Jim McCann is one of Ireland's longest-serving and best-loved entertainers. Having traded in the life of a medical student at UCD for that of a traveling musician in the early 1960s, he now celebrates almost 40 years in show business. Jim's first loves were skiffle and rock 'n' roll and he freely admits that his first influences were Lonny Donegan, Buddy Holly and Eddie Cochran.
Although like many of his generation Jim was familiar with many Irish folk songs it was not until 1964 that he actually began to perform them in public. While he was working on a Summer job in Birmingham, England he began performing as a "floor singer" around the many folk clubs in that area. He began to be booked as a featured singer in his own right, and on his return to Ireland in 1965 he joined a folk group called the Ludlow Trio, named after a Woody Guthrie song. The folk boom was by then in full swing and the Ludlows, as they came to be called, were one of the top three Irish folk groups along with The Dubliners and The Wolfe Tones. In 1966 they had a huge hit with Dominic Behan's "The Sea Around Us", which was the first record of its type to become a number one in Ireland.
The Ludlows disbanded in 1967 and Jim embarked on a solo career, releasing his first single "Some Day Soon", an album entitled "McCann" and appearing on early Telefis Éireann folk programmes. In 1968 he joined the cast of Maureen Potter's "Gaels of Laughter" revue, and when the five-month run was over he returned to England. For the next two years he sang with great success around the vast English folk club circuit and made regular appearances on BBC radio and TV, returning to Ireland in 1970.
Back on the Irish scene, Jim released his second album "McCanned" and launched into a hectic round of gigs, during which he made a TV special called "Reflections of Jim McCann" and a TV series called "The McCann Man". One of Jim's guests on the series was his friend the late Luke Kelly of the Dubliners. This was to prove prophetic. In 1973 Jim broke new ground when he joined the original cast of "Jesus Christ Superstar". Jim played Peter, and Luke Kelly played the cameo role of Herod, when he was available. During the run of the show Jim was asked to temporarily join the Dubliners because of the illness of Ciarán Bourke, and he agreed. When Ronnie Drew decided to go solo, Jim was invited to become a permanent member of the group.
For the rest of the 1970s Jim toured the world with The Dubliners and with them made many albums and countless TV shows. During this period he also managed to play the Narrator in "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat". Jim decided to resume a solo career at the end of 1979, feeling that spending six months of each year away from home was becoming a strain.
From then Jim's career went from strength to strength. He made several TV specials including "Festival Folk", "My Ireland" and "McCann and McTell". There were more successful albums such as "Live at the Stadium", "Grace and other Irish Love Songs", and "The Collection", for which Jim was awarded a gold disc. His album — "By Request" There was also a string of hit singles, the best known of which was "Grace", which stayed in the Irish charts for 36 weeks.
The year 2002 was a special one, as The Dubliners were celebrating 40 years on the road as a performing band. They invited Ronnie Drew and Jim McCann, as the only surviving ex-members, to join them in a year-long Re-Union Concert Tour, spanning the whole of Europe. The high point was a month-long tour of Ireland, with a week in their home town at the famous Gaiety Theatre, Dublin. This concert was televised and released on CD, Video and DVD.
The Re-Union tour was proving an incredible success throughout the continent, but Jim was becoming increasingly hoarse. He put this down to overuse of his voice, as he was honouring his own solo commitments at home and abroad, as well as performing with the Dubliners. Finally in August he went for tests, and sadly was diagnosed with throat cancer. He immediately began intensive chemo and radium therapy over a period of five months, and (as of this date) the treatments appear to have arrested the disease. Unfortunately, the side effects were severe, and one of them was to effectively take away Jim's singing voice, thus putting a sad and premature end to an illustrious career.
From his earliest Folk Club appearances with "The Ludlows" in 1965 to his eventual world-wide concert tours in the new century, Jim McCann never failed to send his audiences home feeling that they had been part of an entertaining and often informative musical experience.
Jim's repertoire covered every aspect of folk songs, from tender love ballads through fiery rebel songs to songs of drinking, sporting and merry-making. His unique voice gave Jim the ability to perform songs of war and peace, love and loss, or humor and eccentricity with equal success. He loved to share the back-ground of the songs with his audience, and his knowledge of Irish history coupled with his infectious sense of humor combined to make a Jim McCann concert a thoroughly enjoyable evening those who attended will long remember.
the above biography comes from Jim McCann's (now defunct) website
- Jim McCann's Recordings & Video — with The Dubliners
- Above are Jim McCann's appearances with the Dubliners while he was a member.
- See Jim's Guests Appearances for later recordings, etc. with the group.