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Polka Dots Feature (1960-1971)

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

The Story

The first reference we can find to the band was an advert in the "Dance Band" page of the Irish Independent on December 3rd, 1960 and they were playing a gig later in the month listed as the Polka Dots Dance Band. They were playing in the Star Ballroom in their home town of Omagh. By June, 1961 they had played in the Savoy Ballroom in Castlerea, which as far as we can tell may have been their first trip outside of the North. By late 1961 they were playing venues around the country on a more regular basis.

In early 1965, the band underwent several major changes when former Capitol drummer, Mickey O'Hanlon took over as the band's manager. Around the same time, Brian Coll quit the band to rejoin the Plattermen and John Nugent left as well and he was replaced by Robb Armstrong (soon to be known to the world as Rob Strong). The band went into the studio and recorded their first tracks, but these were not released at the time.

In early 1966, the band finally released its first single, One for the Road with Old Memories Keep Returning both sung by Frankie McBride. Although the single didn't make any impression on the charts, it finally established the band as a bona fide recording outfit which was a major step taken by most of the showbands in the mid to late 1960's. As was the case in those days, most of the band's records would be released as "Frankie McBride" with the band getting no mention. This would become a common trend as it was the lead singers the record companies wanted to promote, even if they left their previous band (which became more and more the norm as the sixties came to an end).  

Gregory would be first to leave, joining the Cadets in April 1966. The band would release a second single, A Cottage in Old Donegal, the following April. As Frankie was now the sole lead singer in the band, adverts would be for Frankie McBride and the Polka Dots. Once again the new single had no impact on the charts, but all that would change a few months later. 

Five Little Fingers

In June, 1967, the band would undergo several major changes in their line-up. First, Rob Strong left to join the Plattermen, while their bass player, Sean Hamilton, would come to the Polka Dots to play drums along with guitarist Arty McGlynn. Rob would be replaced by Derry born Richard Duffy who had previously played with the Masters Showband. In late June they also released their third single, "Five Little Fingers."  

There aren't many Irish showbands that can claim success in the British single charts, but Frankie McBride of the Polka Dots is one of them. In the summer of 1967, his single, Five Little Fingers, reached number 19 in the UK charts. The massive success of the single resulted in rumours that Frankie would be leaving the band to pursue a solo career. However, Frankie stayed with the band, saying in a 1967 Spotlight interview, "I have been very happy with the Dots and we have come a long way together. We are looking forward to even greater things."

The success of the single gave the band a new lease on life and Frankie appeared on several English TV shows as the record continued to climb up the English charts. Frankie and the band were the "hottest" property on the ballroom scene through the late summer of 1967 as their record continued to climb the British Charts towards the top twenty and they received massive publicity across the whole of the Irish media. In October, Frankie became the first Irish singer to ever crack the British top twenty. 

The band's follow-up to Five Little Fingers was "Burning Bridges," which did make the Irish charts at number 11, but failed to make any impression in England. However as 1968 started the band was still riding the crest of the publicity wave and with a second top Irish hit, things were looking good. They changed management to Barney Curley and Frankie was named as one of the singers for the Irish National Song Contest singing "You're Not There At All" written by Hedley Kaye of Dublin. Due to the success of the previous year, his involvement received major coverage but in the end, he failed to get out of the first heat of the contest (there were two heats with eight songs and singers each) and that year "Chance of a Lifetime" represented Ireland at Eurovision. (As an aside, Pat McGeegan's song almost didn't make it to the final having been overlooked by the judges, even though the jury had voted it go through to the final.)

Although the band continued to release singles, as well as an album, "Frankie McBride Sings," chart success eluded them and they settled into life on the road, which was probably somewhat dampened after the massive success of the previous year.

In March, 1970 an article in the Ulster Herald reported a major shakeup for two Omagh based bands, the Buckaroos and the Polka Dots. Barney Curley announced the Polka Dots were changing their names to the Avengers, but would be retaining Frankie McBride as lead vocalist. Three of the Buckaroos would be moving over to the revamped band: John Trotter, Patsy "Pio" McCann, and Gerry Quinn. Subsequently, they decided to keep the Polka Dots name due to pressure from promoters.       

In November, 1970, Frankie announced he was leaving the Polka Dots to start a country band of his own. To coincide with the launch of the new outfit, Emerald planned a release of a new single, Daddy's Little Man, while the new band was rehearsing. On November 12th, an article in the Connaught Telegraph reported that the Times' manager, Greg Hughes was to take over the management of Frankie and the Dots. On November 14th, the Evening Herald reported that Frankie was joining the newly formed Highwaymen and his last date with the Dots would be November 15th in Omagh. The new single was released as Frankie made his debut with the Highwaymen on November 20th. It was also reported that Greg Hughes had not yet committed to taking over the band's management. The Highwaymen were made up of the remnants of the band the Newliners.    

In July, 1972, Frankie had moved on to a new band, Rio Grande, which included Barry McAllister (keyboards), Brendan Sweeney (guitar), Martin Coll (guitar), Don Sherry (bass), Anthony Hughes (drums) and Frankie (vocals).

In the meantime, Pio McCann of the band, spotted a young singer at a local talent show which turned out to be Hugo Duncan, who had just left the Melody Aces after six months. He was introduced to the band and replaced Frankie, but the magic was gone and the band disbanded after only a few months. 

More to come.....

Photo Gallery

click on thumbnails for full image

  Polka Dots (BS) Polka Dots-1967 (JB) Dots Showband (JB) Frankie McBride - 1966 (LR) Frankie McBride - 1967

Frankie McBride - 1967 Frankie McBride - 1967   Polka Dots - 1967 Frankie McBride - 1967 Frankie McBride - 1968
Polka Dots (PL) Polka Dots (PL) Polka Dots - 1964 (PL) Polka Dots (PL) Polka Dots (PL)
Polka Dots (PL) Polka Dots (PL) Polka Dots (PL) Polka Dots Frankie McBride
& The Polka Dots
     
Polka Dots - 1966 New Polka Dots - 1970

Coming Soon

Coming Soon

Coming Soon

Years Vocals Vocals Guitar Bass Drums Sax Trumpet Sax Trombone
1963? Frankie
McBride
Brian
Coll
Pat
Owens
John
Nugent
Donald? Eugene
Nixon
Aidan
McCallion
Charlie? Mickey?
1964 Frankie
McBride
Brian
Coll
Pat
Owens
John
Nugent
Colm
Kealy
Eugene
Nixon
Aidan
McCallion
  Jimmy
O'Neill
April
1965
Frankie
McBride
Gregory
Donaghy
Pat
Owens
Robb
Armstrong
Colm
Kealy
Eugene
Nixon
Aidan
McCallion
  Jimmy
O'Neill
Mar
1966
Frankie
McBride
Gregory
Donaghy
Terry
Colhoun
Robb
Armstrong
Colm
Kealy
Eugene
Nixon
Aidan
McCallion
  Jimmy
O'Neill
April
1966
Frankie
McBride
  Terry
Colhoun
Robb
Armstrong
Colm
Kealy
Eugene
Nixon
Aidan
McCallion
  Jimmy
O'Neill
June
1967
Frankie
McBride
Sean
Hamilton
Artie
McGlynn
Richard
Duffy
Colm
Kealy
Eugene
Nixon
Aidan
McCallion
  Jimmy
O'Neill
March
1970
Frankie
McBride
  Artie
McGlynn
Pio "Patsy"
McCann
Colm
Kealy
Gerry
Quinn
Aidan
McCallion
  John
Trotter
                   
                   

Discography

One (Kiss) For The Road / Old Memories Keep Returning
Emerald Records - MD 1046 - May 27th, 1966
Cottage In Old Donegal / Blackboard of My Heart 
Emerald Records - MD 1072 - April, 1967
Five Little Fingers /
Do You Mind If You Leave Me Sleeping - #2 Irish Charts  ****[#19 UK Charts]****
Emerald Records - MD.1081 - June, 1967
Burning Bridges / Don't Make Me Go
- #11 Irish Charts
Emerald Records - MD.1086 - November, 1967
Hold Me / I'm Going Home
Emerald Records - MD.1093 - March, 1968
With Pen In Hand / Oh How I Miss You
Emerald Records - MD.1102 - 1968
Long Black Limousine / Love Bug
Emerald Records - MD.1109 - 1968
How Are Things In Glocca Morra / Forty Shades of Green
Emerald Records - MD.1116 - 1969
Give Me Your Word / Bienvenidos Amigos
Emerald Records - MD.1125 - May, 1969
The Picture On The Wall / Honey Come Back
Emerald Records - MD.1145 - June, 1970

Albums

Frankie McBride Sings (Five Little Fingers)
Emerald Records - MLD 28 - December, 1967
Real Smooth Country
Emerald Records - GES 1062 - 1971
 

Audio Clips

Coming Soon

Where Are They Now?  

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