There's little doubt that The Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem (CBTM) were the most popular Irishmen in America in the 1960s.
1955: American song-collector Diane Hamilton goes to Ireland in search of songs and tunes. Paddy and Tom send Hamilton to the Clancy family home, in County Tipperary, where she meets Liam Clancy. As she continues her journey to the north, Liam joins her and they arrived in the town of Keady, County Armagh, where Liam meets Tommy Makem.
At the end of the year, Tommy Makem emigrates to the United States, arriving first in Dover, New Hampshire.
1956: In January, Liam Clancy emigrates to New York city. Liam and Tommy Makem both pursue acting careers.
Paddy Clancy forms Tradition records, with the financial backing of Diane Hamilton. Among the first releases by Tradition is the Lark in the Morning, containing material recorded during Diane Hamilton's 1955 trip to Ireland.
Tommy Makem moves to New York City after crushing his hand in a Mill accident. At Tommy's urging, Paddy Clancy agrees to record an album of Irish rebel songs, The Rising of the Moon. This is first album to feature Paddy, Tom & Liam Clancy and Tommy Makem.
Over the next three years, Tom and Liam Clancy, as well as Tommy Makem, continue with their acting endeavors. While Paddy Clancy's main focus is running Tradition records, releasing over 25, very diverse, recordings between 1956 and 1958. The Clancys and Tommy Makem continue to sing together, primarily in non-professional and informal settings.
1959: The Clancys and Tommy Makem release their second, more polished album, Come Fill Your Glass with Us — a collection of Irish drinking songs. This leads to professional gigs in New York, Chicago and into Boston. Without an official name for the group, a club owner billed them as "The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem" on the marquee. The group decides to try singing full time for six months. If they can't make a go of it, they will return to acting.
1961: On March 12, the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem appear on The Ed Sullivan Show. Evidently, another act failed to show up, and The Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem perform live for a record breaking 16 minutes, on arguably, the most popular American Television show of the time. This appearance leads to the group being signed by Columbia records. Their first recording for Columbia is a self-tilted album, also know as, A Spontaneous Performance Recording, featuring Pete Seeger on banjo. This recording is nominated for a Grammy — as best folk album of the year.
By the end of year, the group releases their final LP on Tradition label, also a self-titled album. Between 1961-1969, The Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem release approximately two albums a year for Columbia Records.
1962: Popular Irish radio personality, Ciarán MacMathuna, visits America. MacMathuna hears of the group, brings The Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem albums back home to Ireland and plays them on his radio show. The group, virtually unknown in Ireland at the time, become "famous" in their our country. World-wide fame follows. In late 1962, the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem make their first, sold-out tour of Ireland.
1966: The Clancys sell Tradition records to Bernard Solomon at Everest Records. After the Clancys signed with Columbia, Tradition virtually stopped releasing new material. Liam Clancy would later go on record as regretting the sale of Tradition.
1968: Tommy Makem gives the Clancys one year's notice that he's leaving the group. The Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem record and release two more album's before Tommy's departure.
1969: Tommy Makem leaves the group in April 1969 to pursue a solo career, and Bobby Clancy, the brother who'd stayed in Ireland to run the family insurance business, becomes Tommy Makem's first replacement.
The 1970's: Flowers in the Valley is released and marks the groups' final album for Columbia Records. The Clancys (Paddy, Tom, Liam & Bobby) record one more album, Welcome to Our House on the Audio Fidelity label.
By the end of 1971, Bobby leaves the group. Following Bobby Clancy's departure, Geordie singer, Louis Killen joins the Clancys. The Clancys with Louis Killen tour together for 3 years.
In 1974, both Liam and Louis both leave the group.
After a 3-year dormant period, the group is reformed in 1977 with Pat, Tom, Bobby and their nephew Robbie O'Connell. This group only tours in the US for about two to three months a year. This line-up remains until Tom's death in 1990.
The 1980's: The original group Paddy, Tom, Liam and Tommy Makem are the subject of a 1984 documentary, the Story of The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, produced by their old friend, David Hammond. On April 28, 1984, The Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem appear on Ireland's Late Late Show.
The Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem perform their long awaited reunion concert on May 20, 1984, at the Lincoln Center — the tickets sell out within a week of going on sale. The Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem continue to tour through the fall 1985.
1990 - 2013: Tom Clancy passes away November 7, 1990 at the age of 66. Around this time, Liam Clancy rejoins the group.
In October 1992, The Clancy Brothers & Robbie O'Connell with "special guest" Tommy Makem, perform at Bob Dylan's 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration at Madison Square Garden.
Both Liam Clancy and Robbie O'Connel leave the group in 1996.
Paddy Clancy passes away on November 11, 1998 at the age of 76.
Bobby Clancy passes away on September 6, 2002 at the age of 75.
Tommy Makem passes away on August 1, 2007 after a year long battle with lung cancer, at the age of 74.
Liam Clancy passes away on December 4, 2009 at the age of 74 in Bon Secours Hospital, Cork, Ireland.
Louis (later Louisa Jo) Killen passed away on August 9, 2013 at the age of 79.