Armagh country singer John Glenn has been down those country roads for close on five decades. The man from Crossmaglen still retains a special place in the hearts of lovers of real country music.

He broke into the national circuit 48 years ago when he fronted the mighty Mainliners after Big Tom departed to from The Travellers in 1975. Those were amazing times for a young lad in his early 20s, literally stepping into the shoes of the biggest name in Irish showbiz, to lead The Mainliners for the next three years. John’s first single, Sunny Side of the Mountain, was the perfect choice – a dyed-in-the-wool, Mainliners-style song that catapulted him into the top league.

The music scene for the country, pop and rock band took a serious hit in the early 1980s as the discos took over and nightclubs began to replace the dancehalls. Some called it a day, while others left the country for America, Canada and England.

John recalls with fondness his trips to New York, Boston and Philadelphia for three years in a row in the ‘80s. Mayo man, Tom Brogan, who ran the Archway Tavern in Jerome Ave, The Bronx, was their main contact over there.

Big slump

“When the big slump in the halls came in the mid to late ‘80s, I cut back and for a good many years, we were a four-piece with Harry Conlon, Thomas Kernan and Cha Lynch. We did regular shows in England with people like Jimmy Heneghan from Mayo, who ran the Lord Nelson in London, as well as doing some gigs in Scotland.”

The advent of local radio and regular country shows all over Ireland meant that the songs recorded by John over the years were still in regular demand. “I was lucky that some good friends of mine in local radio remained very loyal to me and featured me on a regular basis on their shows, especially in the west and in the border country,” he recalls.

After the death of Big Tom in April 2018, John was approached some months later to see if he would consider fronting the famous Mainliners once again.

Forty years after he parted company with them in 1978, John rejoined the Mainliners for a series of selected dates for the next year and a half until the pandemic led to the shutdown of the entire music scene for almost two years. He recorded Roses in the Snow with the band and it proved to be hugely popular with dancers and radio audiences.

A chance meeting with Clare singer and songwriter PJ Murrihy after a concert show in Ballinasloe in May of this year led to John recording his brand new single, Why is the Old Road Calling Me?

“I was in the green room with Matt Leavy and PJ and we were chatting away when PJ said ‘I have this wee song that might suit you,’ and he gave me a CD of some of his songs. I played it in the car on the way home and I took a great liking to it. I could identify entirely with the lyrics and the storyline and knew right away that it was a song that suited me. I recorded it with Brian Kerrigan in Harmony Studios in Letterkenny and Steve Bloor shot the video for it. I am delighted with the response to it all around the country. After all the years of the old road calling me, it is great to be still in demand out there for the music I have loved all my life.”

John Glenn is among the guest performers on the Michael Commins Country Shows in Kilkenny at the end of October. He features on the show on Tuesday night, October 31.

Declan Nerney, the latest inductee to the Country Hall of Fame.

Kilkenny here we come

Country music followers are in for a real treat when Hotel Kilkenny will host two major concert shows on Monday, 30 and Tuesday, 31 October. This is the first time the Michael Commins shows will be staged in the southeast and patrons are assured of exceptional nights of superb and homely entertainment in to the land of the black and amber.

The show on Monday 30 October has a superb line-up inlcuding the great Art Supple from Cork, Paddy O’Brien, Olivia Douglas, Moyra Fraser, Thomas McBride (Monaghan), Yodelling Kenny Archer (Tyrone), Declan Aungier, Michelle Murphy, Ross Molloy (Stradbally), Paddy Fitzpatrick (Tullaroan), Sarah McEvilly (Mayo), and The Ryan Turner Band.

Declan Nerney, who was recently inducted into the Irish Country Music Hall of Fame, is one of the headline acts on Tuesday night’s show, 31 October. John Glenn, Art Supple, Tony Allen (of Foster & Allen), Shawn Cuddy, Rachel Goode (Galway), Mick Mulhern (Mayo), Pat McKenna (Derry), Matt Keane (Galway), Jack Keogh (Wicklow), Gerry Walsh (Portlaw), Doris Shire (Limerick), Effie Neill (Cork) and Charlie Arkins and The Ryan Turner Band.

The afternoon sessions in the bar from 3.30 pm to 5.30 pm have acquired a great following with Mick Mulhern and his band and they also provide the music after the concerts on both nights. Tickets are €30 available from the Hotel Kilkenny reception (056 776 2000), Patsy Brown (086 1551841), and Ticketmaster. The shows get underway at 7.45 pm.

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