Top League Story (1972-1975)
Photo Gallery -
Band Lineups -
- Audio samples -
Where Are They Now?
The Top League owed its existence to the origins of the Monarchs showband
innocently enough when Jim Connolly, Frank Hogan and Brian Meehan
started playing local dances as the Monarchs Trio. Several of the
members were also part of the Bob Madden Band, one of Limerick's
most popular bands in the mid to late 1950's. We are unsure whether
they left to form the Monarch Trio and then expanded into a
showband, or had played as a trio before joining with the Madden
One way or another, the band made its debut in
May, 1960 in Abbeyfeale. We think the original lineup included: Jim
Connolly (founder-keyboards and trumpet), Frank Hogan (drums), Brian
Meehan (sax), along with Raymond Heraty (vocals), In 1960, the band
added Dermot Heraty on bass and Terry Malone on trumpet. In 1961,
Terry would be replaced by Joe Louis who proved popular with the
fans, but left the band in late 1962 and was replaced by Brendan
Moynihan, who would stay with the band until around 1969.
In mid 1963, the band declared itself
Limerick's first "professional" showband. In the early
showband days, most bands were part timers, working day jobs and playing
music more as a hobby than a profession. However, the band's biggest
change would come as the year came to a close. Tommy Drennan, a boy
singing sensation who had impressed audiences with his singing
talent as a child winning numerous awards for vocal performances had
decided to turn professional in early 1963 and joined the
one of Ireland's best known showbands. However, by the end of the
year, he had grown homesick and returned to Limerick where he joined
the Monarchs and became the final piece to the puzzle that would
catapult the band to national stardom.
The band released its first single, Boolavogue,
in late 1964 and the record reached number 4 in the Irish charts,
firmly establishing the Monarchs on the dance scene and Tommy
Drennan as one of the era's foremost stars. The record's climb also
provided the first TV exposure for the band as Tommy was featured on
RTE's (then TE's) show "Pickin The Pops." In 1969, the band lineup included: Bryan Meehan
(keyboards/sax), Dermot Heraty (bass), Frank Hogan (drums), John
Frawley (vocals), Dave McCormack (trumpet), Tommy Drennan (vocals)
and Ray Fitzgerald (guitar).
In August 1970, young vocalist/songwriter Denis
Allen joined the band, replacing Ray Fitzgerald on guitar who left
to study music in Germany. At the same time, Frankie Coughlan
replaced Dermot Heraty on bass. Dermot left the band to take an
executive post with a national company.
In March, 1972, after 10 years together, the
Monarchs split up with Tommy Drennan and Sean O'Dowd (formerly with
the Donie Collins Band) forming a new
band, The Top League. Managed by Anna McGoldrick's husband, Michael
Nolan, the new band made their debut in Easter Sunday, 1972. The
band included girl singer, Marianne (last name unknown) and released
it's first record, When My Summer Sunshine Is Gone the same
month. The record did not make the charts, which was somewhat
unusual as Tommy had several chart hits previously in his career
with the Monarchs. By the way, we are not sure of Denis Allen did at
this point as he was not part of the new band's lineup, although he
wrote Summer Sunshine for the band.
Launched with a big splash, at this point in
time we don't know much about the history of the Top League other
than it was relatively short. The band started out as an eight
piece, but within 7 months (November, 72) a photo of the band
appeared in Spotlight (see below) with only six members and Marianne
was no longer with the band.
A couple of weeks later, a blurb in the
Insight column of Spotlight reported that "when Mick Nolan rang
Tommy Drennan to congratulate him on his Promise and the Dream
reaching number one, he was told he was no longer Top League's
manager." It would be safe to assume that at this point management
of the band changed to Limerick's Paddy O'Connell, who would also
later manage Candi and Dynamite, Ding-A-Ling, and the Kim Newport
The success of this second offering, Promise
and the Dream (written by Tom T. Hall) helped re-establish the
success of the band on the ballroom circuit.
Sometime in early 1973, Dennis Allen, former
band mate in the Monarchs, rejoined Tommy and Shaun in Top League.
It would appear this lineup stayed in place until 1975.
In August, 1975 in a shock
announcement, Tommy Drennan left the Top League for a career in
cabaret, although he would later form his own Tommy Drennan Band. It was announced in Spotlight that Shaun O'Dowd would be
taking over and the band would be changing its name. The band would
For the short time Top League was together they
really carried on the musical direction of the Monarchs, something
which occurred quite often on the showband scene as lineups came and
went, only to be reunited in a different band, or under a different
name. They were able to boast three members who would eventually
front competing bands in the late 70's and early 80's. After
authoring his massive hit, Limerick, You're A Lady, in 1979,
Denis formed his own band.
More to come....
click on thumbnails for full image