Cavan "raids" were basis of Joe
Two daring "raids" in the
Cavan towns of Cootehill and Swanlinbar have been revealed
as key cornerstones in the career trajectory of the
legendary Joe Dolan (pictured right) from the ballrooms of
Ireland to arenas all over the world.
A new biography on the late singer
has revealed that Joe was the brains behind two "raids" for
musicians in the Cavan towns when he was assembling his
original backing band, The Drifters, in the early 1960s.
In 1961 he made his first "raid",
when he and his brother Ben and manager Seamus Casey came to
Cootehill to hear a young musical prodigy called Tommy
Aged just 16 at the time, Tommy was
training to become an electrician, but as he admits in the
book, the reason he chose that career was because he could
listen to free records in the electrical shop where he
undertook his training! On hearing the youngster play, he
was hired straight away.
Tommy was playing trumpet in a band
called The Jordanaires when he first came to Joe"s
attention. He had been playing with them since the age of
14, and word of his musical talent had reached Joe"s
hometown of Mullingar soon after.
On joining The Drifters, Tommy
became the principal songwriter and arranger, and he is
credited with developing the trademark sound that
distinguished the Drifters from the rest of the showband
pack in the 1960s.
What separated them further was
Tommy"s extraordinary talents as a songwriter. With the
country in the grip of the showband movement, most bands
were content to perform nothing but cover versions, but Joe
Dolan was different. He wanted to play original material,
and Tommy Swarbrigg was the man to pen most of it for him.
Another Cavan raid occurred in
1962, when Joe came to Swanlinbar to check out another
talented musician. Joey Gilheaney was the youngster"s name,
and like Tommy Swarbrigg before him, he was hired almost
A multi-instrumentalist from a
formidable musical background, Joey, or The Gill as he is
affectionately known, joined the band on trombone and went
on to play with Joe for many years. Like Tommy, he settled
in Mullingar, and continued to live there even after the
shock split of the Drifters in 1968.
That split is recalled in vivid
detail in the book. After it, Tommy Swarbrigg formed The
Times, and joining him in the band was Joey Gilheaney and
other members of The Drifters.
They went on to achieve
extraordinary success in their own right before Tommy left
to form The Swarbriggs with his brother Jimmy. They went on
to achieve even greater levels of success, representing
Ireland at two Eurovision song contests.
Several other events centred on
Cavan feature throughout Joe Dolan: The Official Biography,
which was written by journalist Ronan Casey, a son of Joe"s
lifelong manager Seamus Joe had started working on the book
with Ronan in the year before his passing, but sadly Joe was
taken before he could finish it, but his family and friends
have co-operated with Ronan in completing it.
Already a best-seller the book,
which was recently published by Penguin Ireland, charts the
colourful life, times and career of the singer, from his
upbringing on a local authority housing scheme in Mullingar
to throwing in a good job as a printer in a local newspaper
to achieving international fame and glory throughout the
world to his later re-emergence for a new generation of fans
as the iconic Man in the White Suit.
In a hit-filled career at home, Joe
Dolan became the only Irish artist to enjoy major hits
across five decades - the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and
2000s. Abroad, he was a superstar, capable of filling arenas
everywhere from Cape Town to Moscow. He was the first Irish
artist to appear on Top of the Pops in the UK, and songs
such as Make Me an Island, Lady in Blue and Hush Hush Maria
saw him become one of the first ever Irish artists to sell a
million copies in countries such as France, Argentine,
Brazil, Spain, Germany and South Africa.
The book details how Joe"s
extraordinary devotion to his Irish fans saw him effectively
turn his back on his successful international career in the
1980s to concentrate instead on his Irish audience.
Mullingar honoured Joe with the
unveiling of a life-size bronze statue, the centrepiece of a
weekend-long celebration of his life throughout his home
town Some 6,000 people turned up for the event and it
received extensive coverage in the national media.