The Social Development of Ireland
The contribution of Irish showbands to the social development of Ireland was important and immense. As our young people grew in confidence and asserted themselves in the twentieth century, their signature tune was undoubtedly played by the talented and enthusiastic young men and women that, night after night, reproduced the sounds of the era in the ballrooms throughout the length and breath of the country.
Times were innocent and exciting. Their journey mirrored and, sometimes, drove the musical taste of a young population. Some, like their fellow musicians in classical orchestras and traditional jazz bands, were content to cover the music of others while some attempted to incorporate their own original ideas, arrangements and compositions into their nightly repertoire. Naturally, “he who pays the piper calls the tune” and usually even the more adventurous showbands toed the line and played the familiar songs of the day.
One of the bands that managed to carry its audience along as it developed into a modern world class act was The Miami Showband. No other band in the world has the pedigree or history of The Miami Showband. Undoubtedly it has achieved mythical status and the names of its musicians are indelibly written into music and social folklore; its sacrifice forever burned into the soul of a country. Nevertheless, it would be all too easy to let the legend obscure the music; but it was the music that really mattered to the millions of people around the world that constitute “the Irish Diaspora” and loved The Miami Showband from the very beginning. During the sixties and seventies, hundreds of thousands of adoring fans packed the dance halls and concert venues throughout Ireland, the UK and the USA to catch a glimpse of and listen to The Miami Showband. This band, more than any other, embodied the popular music and style of their era.
It is universally accepted that The Miami Showband reached its artistic pinnacle while fronted by the young and outrageously talented Fran O’Toole. He had it all, a magnificent soulful voice, musical genius, fabulous image and a personality to match. He was accompanied by the very best young musicians in the country. Des Lee, Stephen Travers, Ray Millar, Tony Geraghty and Brian McCoy were loved by their countless fans and respected by their peers. They were unstoppable until fate intervened and took the young lives of Fran, Tony and Brian. It was indeed “The Day the Music Died”.
In 2005, at Vicar Street in Dublin, Stephen Travers, Des Lee and Ray Millar reformed The Miami Showband for what was described by the late great impresario Jim Aiken as “The Greatest Showband Concert Ever Staged”.
Among the artists on stage during the night were: Brendan Bowyer and his daughter, Brendan Bonass, Richie Buckley, Ronan Collins, Frank Colohan, Mike Hanrahan, Fr Brian Darcey, Donnie Deveney, Ronnie Drew, Keith Donald, Jim Farley, Red Hurley, Brian Harris, George Jones, Tony Kenny, The Memories, The Indians, Johnny Fean (Horslips) , Mick Rowley, Shaun O’Dowd, Derrick Mahaffey, The Conquerors, Pat Lynch, Brendan O’Brien, Declan Ryan, Kelly (Nevada), John Keogh, Brian Maguire, Jim McCann, Pat McCarthy ,Brendan Quinn, Shay Healy, The Strangers, Des Lee, Steve Travers, Paul Ashford and Bobby Kelly, etc..
The book that took 30 years to write
11th September 2007. Former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds is one of the guest speakers at The Miami Showband Massacare book launch, an eye-witness account written by Stephen Travers. The book was co-written by Neil Featherstonhaugh and is published by Hachette Ireland.