Patterson Gallery (1965-1975?)
Photo Gallery -
Band Lineups -
- Audio samples -
Where Are They Now?
Riding on the crest of the folk and ballad scene, the Pattersons
came to national attention in July, 1967 (according to one of their
album covers). With their clean cut
good looks, family image and vocal harmonies they quickly became one
of the darlings of the mature set and were regulars on TV for most
of the next decade.
The family group had been singing
together since their childhood in Co. Donegal. From Letterkenny, brothers Ronnie
(guitar) and Billy (bass) along with sisters Dorothy and Christine
(guitar), provided a very tame version of ballads in comparison to
some of their contemporaries such as the Dubliners. In fact, the
liner notes on their debut album described them as Ireland's answer
to the Trapp family (from the Sound of Music).
The same sleeve notes told us that
the group first appeared in public in 1965 when they performed at a
neighbor's sing song. The neighbor, was so impressed, he offered to
manage them and things started happening.
However, as Christine was born in
1950, she was only 15 at the time and still in school. So, the band
waited until she turned 17 to turn "professional." Before
that Dorothy (aka Dot) had been a secretary by day. According to the
sleeve notes The Pattersons Again, Billy, the eldest sibling
(eight years older than Christine), was a "policeman" before turning
pro. We have to assume this means he was a Garda in Donegal.
In 1967, they began talking about
turning professional and eventually entered the Kilkenny
International Ballad Festival where they placed in the top six out
of 165 acts. They were invited to perform in the United States and
ended up staying for six months, returning to Ireland at Christmas
time in 1967. We think they appeared on local TV in the Las Vegas
area (we're checking our facts on this). Upon their return home they
started preparing to make their first record.
In 1968, they released their first
single, Drill Ye Tarriers, Drill on the CBS record label. The
record didn't make the Irish charts, but established the group as
major players on the Irish entertainment scene. It was reported that
the record was number one with RTE's programme, Ten of the Best.
At the same time, they also released their first album, Travelling People.
Their repertoire was basically Irish folk with staples
like Irish Soldier Laddie, The Unicorn and Whiskey
on a Sunday. A few months later,
in October, they released their second single, I Don't Want to Be
A Memory which not only further enhanced their reputations as
performers, but became a major hit, reaching number 2 in the Irish
1969 would be the year the band
hit is big. With a hit single under their belts (which would sadly
be their only major hit in Ireland), they attracted the attention of
Irish and UK television producers. In June they released a second album,
Pattersons Again and were poised for international stardom. By
now, the band had more or less left their Irish folk music roots
behind and were recording a wide variety of songs from Montego
Bay to Gentle On My Mind and Scarboroough Fair.
As the new album came out, in June, 1969, sister Dorothy got
married and decided she could not raise a family and stay on the
road. She announced she was leaving the group. The remaining siblings were unsure what to do next. Said
Billy at the time, "When Dorothy decided to go we did quite a bit of
heart searching as to whether we should call the whole lot off,
continue as a threesome, or bring in someone new." Fortunately for
their fans, they continued as a trio and their fortunes continued to
also saw the release of three more singles on CBS,
Montego Bay, An Cailin Deas and World Of Love,
none of which managed to crack the Irish charts. They also released
their second album, The Pattersons Again. After one
more album in 1970, I Can Fly, the group switched from CBS to
the to the newly formed Mam Records. The new label was formed by
Manager Gordon Mills and Tom Jones and featured stars like Engelbert
Humperdinck and Gilbert O'Sullivan.
Around this same time (late 1969),
they were featured on the legendary Morecambe and Wise TV Show in the
UK. Their two appearances were so well received, they were booked to
returned for the series' winter run. This lead to concert dates
supporting acts like Val Doonican and Rolf Harris, two of the UK's
greatest easy listening stars at the time. They toured all over the UK and the
continent, but still remained based in their home town of
Said Christine in a 1970
Spotlight interview, "The fact that we never stay long away from
home helps keep our feet firmly on the ground. Getting back to
Letterkenny within hours of sampling some of the glamour of London
show business is a marvelous way of keeping things in perspective."
As their popularity grew, so too did the variety of songs they were
singing. Original a strict "folk" act, they were soon singing, folk,
pop and ballads. They continued to gain favour with the TV producers
at home and abroad.
In July, 1970, the band were
featured every week on the RTE series "A Handful of Songs" which
also featured Danny Doyle and Anna McGoldrick. The regular spots
helped build their reputation as "wholesome" entertainers. At the
same time, they had their own series on the BBC, "Patterson People."
On one storied Saturday night, they appeared on all three major
networks, RTE, UTV and BBC, a rare feat for any entertainer.
In 1970 and 1971, although record
success eluded the band, their concert and travel schedule grew more
and more hectic. They undertook a tour of the USA and were
encouraged to include some original material by their American agent
and Irish manager.
The result was several original
numbers written by (and with) Christine's husband, Michael O'Dowd.
Along with Christine, he also wrote the follow up, If I Were
Dreaming. A story in Spotlight in May 1973 credited
Christine as having written the song, though she had let it sit after
making a great start. Said Christine, "He (Michael) is a prodigious
worker and hates to see things left unfinished. Some gentle bullying
and a lot of encouragement resulted in me completing If I Were
We can find little information
about the Pattersons after this period. In 1973 they seemed to be
going gangbusters having appeared in the Albert Hall in London and done
several more TV shows on the continent, including the Knokke
Television Festival in Belgium.
We are pretty sure If I Were Dreaming was
their final single release, although Polydor Records did released
another album, The Pattersons At Home, in late 1974. With the
release of this, their final album, the band had returned to their
folk roots. Many of the songs they recorded were Irish standards
like Lagan Love, Carolan's Concerto and Gortnamóna.
The Pattersons had come full circle.
It is our understanding that
despite numerous offers to reunite the band, they never did so.
passed away in 2009 after a lengthy illness. Billy, Christine and Ronnie are still alive and
well and living in Ireland split between Co. Donegal and Co. Galway.
They all have several children and have settled back into civilian
More to come.....
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