The music of Maisie McDaniel, regarded by many as the first major female Irish country star, has just been reissued this month on all online platforms. Maisie died in her beloved Sligo in 2008 at the age of 68.
Back in the early and mid-1960s, she surged to national fame starring on the Jamboree show with Dermot O’Brien and Seán Dunphy and Friends on RTÉ.
When the world-famous American country star Jim Reeves touched down at Shannon Airport for this Irish tour on May 29, 1963, he was officially welcomed by Dermot O’Brien and Maisie McDaniel.
Maisie went on to perform on a number of Jim’s shows. In interviews at the time, Jim spoke fondly of Maisie and her special country voice. She met many of the big showbiz names of that era including Cliff Richard.
During that time she lived in the flat directly below broadcasting legend Gay Byrne in Ballsbridge, Dublin, and became close friends with Gay and his wife Kathleen.
Maisie was signed up by Dublin-based manager George O’Reilly and her career took off. She secured a regular spot on the Jamboree Show on RTÉ and was also a popular guest on the Maureen Potter radio show which had a huge audience.
Her well-known songs from that period included Blackboard of My Heart, Pick Me Up On Your Way Down, This Song’s Just For You and Roomful of Roses. She did renditions of many of the major American country hits of the era with wonderful passion and sang her way into the hearts of thousands.
Oliver Barry later became one of the best-known band and concert promoters in the country
Fronting her own band The Fendermen, and later The Nevada Showband, Maisie’s career was affected by a serious car accident in January 1965 near Kells in Co Meath that saw her spend some months in hospital in Navan.
She was a passenger in the car being driven by showband entrepreneur, Oliver Barry, who was also injured and knocked unconscious in the accident after the car was in collision with a lorry. Oliver Barry later became one of the best-known band and concert promoters in the country.
Later that year, she married one of Ireland’s foremost accordion players, Fintan Stanley from Clogherhead in Co Louth who featured with the Gallowglass Céilí Band and also The Clubmen. Fintan and Maisie went to Manchester for a few years and were very popular on the club circuit in parts of England.
Back in Sligo
They came back to Sligo in 1970 where Maisie was again invited as a regular guest and host on the Hootenanny Country Show on RTÉ. They formed a new band which soon became known as The Nashville Ramblers and were joined by Gregory Donaghy from Tyrone who was previously with The Cadets. Maisie and Gregory recorded the Merle Haggard song, Okie From Muskogee, at that time.
Maisie’s legacy of music lives on through her daughter Lisa Stanley who has recorded several of her mother’s songs in recent years and also her 17-year-old granddaughter Sofia Stanley who has also taken on the showbiz mantle.
There was one very special occasion in 2010 when both of us were guests on the Fleadh Ibiza hosted by Enjoy Travel in Ibiza
“Mum and Dad separated in 1976,” says their only daughter, Lisa Stanley. “Mum retired to a quieter life out of the limelight back in her hometown of Sligo and that’s where I grew up. Dad went to New York around 1979 and later to Boston where he has spent most of his life. We meet up every now and again and keep in regular contact.
“There was one very special occasion in 2010 when both of us were guests on the Fleadh Ibiza hosted by Enjoy Travel in Ibiza. It was such a lovely time with close on 2000 people enjoying the country music and céilí dancing festival out there.
Back in 1985, Maisie was encouraged to return to the studios after a long absence. She recorded a 14-track album under the direction of Gerald O’Donoghue at his studios in Headford, Co Galway. It included some of her big hits from the 1960s as well as a selection of her favourite numbers.
Yet, her public appearances remained rare even though she did perform in a few Mothers Day concerts in Castlebar and Sligo some years back. She still retained a fine rapport with her audiences and they warmed to her in a special way.
Now, through the wonders of modern technology and with the combined efforts of long time friend Shay Hennessy of Crashed Music, his son Alan, and Lisa, Maisie’s whole catalogue of music from 1959 right through to the mid-1970s has all been remastered and is available for the first time on online platforms such as Spotify, iTunes, Amazon and others.
“I’m beyond excited for my mum’s music to be available to the public again,” says Lisa.
“All this music was previously only ever on the old vinyl LPs and most of them were obsolete.
“The response we’ve had so far from the public has been overwhelming. So many people remember my mum with such fondness and I know she would be so happy to see this.”
Maisie knew life from all sides. From the highs of being a national celebrity in the 1960s to the lows that followed her accident.
Maisie McDaniel’s music is out now on all online platforms and is expected to be also on CD format shortly. For more information visit www.lisa-stanley.com