For 40 years, The Irish Rovers have given performances that feel more like parties: hand-clapping, foot stomping, beer mug tipping good times — to which all are invited.
It all began in 1963, George Millar and Jim Ferguson, both new emigrants from Northern Ireland, met in Toronto, Canada at an Irish social function. The pair hit it off and ended up singing the songs they grew up with until dawn. They began to perform together and a year later when George's cousin, Joe Millar, immigrated to Canada he was invited to join.
The trio had gigs throughout Ontario, but before long headed out to Alberta where they added their fourth member, George's brother Will. Things had been going well for the group, but little did they know they were about to embark on the performances that would start The Irish Rovers on the road to stardom.
They accepted a gig at The Purple Onion in San Francisco, where they ended up headlining for an unprecedented 22 sold-out weeks. The breakthrough stint landed them a recording contract with Decca Records.
After releasing a live album in 1966 The Rovers put out an album that featured a song that would come to be their signature, “The Unicorn”.
At this point Wilcil McDowell, a friend from back home, joined the group and the incredible momentum continued to build. They had a television series on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation which ran for 6 years and then a series of 16 one hour specials with Global Network in conjunction with Ulster Television in Ireland.
Their friend Tom Paxton wrote their next big song, "Wasn't That A Party", and it went straight to the top of the pop and country charts, while remaining a classic party song to this day.
Today the three remaining original Irish Rovers, George Millar, Joe Millar and Wilcil McDowell, continue to perform around the world with newer members Kevin McKeown (with the band since 1984), John Reynolds and Wallace Hood (who both joined In 1995).
The Irish Rovers were and still are near and dear to the hearts of Irishmen and Canadians all over the world!
— Thom McAuliffe