream and come out the other side to tell the tale. How lucky can you get.

Photo Gallery

click on thumbnails for full image

Pat - 1969 Pat - 1974 Pat Egan - 1969 Pat & Friends Pat Today
His Column - Through The Years
Beat - May, 1967 Beat - July, 1967 Beat - Feb, 1968 Beat - June, 1968 Beat - Sept., 1968
Beat - Dec., 1968 Beat - March, 1969 Beat - May, 1969 Beat - Oct., 1969 Beat - Jan., 1970
Beat - March, 1970 Beat - May, 1970 Beat - May, 1970 Group Scene-July, 1970 Group Scene-Aug, 1970
Group Scene-Aug, 1970 Group Scene-Oct, 1970 Group Scene-Apr,1971 Group Scene-Jun,1971 Group Scene-Oct,1971
Heavy Sounds-Oct,1972 Heavy Sounds-Mar,1973 Let It Rock - Oct,1973 Let It Rock - May,1974 Let It Rock - Jul,1974


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