ABOUT THE DUBLINERS
Who would ever believe that a glassblower, a draper's assistant, a caretaker, an electrician and a liftboy would ever turn out to be the greatest folk act to come out of Ireland in fifty years' THE DUBLINERS are probably the best accident that ever happened to the music world, and contribute to it not only with their superb voices, but also their extraordinary talent as musicians. THE DUBLINERS are rough looking with long beards and careless hair. They wear shirts open at the neck with sleeves rolled up, which gives them the appearance of hard-working labourers. Their Irish brogue is harsh as well as pleasing, manner loose but professional, and their personalities are outwardly warm and inviting. Everyone belongs to their music-the worker, the man on the dole, the winners, the losers, the liars, fighters and all of the living. Who are the beards?
Ronnie Drew is a Dubliner by birth who started out as a boy soprano, until his voice broke at the usual age. He picked up a guitar and started really becoming interested in folk music at the age of 19. He would sing and play as a hobby between working as an electrician, draper's assistant, dishwasher, telephone operator and even teaching English in Spain. It was while he was in Spain that he learned quite a lot on the guitar in the Flamenco Idiom, and then returned to Ireland shortly after to work in theatrical shows singing. Ronnie has been saddled with a peculiar corncrake quality in his voice which has been described by various things including the sound of 'coke' bottles being crushed under a door. "I'm not sure whether it is a blessing or a curse, but at the moment I'm making a living with it." Ronnie met "Banjo" Barney Mackenna about six years ago and the two of them teamed up in various shows until a few drinking and music sessions brought them together with Ciaron Bourke and Luke Kelley.
Luke Kelley is a 26-year-old strawberry-haired and bearded Dubliner that grew up in Dublin's dockside area. He left school at 13½ and went through the usual gamut of jobs. "I started singing folk song after realizing that they were not as square as I had been led to believe." His repertoire of songs ran into the hundreds in a very short time, and somewhere along the way he picked up the five-string banjo. Luke is humble when he claims that he is "reasonably proficient" in the many picking styles on the guitar. Anyone can see that he is a talented musician as well as having an extremely powerful voice that goes with the rest of him.
Barney Mackenna is a 27-year-old Dubliner who became interested in music at the age of six. He remembers very clearly breaking the strings of his Uncle Jim's mandolin, his Uncle Barney's fiddle, and even blowing his father's Melodeon out of tune ! "Before I could play, I was a real smasher!" At 12 years of age, Barney tried to join the Number One Army Band, but was thrown out because he didn't have 6/6 vision. By this time, he had mastered the banjo so well, that he embarrassed most musicians who had ever attempted to play it. He left school at 141/2 to become a glass-blower, kitchen porter, builder's labourer and even worked in the furnaces in Ireland. During this time, he played banjo at concerts, cabarets, etc., until he met Ronnie Drew following a Gate Theater success with John Molloy. They both decided at this point to turn professional. Today, Barney is considered one of the world's greatest banjo players. He is also a perfectionist on the mandolin, and is currently learning to play the fiddle.
Ciaron Bourke was born in Dublin in 1935, learned the Irish language at an early age, and was packed off to a bilingual school. Ciaron plays whistle, mouth organ, guitar and sings. He tried studying agriculture, and gave it up to become in turn, a labourer, tree looper topper, a caretaker, car washer, antique dealer's mate and plumber slater. It was about this time he met Ronnie and Barney who convinced Ciaron to join them. Luke Kelley, who had been singing around the clubs in England, came back about this time and made the group a foursome. Then known as THE DUSLINERS. the boys put together the first folk concert of its kind in Dublin. The concert was a success, then a theatrical production called "A Ballad Tour of Ireland" was put on at the Gate Theater shortly afterwards.
John Sheahan was born in Dublin 27½ years ago. The ½ is very important, because John is very precise. He studied the violin for five years at the Municipal School of Music in Dublin, and decided to use his classical technique on Irish Traditional music, which led to a number of awards in Feiseanna, where the Irish Traditional Music Competitions are held. Having finished primary school, he decided to become an electrician, and did a two-year preparatory course at the College of Technology. He then served his electrical apprenticeship with Ejectricity Supply Board, and qualified in 1960. During this time, he played with a number of Ceili Bands around the country, until he met with THE DUBLINERS. Just before he joined THE DUBLINERS full time, John got an opportunity of doing a trainee period in the ESB drawing office where he worked as a draughtsman. He contributes fiddle solo to the group, mandolin duets with Barney and whistle duets with Ciaron. "I also mess about with other musical instruments like the clarinet, guitar, banjo and accordian with some success." His hobbies include repairing cars, wiring and decorating houses and drawing plans. "As you can see", says John "I've led a somewhat more orderly life than the rest". Perhaps he has, but he sure knows how to create a storm on stage !
The rest is becoming history. Gordon Smith put on his Hootenanny series and the boys did several of these programmes along with some other television appearances. This led to their single record "Rocky Road to Dublin" and several albums. The boys have now signed with Major Minor Records, and this is their first album on the new label. Their music and songs are well-known throughout Europe, and from the looks of things, everyone everywhere is really going to hear a lot more from a group called THE DUBLINERS.