Regal Showband Feature (1950-1972?)
Photo Gallery -
Band Lineups -
- Audio samples -
Where Are They Now?
Our special thanks to Jim Cotter
for his assistance with this story....
While the majority of major bands during the
showband came out of Dublin and Belfast, Ireland's third largest
city, Cork, also produced many fine bands. Of course,
The Dixies were Cork's most famous
export, but The Regal Showband (based in Bantry) was another band that did very
well in the early days of the showband era. The Regal started life as
The Regal Orchestra in the 1950's with John Minehane as the leader and sax
player. Like most of the the early "orchestras," there were no
guitars in the band. The early lineup included Paddy Sullivan, who
would later move to bass, but like many Irish musicians in the 50's
played accordion. His brother Murt Sullivan was also in the band and
played accordion. Other members were Donal O"Donovan (keyboards),
Sean O'Leary (trumpet), and Sean Clifford (drums).
Like almost all bands of the era, they started
as part timers, playing mostly in local ballrooms and backing bigger
acts that might made a swing through the area. Eventually though,
(again like all bands of the era), they had to make the big decision
as to whether they were turning professional. For most bands, this
meant some of the members dropped out, unwilling, or unable to give
up their day jobs. By 1958 or 1959, the band had a new lineup, had
turned pro and were well and truly established as one of the top
bands in the region. The lineup included, John Minehane (leader and
sax), Jack Brierley (who would soon leave to form his own band),
Gordon Hanley (RIP-trumpet), brothers Murt (accordion) and Paddy
(bass) Sullivan, Chris St. Leger, Benno Haussmann (RIP-drums), Kevin
Lynch (sax) and Michael Noonan (vocals).
Within a short time, Jack Brierley
had left to fom his own Jack Brierley Showband, which coincidentally
featured Jim Cotter on vocals. Jim would move to the Regal in 1963
and take over from Len McCarthy. By 1964, the band had
established themselves as one of the top showbands in the country and during that year they played
with Jim Reeves and the Blue Boys in the Redbarn in Cork. They also
spent the summer of 1964 as the resident band in the famous Seapoint
Ballroom in Salthill, Galway.
The band was managed by Paddy
Kennedy of Galway and the lineup included: Gordon Hanley of
Skibbereen (RIP-trumpet), John Minehane of Bantry (sax, trombone &
tin whistle), Kevin Lynch of Bantry (RIP-sax), Paddy Sullivan of
Bantry (bass), Mick Aherne of Cork (guitar), Declan Ryan of Cork
(guitar & vocals), Benno Haussmann (RIP-drums) and Jim Cotter of
Cork (vocals). Des McAlea (aka Des
Lee) joined the band for a short time on sax before.
In 1965, Jim Cotter left the band to join
Cork's Rio Showband, managed by Sean Murphy. The same year, The Regal had a huge hit with I
Need You sung by Declan Ryan. Despite the single's success (it
reached number six on the Irish charts), the band shocked the local
entertainment scene when they announced that four members were
leaving to form a new band, The Arrivals. Declan Ryan
(vocals), Des McAlea (sax-a.k.a Des Lee), Mick Aherne (guitar) and
Benno Haussmann (drums) departed the band and were the subject of a
major marketing campaign headed up by their first manager Murt Lucey
who with his brother at that time owned two of the most successful
ballrooms in Co. Cork. To complete the
new band, they recruited Mick's brother, Will Aherne on bass, Tony
Neenan (trumpet) and Billy Curtin (sax). Billy had previously been
playing with the Swingtime Aces and Tony Neenan had been with
the Jack Brierley Showband.
The Arrivals went on the road in late 1965
and had a modest hit in 1966 with their first single, My Wishful
Meanwhile, the Regal had the daunting task of
replace half its lineup.
In June, 1968, Declan Ryan rejoined the band after leaving nearly 2
years earlier to form his own band, the Arrivals. After 18 months, Declan had left
the band and decided to go it alone as a solo cabaret artist. At
that point, Regal manager, Tony Hegarty stepped in and offered him a
spot with the Regal again, which he accepted.
In the early seventies, the band
was disbanded when several of its members joined with what remained
of the Airchords to form the Treetops featuring Pat Lynch.
More to come.....
(Our thanks to Jim Cotter for
click on thumbnails for full image