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Swallows Band Feature (1970-1974) (Magic Band - 1974-1981)

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

The Story

The Swallows hold an interesting place in the career of its founder, trumpeter Johnny Carroll. His first band was the Premier Aces, one of the top showbands of the 1960's. His last band was The Magic Band which was formed out of the Swallows. The Swallows were Johnny's "middle" band, around which his career on the band scene started and ended.

In late 1969, the Premier Aces had reached their end and four members, Johnny Carroll (trumpet), Jimmy O'Neill (keyboards), Sonny Ward (sax) and Bob Madden (guitar) decided to try something completely different. The country and western scene had started to take off in Ireland with the success of bands like the Cotton Mill Boys and the Hoot'nanny's. Johnny saw the opportunity to reinvent themselves and the boys teamed up with manager Liam Donnelly and put the Swallows on the road by adding Mickey Belton (drums), and Tipperary man, Jim Nash, on lead vocals. 

Joe O'Neill was a major backer of the band (being Jimmy's brother) and the band was launched in late 1969, and six months later, they had a major advertising splash in Spotlight which included a 4 page spread. The original lineup was: Bob Madden (guitar), Mickey Belton (drums), Johnny Carroll (trumpet), Jimmy O'Neill (keyboards), Murty Finn (bass), Sonny Ward (sax) and Jim Nash (vocals).

After a very short time, the boys decided a female lead vocalist was what they needed and they recruited a young girl, Margaret Murphy, who hailed from Glenamaddy, Co. Galway. Margaret had been playing around the pubs in Co. Galway with her two brothers Martin and Oliver when Joe O'Neil "discovered" her. Not only did Margaret (who used the stage name, Murphy) sing, but she also played bass. With Murphy out front, the band were an immediate success on the country dance scene and they had four records in the Irish top twenty.

In 1974, after several years of success on the country circuit, bandleader Johnny Carroll decided it was time for a change and the band was reformed as Magic and the Swallows, bringing in young Dublin singer Kevin Walsh (brother of the Nevada's Willie Walsh) to don the Magic light up suit. Also new to the band were Gerry Gallagher (guitar), John McKenna (bass - ex Silver Pennies), Frank Clancy (keyboards - ex Ohio) and Joe Bernie (sax - ex Leaders). Only Mickey Belton (drums) and Johnny Carroll (trumpet) remained from the original Swallows. Murphy left the showband circuit and formed a group called Murphy and Friends, playing in local cabaret spots. 

More to come.....

(Our thanks to Sean and Margaret Gorham for information contributed to this feature)

Photo Gallery

click on thumbnails for full image

Swallows - 1970 Swallows - 1970 Swallows - 1970 Swallows - 1970 Swallows - 1970
1970 Article Swallows - 1970 Murphy of the Swallows (LR) Murphy of the Swallows (LR) Murphy - 1971
Murphy of the Swallows - 1973 Murphy of the Swallows - 1973 Murphy & The Swallows (DD) Swallows - 1974 (LR) Magic & The Swallows 1974
A- Magic & The Swallows - 1974 B - Magic & the Swallows - 1974 Swallows - 1970 Swallows (RF) Swallows (RF)
Swallows (RF) Swallows (RF) Swallows (RF) Swallows (RF) Swallows (RF)
Swallows (RF) Coming Soon Coming Soon Coming Soon Coming Soon
Years Vocals Guitar Bass Drums Trumpet Sax Keyboards
1970 Jim
1971 Unknown Unknown Margaret
1972 Unknown Unknown Margaret
1974 Kevin


Just Between You and Me / Mama Tried (Jim Nash)
Ruby Records - RUB.105 - June, 1970
No One To Welcome Me Home / Branded Man (Sonny Ward)
Release Records - RL.562 - January, 1971
Don't Take Advantage of Me / No. 1 Heel In The Country  (Margaret Murphy) - #3 Irish Charts
Play Records - PLAY.09 - November, 1971
Ned Kelly (Margaret Murphy) - #5 Irish Charts
Play Records - PLAY.22 - May, 1972

Merry Go Round / Indian Lake (Margaret Murphy)
- #16 Irish Charts
Play Records - PLAY.52 - February, 1973
Satin Sheets (Margaret Murphy)
- #13 Irish Charts
Play Records - PLAY.73 - April, 1974

Calendar Girl / Boney Maroney - (Kevin Walsh) - #4 Irish Charts
Play Records - PLAY.78 - Sept., 1974

Audio Clips

Coming Soon

Where Are They Now?  

Johnny Carroll: As the last original member of the band, we are pretty sure they called it quits around 1983. At that point Johnny went on the road as the "Man With The Golden Trumpet" and has never looked back. Having started in 1958 at the age of 13, in 2008 Johnny celebrated 50 years of continuous entertaining in and around Ireland and has seen it all! He still plays regularly, although he has cut back a little on his touring. He often plays outside the country these days having recently been playing in Australia, Fiji, Hong Kong, and Spain. As of March 2017, Johnny, now 73, is still on the road mostly doing showband shows and concerts as well as the odd function.   
Sonny Ward:  Unknown - if you have info please email us 
Jimmy O'Neill: Jimmy retied from the road after the Swallows made the switch to the Magic Band, where he was the road manager for many years. He also ran dances, working with his brother Joe O'Neill. Today, Jimmy lives in Galway and still plays occasionally, although he never went band "on the road" after the Swallows. 
Mickey Belton: Mickey was one of two musicians (along with Johnny) who made the transition to The Magic Band in 1974. He played with Magic until the early 80's when he retired from the road. However, in the intervening years, Mickey became one of Galway's best know jazz drummers and he still plays regularly in Galway with a variety of bands. He does some session work, but we understand his main gig is with the Black Magic Band.
Jim Nash:  Unknown - if you have info please email us 
Margaret Murphy: Margaret married drummer Sean Gorham in 1975 and the couple emigrated to London, where they played the clubs and pubs for 15 years. They returned to Co. Galway in 1989, where they live today. Although Margaret no longer sings in public, she still maintains a very keen interest in the Irish music scene. 
Bob Madden:  Unknown - if you have info please email us 
Murty Finn:  Unknown - if you have info please email us 
Kevin Walsh (Magic): After moving to Galway from Drogheda, Kevin married and made his home in Galway. After leaving the scene in 1979 he started singing on the local cabaret scene around Galway. Today he works for a major international manufacturer in Galway, but still sings on a part time basis around the area.  
Gerry Gallagher: After leaving the Magic Band, Gerry returned to Sligo and played locally with the local group Sundown with Joe Foley and Dick Lynott for a few years. In 1978, he formed The Kim Newport Band with his wife, Kim. They played from 1978 until 1983 when they called it quits and emigrated to the States. He entered the business world and finally sold his company in 2003. In 2006, he returned to Sligo to run an international entertainment production and licensing company which he left in 2009. After a stint teaching at IT Sligo, he now plays locally once in a while. In late 2012, Gerry joined up with members of the original Smokey Mountain Ramblers for their 40th reunion tour playing bass.
Frank Clancy: At one point Frank owned his own company in Tuam. In January 2014, we received an update from Frank. He said he doesn't play music much any more and is 80% retired but he is still partly involved in a small GPS company called Celtrak and plays golf regularly.
Joe Bernie: After leaving the band, Joe continued to play music, but also managed Star Records, a local music retail shop. He still plays regularly in the Galway area, although he now lives in Athenry after spending many years living in Galway. Joe released a CD in 2005. A January, 2014 update from Joe tells us he is still playing regularly with the Black Magic Big Band around Galway along with Mickey Belton.
John McKenna: After leaving Magic, John returned to his native Kingscourt and has been playing music on the local scene for the past 30+ years, first with a pub group, but for the last few years as a solo artist. 




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