THE TWINKLE of an eye across the dance-floor, maybe a rock around the clock and, before you knew it, you were actually doing the huckle buck!

The magical days of the Showband era, the very mention of which sends those of a certain age into uncontrollable laugher and even produces the odd blush.

As a 2O (and just a tiny, a very tiny bit extra) year old, it never ceases to amaze me that everyone’s parents seem to have met at a venue that sounds more like a rollercoaster at a carnival than a nightclub, or should that be a disco, or maybe it’s live gig venue. No, sorry we’re talking Ireland 1960’s- Dance Halls.

Yes, everyones’ parents seems to have met in a dance hall, where ventilation was courtesy of some fecker who left the door open, and laser lighting something that only happened when some show off decided he was tarzan and attempted to swing from the crystal ball!

Names like The Ritz in Carlow, Dreamland Athy and The Carlton, Kilkenny, immediately spring to mind, where young ones dressed to the nines and queued for hours just to catch a glimpse of such ‘superstuds’ as Brendan Boyer and Dickie Rock.

The fact that these dance halls didn’t even have a bar and still managed to attract hundreds of punters, is even more amazing! But then I did hear a rumour that the fellas always made sure they were well ‘tanked up’ before they arrived at all!

Looking back on the old footage, well let’s just say I hope deodorant was as important then as it is now! And as for fire and safety, well the phrase ‘pack’n them in’ seems to have been taken quite literally!

But despite the hassles of queuing, the surroundings, which were far from the lap of luxury, and non existent taxis outside the door, one thing was certain, everyone had an absolute ball!

Dancing away to the top ten of the day, watching the country’s top bands give it their all, it was more that just a night of music, it was a performance!

None of this ‘cool dude’ attitude of sauntering round the stage and begrudgingly muttering out the odd tune like today’s top bands, no, the Showbands put their heart and soul into it.

Running all over the stage, climbing up the sides of the wall, all dancing in unison, they were performers (or so I’m told!)

No one ever complained that the music wasn’t original, no one ever complained that they didn’t sing the songs as well as the bands that wrote them and no one ever complained about the atmosphere, it was electric!

Well this Christmas the atmosphere can be relived again, thanks to the launch of new video, CD and cassette, with the amusing and appropriate name, ‘Do you come here often?.’

This tribute to the Showband era is a collection of all the big names of the era.

From Brendan Boyer of The Royal Showband and Eileen Reid of The Cadets, to Brendan O’Brien from The Dixies and Billy Brown from The Freshmen - there all together on this one collection which looks set to evoke vivid memories of the showband era.

The country’s favourite window-washer Sonny Knowles, and 1969 Eurovision hopeful Muriel Day recently came to Carlow to promote ‘Do you come here often?,’ and eagerly enthused about the era of which they were a part.

Muriel explained how the idea for ‘Do you come here often?’ was sparked by a David Hull promotions’ concert three years ago in the Waterfront, Belfast, which was hosted by George Jones.

The Showband tribute night attracted many of the country’s most noted Showband performers, and the crowd of 2,500 went wild, simply loving every minute of it!

Extra concerts followed and suddenly the concerts became an annual slot, that just kept getting bigger and bigger resulting in the CD, cassette and video of the concert.

“The Showband era was such a magic time, there can’t be another time like it, the songs were sing-a-long and everyone knew and loved them,” Sonny reminises, as if thinking of an old friend.

“It was a completely different time. We loved it, we were young and we didn’t care, we were being paid for having fun,” he laughs.

Muriel remembers fondly the night she performed for Ireland in the Eurovision in Madrid.

“Its was the first time Eurovision was linked by satellite to all the countries, so the audience was enormous. It was so exciting I sang ‘Wages of Love’ and came in fourth,” she adds proudly.

“When I look back on the video now I nearly die, I walked out in front of millions of people and flicked the microphone from one hand to the other, like we did on the showbands. I could have let it fall or anything.”

Sonny, recalls a gig he performed in Seapoint, Galway, where he ran up the sides of the stage which were just made of chip board.

“I ran across the stage and attempted to run up the wall but my foot went through it and there I was lodged in the wall,” laughs Sonny.

So did the duo make loads of money?

“You couldn’t buy with money people’s reactions. Everywhere we went we got presents and the friendliness of the people was brilliant,” says Muriel.

“I emigrated to Canada and started my own band there. Irish bands really led the way in those days. I am back in Ireland now about six years ago”.

“The Showband era was a magic, beautiful time, we didn’t make much money but I suppose at the time we were making better money than most other lads in different types of employment ,” Sonny recalls..