I remember a hot day in June, 1968, when the Wolfetones were trying to make a formal entry into Mexico from the United States. They had been stopped at the border post near Tijuana by guards who refused to allow them into the country because "beards and long hair ees not liked here". Protests that this was an Irish ballad group en route to an engagement and not a gang of hippies on their way to a happening, fell on deaf ears — until, one by one, they produced their instruments and proceeded to prove to the guards that they were not joking.
It was not one of their best performances, but it got them into Mexico — surely the oddest "passport" on record! Usually a visa gets the Wolfetones where they want to go, and these days that is anywhere in the world where good folk music is appreciated. The Wolfetones are earthy musicians in the traditional Irish mould. Lively, amusing, and incredibly talented, these balladeers are as Irish as Brendan Behan, Donegal tweed, or a pint of Dublin-brewed stout, which they have been known to sample before, after and (Ah! 'tis only once you live!) during ballad sessions. People say that the Wolfetones are the only folk musicians who put the true spirit of Ireland into their songs. But each one of them is such a traditionalist that keeping the spirit of Ireland out of their songs would be an even more remarkable feat!
"Beardy" — the name the others have for leader Derek Warfield, who plays the mandolin, and sings like a cement mixer, is something of an Irish historian. His Dublin home is packed with books and papers dating back to the Fenian Rising. His interest in Irish history accounts for the number of old Irish songs the group sing, including traditional Dublin street songs written on penny broadsheets in the 1800 s. which Derek is always finding in the archives of the National Library.
His brother Brian — affectionately known as "Skin" because he was pale and frail when the group started nearly 10 years ago, plays guitar, banjo, and second whistle, and writes most of the groups original material The "Teddy Bear s Head", which he composed for a successful EP, has now become a standard in Ireland, and his charming "Uncle Nobby's Steamboat" will undoubtedly become an all-time favourite with Irish youngsters
Noel Nagle — called "Hairy" because he had flowing locks ages before long hair was fashionable, is another gifted musician who plays guitar and tin whistle and — off stage — the Uileann pipes, one of the oldest musical instruments in the western world. The foil for Noel's dry humour is usually Tommy Byrne, guitarist and lead vocalist — called "Glasses" because he wears them — who, like the others, learned his music the hard way — from musicians at open air festivals. It is Tommy's voice that has given the Wolfetones their international appeal, for besides the scores of traditional Irish numbers he knows. Tommy sings songs from many other countries
There are some old favourites on this album, and some new ones. I know you will enjoy listening to them. But to really appreciate the Wolfetones. you must go and see them on stage. Like true professionals, the Wolfetones are equally at home playing before a handful of enthusiastic fans in the parlour of a country pub as they are on stage before thousands at Carnegie Hall. The music and the humour that has made the Wolfetones the most sought-after folk group in Ireland will be their passport to international success for many years to come