Music in the blood
Michael Commins heads to Sligo to meet Lisa Stanley, daughter of Ireland's first country queen Maisie McDaniel and legendary accordion player Fintan Stanley.
Lisa Stanley was probably destined to follow the showbiz trail. The only daughter of the short-lived marriage between legendary country singer Maisie McDaniel and accordion maestro Fintan Stanley, it is only in recent times that the Sligo lady has begun to carve out her own niche on the country circuit. And audiences around the country and overseas are warming to her easy charm.
Her mother Maisie was Ireland's first female country star. RTÉ was in its early years in the mid-1960s and Maisie was one of the featured artists on the weekly Jamboree show which also featured Dermot O'Brien and The Clubmen and Sean Dunphy and The Hoedowners.
''You could say that RTÉ was the only show in town in those times. She became a national figure. Gay Byrne lived in the same apartment block as her in Ballsbridge at the time and she knew him very well,'' says Lisa.
''She sang on stage with Cliff Richard and did a few spots with Jim Reeves when he toured Ireland in 1963. Jim did a radio interview at the time and he spoke about my mother and said she was the only person that stood out on the whole European tour and he thought she had a great country voice. That was a wonderful compliment.''
Maisie McDaniel's career had its origins in traditional music and some of the early ballads of Bridie Gallagher. She won a Fleadh in Swinford and the prize was a recording contract in London with Alec Corscadden.
''She moved to London at the age of 17 and then moved back to Dublin and was in digs in Bray for a while. George O'Reilly heard her sing one night somewhere in Dublin. He was a great friend of Bing Crosby. He thought she had a very commercial country voice and urged her to go down that road.
''It was George who introduced her to country and gave her records of Kitty Wells, Jim Reeves, Patsy Cline and Hank Williams. She was the first woman to wear the Western gear. He did wonders for her and put The Fendermen behind her. They were huge on the scene at the time.''
Lisa's dad Fintan Stanley hails from Clogherhead in Co Louth. She recalls: ''He began his music career with the Gallowglass Céilí Band and later spent some years with Dermot O'Brien and the Clubmen. He was part of the Nashville Ramblers when he married my mother. Gregory Donaghy from Tyrone was a well-known member of the band.
''Dad and my mother separated when I was three years old. He lives in Hull, about 20 miles south of Boston. He moved there in 1979. He loves playing the Continental accordion stuff as well as the trad.
''He always kept in touch with me and, in recent years, we have performed a few shows together.
''I was born into the music scene. My mother was back on the road singing three weeks after I was born. I was pretty much raised by my grandmother Lizzie up to the age of seven. I suppose I was around eight when my mum starting bringing me with her and I was in the RTÉ studios a few times meeting people like Philomena Begley and Brendan Shine and The Indians.
''The tapes of Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton, Tammy Wynette, Jim Reeves and Kris Kristofferson were playing in the car all the time. You couldn't get away from it. But I also had my own interests and had wall posters of the pop groups and singers of the time like Def Leppard, Brian Adams and Bon Jovi and all that kind of stuff.
''I was very shy of singing. I was around 18 when I decided it was what I wanted to do. My dad was doing a tour in Ireland and came to the Blue Lagoon in Sligo. The place was packed and he got me up to sing. Afterwards I chatted to John Fowley and they had the Three Tops and he said they were looking for a girl singer. I stayed with John Fowley and Seamus McLoughlin for six years and we did lots of weddings and dinner dances and all that.''
Maisie died in June 2008 and soon afterwards Lisa decided to do an album of her songs as a tribute. Philomena Begley and Sandy Kelly did duets with her on the album.
''It was like as if my mother was guiding me all the time. Mum had a lovely way with people and they took to her. So many people have stories to tell me about her. I love hearing them,'' says Lisa.
''Enjoy Travel brought me to the Fleadh Ibiza last year where I did a solo concert. Mary O'Brien from Longford was in the audience and she came up to me afterwards and said she'd like to write a song for me. She came back a week later with the song. Walking In My Mother's Footsteps captured the whole story perfectly. Mary is a great writer and I have recorded another of her songs, Who Cares, for my new album.
In recent months, Lisa has joined the Phil Mack Country Show which broadcasts on Sky Channel 201 and airs a new programme every Monday night from 9pm to 10pm.
''There is great reaction to the and it is really opening doors for me and getting me far more known, especially in England. I love co-hosting the Phil Mack Show and hope it goes from strength to strength.''
They don't come much more down to earth than Lisa. And perhaps it is why people warm so much to her. ''I'd love to have a career in music that I would be able to make a nice living from. I am not looking to be rich and famous but just to make a career of what I love doing and anything else is a bonus.''