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Virginians Feature (1969-74?)

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

The Story

In the summer of 1969 Des and Johnny Kelly (of the Capitol) were looking to take advantage of the country boom sweeping Ireland. The success of bands like the Smokey Mountain Ramblers and Cotton Mill Boys prompted them to form a new kind of country band, The Virginians. The band was launched in July with a fanfare of publicity and featured Basil Henriques (also often spelled Henrick, Henricks and Hendricks), who came from England after working in studios like Abbey Road in the sixties. Basil was also a part of the Waikiki Islanders, a band that had been on the road since 1937. He was joined by fiddler Charlie Arkins, giving the band a distinctive sound compared to most of the other country outfits on the road around at the time. The original lineup of the band included Mike Feeney (vocals), Jimmy Murray, (guitar), John Boyle (bass), Mick Nash (drums), Hughie Ward (keyboards), Basil Henriques (steel) and Charlie Arkins (fiddle). 

A few months later, around December, the band released its first single, Absence Makes The Heart Grow Fonder featuring Mike on vocals and was also written by Mike. The record proved a great success and made the Irish charts, topping out an number 12. The band was playing five and six nights a week, and with an original hit single under their belt, it seemed things could only keep improving.  

One thing to point out before going forward is that the rush to provide "authentic" country music to the Irish public was often met with indifference. Despite the attempts to showcase bluegrass and traditional country sounds, the real winner in the "country" race would be "country and Irish," the uniquely Irish form of country embraced by singers like Big Tom, Larry Cunningham and Margo, to name but a few. These artists flourished while bands who tried to play country in the bluegrass tradition either died or had to reinvent themselves.

Almost immediately, the band was in trouble. Corkman Ray Sullivan replaced John Boyle on bass in November, 1969. A few months later in March, 1970 Mullingar drummer Tony Newman (RIP) replaced Mick Nash and singer Bobby King was brought into the band replacing Hughie Ward. Bobby would only stay a couple of months.

In May, the band released its second single on Des Kelly's own new label,. Ruby Records, Who Cares, (also written by Mike Feeney). The B-side was an instrumental called Tumwater Breakdown which attracted a lot of attention as it featured Jimmy, Basil and Charlie dueling it out. Despite this, the record did not sell well. However, this was only a small setback for the band.

In June, 1970, everything changed for the Virginians. Basil and Charlie left the band (Charlie would eventually play with the aforementioned Cotton Mill Boys, while Basil would end up playing with...everybody). Ballymote, Co. Sligo born singer Dermot Henry was the new lead vocalist. Dermot had been studying for his BA degree at University College Dublin (UCD) before being bitten by the showbiz bug. He would debut with the band in Kingscourt on June 7, 1970. Dermot replaced Bobby King, who left and initially, Mike Feeney was still with the band, but he would soon leave as well. 

The story of how Dermot was discovered has it that manager, Des Kelly, ran a talent competition in the Old Sheiling Hotel in Dublin. Dermot was a student at UCD when he decided to enter the competition. Said Dermot later of the experience "I used to sing in my room at home but I always made sure nobody could hear me." Although Dermot didn't win the competition, Des and brother Johnny loved his voice and asked him to join the Virginians. The rest as they say, is history.   

By the end of summer, of the original lineup, only Jimmy Murray was still with the band. The new lineup included Dermot (vocals), Jimmy Murray ( guitar), Laurence Lavery (bass), Tony Newman (drums), Paul Tobin (keyboards), Pascal Haverty (sax) and Frankie Hughes (trumpet). Gone were the fiddles and steel and back were the standard showband sax and trumpets. Said manager, Des in a 1971 Spotlight interview, "In the days of steel guitar and fiddle, there was a terrible monotony about the sound. We wanted variety, but couldn't get it with that kind of instrumentation. We had to change and we are glad that we did."

The new lineup took a few months to gel together, while also changing direction drastically from bluegrass to country and Irish. Their next single, released in September, 1970 was My Lovely Irish Rose, and it broke into the Irish Top Ten peaking at number 8. With Charlie and Basil gone, the band's bluegrass origins were a distant memory and Dermot's "boy next door" charm set the Virginians on a course of "country and Irish" music which was all the rage at the time (and still is today).

The hit single and the addition of Dermot put the band on a new and more successful course. The band's next single, If Those Lips Could Only Speak, became a huge hit, hitting the Number 1 spot and staying in the Irish Charts for 21 weeks, making it one of the biggest selling Irish singles of 1970. Dermot and the band were firmly established as one of the country's biggest new acts. More lineup changes were to occur, in December, 1970, Tony Newman left the band and was replaced by Jerry Fahey on drums.          

Dermot and the band continued to go from strength to strength and in early 1971 he released his first album, Dermot Henry Sings. The record reflected the country and Irish mix the band had become associated with and included his hit singles as well as Irish favourites like The Wild Rapparee and the Old Bog Road, plus country songs like Chet Atkins' The Fugitive and Games People Play. In March, 1971, Pascal Haverty would leave to join Billy Brown's new Superband. He was replaced by John Connelly. In April he released, What's The Reason Daddy which made it to number 8 in the Irish charts and gave Dermot his third top ten hit in a row. The same month, Dermot appeared on his first cover of Spotlight.

The new single, a sentimental story of a blind boy (sung by Michael Landers) asking his father why he can't see was not without its detractors. An article in Spotlight by Donall Corvin (which accompanied Dermot's appearance on the magazine's cover) complained that "Dermot's latest release is the ultimate in the trend toward sloppy sentimentality in songs about mothers, graves, cripples, orphans and and mentally handicapped children..." At the same time, people were buying up and promoters wanted to book the band while they were hot.

For his part, Dermot refused to admit the band was milking this sentimentality. "We didn't set put to milk the sick scene. This was just another one in a batch of songs my grandmother gave me." Dermot had also credited his granny with giving him the song, If Those Lips Could Only Speak, previously.

In August, Dermot released Ballyhoe. Reporters joked that the new record was not about dead grandmothers or blind children and this was a good thing. Instead it was about a townland near Kingscourt, Co. Cavan and a fairy ring (or fort). The song was another massive seller and went to number three in the charts. Dermot was now one of the most successful singers in showband history with his first four records all making the top ten. 

Near the end of the year, word was that Dermot had been invited to tour in Australia where the Irish community were loving his sentimental records about home. We are not sure whether this ever happened, but will try to find out. There were claims that If Those Lips Could Only Speak might reach 50,000 in sales in Australia and Dermot did receive a silver record for 50,000 in sales in Ireland. What is certain that his next record, Daddy What If (released in November, 1971) was another massive seller and reached number 8 in the charts...five in a row.   

In early 1972, Dermot released When the Sunset Turns the Ocean Blue to Gold. It would be noteworthy mostly for the fact it was Dermot's first non-charting record. Of course this would not last long. In June, he released The Gypsy (on the Columbia label). An instant success, the record steadily rose in the charts until it hit number one. Dermot now had two number one hits, and five of his first six offerings reached the top ten. He also put out his second album, Dermot Henry Today. In a September, 1972 interview, his manager (now listed as Johnny Kelly) stated that, "The days of the Mammy songs are finished. Dermot has progressed and let's hope he can develop even further."

The record seemed to signal a change of direction for Dermot and the band. Dermot himself, was quoted as saying it was "the first record of mine I really liked." He went on, "I have had previous hit records but most of them were songs I recorded because I thought they would be hits. The Gypsy is the type of song I like to sing." In the same interview, Dermot spoke about the growing cabaret scene in Ireland and his interest in that scene. "By the time we have a cabaret circuit in Ireland, I'll be ready to go into it," he reported. Around April, 1972, drummer Jerry Fahey left the band to lead his own new band based in Tuam called The Fleet. We are not sure who replaced him. 

1973 saw Dermot have another hit single, the Old Dungarvan Oak, which reached number five in the charts. However, as far as we can tell, this was his last chart record. We can't find out much about what happened that year, so we assume the band continued to gig, but we think more was going on behind the scenes. In July, 1974, it was rumoured the band was going off the road after a change in personnel. This was denied by Jim Hand, the band's manager (we not sure how or when that happened). 

However, late in 1974, Dermot Henry left the Virginians to form a new band, The Entertainers, with the Top Rank organisation. Run by the late Tony Loughman, Top Rank has it's own label, Top Spin and managed quite a few ballrooms as well. The Entertainers also featured female vocalist, Sharon.

An advert in Spotlight in December 1974 announced the Virginians had a new front man using the stage name Trampas. However, we are not sure if this was the same band, or a new band using the name, as the manager was listed as Jimmy Higgins of Galway, not Des Kelly Promotions, nor Jim Hand.      

More to come.....if you can add to the story, please drop us an email.

Photo Gallery

click on thumbnails for full image

Virginians - 1969 Virginians - 1969 Virginians (DL) Virginians - 1969 Virginians - 1970
Virginians - 1970 Dermot Henry - 1970 Dermot Henry - 1970 Dermot Henry - 1970 Dermot Henry - 1970
Dermot Henry - 1970 Dermot Henry - 1970 Virginians (RF) Virginians (LD) Dermot Henry-71
Dermot Henry - 1971 Dermot Henry - 1971 Virginians - 1971 Virginians - 1971 Dermot Henry - 1971
Dermot Henry - 1971 Dermot Henry - 1971 Dermot Henry - 1971

June 5, 1971

Dermot Henry - 1971
Dermot Henry - 1971 Dermot Henry - 1971 Dermot Henry-71 (LR) Dermot Henry - 1971 Dermot Henry - 1971
Dermot Henry - 1971 Dermot Henry - 1972 Dermot Henry - 1972 Dermot Henry - 1972 Dermot Henry - 1972
Dermot Henry - 1972 Dermot Henry - 1972 Dermot Henry - 1972 Dermot Henry - 1972 Dermot Henry - 1972

Dermot & Alma - 1972

Dermot & Alma - 1972

Dermot Henry - 1974 Virginians (RF) Virginians (RF)
Virginians (RF) Virginians (RF) Virginians (RF) Virginians (RF) Virginians (RF)
Virginians (RF) Virginians (RF) Virginians (RF) Virginians (RF) Virginians (RF)
Virginians (RF) Virginians (RF) Virginians (RF) Virginians (RF) Virginians (RF)
Dermot Henry Dermot Henry - 1974 Dermot Henry - 1974 Dermot Henry - 1975 Dermot Henry - 1975
         

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Years Vocals Guitar Bass Drums Keyboards Steel/Sax Fiddle/Trpt
July
1969
Mike
Feeney
Jimmy
Murray
John
O'Boyle
Mick
Nash
Hughie
Ward
Basil (steel)
Hendricks
Charlie
Arkins
Nov.
1969
Mike
Feeney
Jimmy
Murray
Ray
O'Sullivan
Mick
Nash
Hughie
Ward
Basil (steel)
Hendricks
Charlie
Arkins
March
1970
Mike
Feeney
Jimmy
Murray
Ray
O'Sullivan
Tony
Newman
Bobby (vocals)
King
Basil (steel)
Hendricks
Charlie
Arkins
June
1970
Dermot
Henry
Jimmy
Murray
Laurence
Lavery
Tony
Newman
Paul
Tobin
Pascal (sax)
Haverty
Frankie (tpt)
Hughes
Dec
1970
Dermot
Henry
Jimmy
Murray
Laurence
Lavery
Jerry
Fahy
Paul
Tobin
Pascal (sax)
Haverty
Frankie (tpt)
Hughes
March
1971
Dermot
Henry
Jimmy
Murray
Laurence
Lavery
Jerry
Fahy
Paul
Tobin
John (sax)
Connelly
Frankie (tpt)
Hughes
May
1972
Dermot
Henry
Jimmy
Murray
Laurence
Lavery
Unknown Paul
Tobin
John (sax)
Connelly
Frankie (tpt)
Hughes
1974 Trampas Jimmy
Murray?
Laurence
Lavery?
Jerry
Fahy?
Paul
Tobin?
John (sax)
Connelly?
Frankie (tpt)
Hughes?

Discography

Absence Makes The Heart Grow Fonder (featuring Mike Feeney) /  - #12 Irish Charts
Dolphin Records - DOS 47 - December, 1969
Who Cares / Tumwater Breakdown

Ruby Records - RUB.103 - May, 1970
My Lovely Irish Rose / The Day You Stopped Loving Me - #8 Irish Charts
Ruby Records - RUB.109 - September, 1970
If Those Lips Could Only Speak / Jody & the Kid / The Deepening Snow - #1 Irish Charts
Ruby Records - RUB.115 - November, 1970
What's The Reason Daddy? / Suantri Brahms / Before This Day Ends - #8 Irish Charts
Ruby Records - RUB.125 - April, 1971
Ballyhoe / Don't It Make You Want To Go Home / Did I Ever Love You? - #3 Irish Charts
Ruby Records - RUB.134 - July, 1971
Daddy What If / Poor Boy - #8 Irish Charts
Ruby Records - RUB.146 - November, 1971
When The Sunset Turns The Ocean Blue to Gold / Heaven Says Hello
Ruby Records - RUB.155 - January, 1972
The Gypsy / Eamonn An Cnoic - #1 Irish Charts
Columbia Records - IDB 813 - July, 1972
Old Dungarvan Oak / Star of Logy Bay - #5 Irish Charts
Columbia Records - IDB.827 - March, 1973
The Sun's Last Rays /
EMI Records - Unknown - November, 1973

Audio Clips

Coming Soon

Where Are They Now?  

Basil Henriques: After being one of the founder members of the Virginians, Basil went on to a career as one of the top session musicians and producers in Ireland. For over 30 years he played with and on records for most of the top country artists in Ireland, including Philomena Begley and her Ramblin Men, Roly Daniels, TR Dallas and many many more. Today, Basil is back in England and has reformed The Waikiki Islanders, a band founded in 1937 with which Basil played in 1964 before coming to Ireland.       

Charlie Arkins: After leaving the Virginians, Charlie joined up with the Cotton Mill Boys, spending the best part of the next 18 years with the band. He stayed with the Cottons to the end in 1988 and writes to tell us after that he went with John Hogan's Band for ten years. More recently, Charlie has been playing with Jimmy Buckley's Band, since 2008. He also did a short stint with Robert Mizzell. He still does plenty of session work ands has his own studio at home in Athboy, Co. Meath which is operated by his son. He recently appeared on the CD by Lisa Stanley, daughter of Maisie McDaniel.    

Mick Nash:  If you know more, please let us know.
Jimmy Murray:  If you know more, please let us know.
John O'Boyle:  If you know more, please let us know.
Hughie Ward:  If you know more, please let us know.
Mike Feeney:  If you know more, please let us know.

Dermot Henry: A search of the Internet shows that Dermot currently resides in New York where he has been for many years, although we are not sure when he emigrated (although it appears it may have been around 1980). We read that he has retired from touring although he still does occasional gigs for special occasions.   

Laurence Lavery:  If you know more, please let us know.

Gerry Fahey - RIP:
Paul Tobin:  If you know more, please let us know.
Pascal Haverty - RIP:
Frankie Hughes:  If you know more, please let us know.

 


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