Remembering the great Des Kelly

Des Kelly, one of the pioneers of the country music scene in Ireland, died in Galway last week. He was a founding member of the famous Capitol Showband, which was fronted by Butch Moore who became Ireland’s first Eurovision singer back in 1965.

From the hurling parish of Turloughmore, Des was a proud Galway man who lived most of his life in Barna, just outside Galway city and on the shores of Galway Bay. He had been in failing health in recent years.

Des was the country singer with The Capitol and he enjoyed a huge hit in 1967 with The Streets of Baltimore. His rendition of this classic song is still regarded as the most authentic and best version ever recorded by an Irish singer. His late brother Johnny, also a member of The Capitol, had a No I hit in that era with The Black Velvet Band.

Ireland’s first all-country band was The Smokey Mountain Ramblers fronted by George Kaye and Pat Ely. The band was assembled by Des Kelly who became their manager and it is beyond doubt that Des was the man who laid major foundations for what was to become the boom decade of country music in the 1970s.

He had a life-long love affair with American country music and recorded a few albums in former years. He loved his trips to Nashville back in the good old days.

Des also guided the career of Planxty, the trad group which became synonymous with the 1970s and had a huge impact on the music scene for many years. Sweeney’s Men was another folk group that came under the guidance of Des.

He gave Phil Coulter his first big break on the music scene by contacting him to say The Capitol was recording his song, Foolin’ Time, back in the 1960s.

“Des was always one of the good people in the business. I never forgot it was Des who gave me my start,” says Phil.

In February of 2016, a night in his honour was held in the Salthill Hotel in Galway and featured Phil Coulter, Andy Irvine, Paddy Cole, Johnny Duhan, The Conquerors, and Pat Ely, Georgie Kaye and Tommy Higgins from the Smokey Mountain Ramblers.

Des was also a gifted broadcaster and presented a popular show for 20 years on Galway Bay FM.

The chief celebrant at the requiem mass in Barna church was his brother-in-law Fr Des Grogan, a native of Ballinlough, Co Roscommon. His lifelong colleagues, Paddy Cole and Eamon Monaghan, members of the original Capitol Showband, were among the large congregation. Paddy’s rendition of The Streets of Baltimore on the saxophone at the end of the mass was greeted with sustained applause.

Des will be sadly missed by his wife Maura and their family, Linda, Sandra, Ian, Judy, Desie and Ali, sisters Maureen and Bernie, in-laws, grandchildren, the family circle, and many friends.

Claremorris country night

John McNicholl and his band will headline a fundraising concert in support of Brickens Meals on Wheels in Claremorris Town Hall Theatre on Friday 21 April.

The Derry man will also be joined by Kevin Prendergast and Stuart Moyles who will do guest spots on the show.

Tickets are priced at €20 and can be purchased from the Town Hall Theatre (094-931 0999), The Gem in Ballyhaunis, Smyths Newsagents, Claremorris, or by phoning Brickens Meals on Wheels on 094-938 0910. All support will be most welcome for this worthy cause which provides an excellent service for the region.

Make a date with

The Late Late Show

Don’t miss The Late Late Show country music special on RTÉ One on Good Friday night. The show, hosted by Ryan Tubridy, will introduce a host of major names from the Irish country music scene. If you’re a country fan, this show is not to be missed.

Michael Commins Show

The Michael Commins Show airs on Sky 389 Keep It Country Channel (also on Freesat 516) every Tuesday night between 11pm and midnight. The show is repeated on Friday evening from 5pm to 6pm and Saturday night from 10pm to 11pm.

Dermot Hegarty is

Celebrating 50 years

Dermot Hegarty is celebrating 50 years on the showbiz scene this year. He fronted The Plainsmen and had his first Top 10 hit in 1967 with The Shores of Amerikay. The Longford man hit the No 1 spot with 21 Years in 1970. A celebration to honour his golden jubilee in the business is planned for later in the year.