About the Dubliners
The Dubliners began, when six years ago Ronnie Drew met "Banjo" Barney McKenna and a few drinking and music sessions brought them together with Ciaran Bourke and Luke Kelly. After putting together the first folk concert of its kind in Dublin and a "Ballad Tour of Ireland" they were joined by John Sheahan. The group, now five, did many television shows including several for the Hootenanny series.
Their first single release was "Rocky Road to Dublin", but they produced several albums before joining the Major Minor Record Company in February 1967. Their first album with the new record label, "A Drop of the Hard Stuff", led to success and two chart hitting singles within the first seven months — "Seven Drunken Nights," which was released on 17th March, 1967 — during this time they toured all the major concert halls in England, winding up with an appearance on the Eamonn Andrews Show — and "Black Velvet Band" which was released on 10th August, 1967.
Then another album — "More of the Hard Stuff" — and another huge all-England tour in October 1967, starting at the Albert Hall on 6th October. November 10th brought the release of an old traditional folk song — "Maids when you're young, never wed an old man" c/w "Quare Bungle Rye."
Completely out of character with the record charts they continually find themselves in, they do not conform in any way, they retain their rugged personalities, all have beards and careless hair, open necked shirts with rolled up sleeves. In no way could they be described as "with it", their Irish brogue is harsh, but pleasing, and their manner casual, warm and friendly but professional.
Ronnie Drew is a Dubliner by birth who started out as a boy soprano, until his voice broke at the usual age. He started to become really interested in folk music at the age of 19. He sang and played the guitar as a hobby between working as an electrician, draper's assistant, dish washer, telephone operator and even teaching English in Spain for three years. It was while he was in Spain that he learned quite a lot on the guitar in the Flamenco idiom, and then returned to Ireland shortly after to sing in theatrical shows. He has a peculiar corncrake quality in his voice which adds character to such songs as "Seven Drunken Nights". Ronnie is the eldest of The Dubliners at 33, and is permanently surprised to find himself in the pop world. He is happily married, loves children, has black hair and beard, and the most photogenic pair of blue eyes ever.
Luke Kelly is 26 years old with a halo of wirey ginger hair. He grew up in Dublin's dockside. He left school at 13½ and went through the usual gammit of jobs, starting to sing folk songs after realising that they were not as square as he had been led to believe. His repertoire of songs runs into hundreds. He has an extremely powerful voice and somewhere along the way he picked up the five-string banjo and guitar. Luke is married to Deidre O'Connell, who has opened her own theatre in Dublin. Some of his likes are good quality casual clothes, Beethoven, violin concertos, reading and staying up late, as well as, of course, 'good black stout'. But he says: "Everything fascinates me".
Barney McKenna is considered to be one of the world's greatest banjo players, he became interested in music at the age of six. He remembers clearly breaking the strings of his Uncle Jim's mandolin, his Uncle Barney's fiddle, and even blowing his father's melodeon out of tune. All the family played musical instruments of some kind. At 12 years of age he tried to join the Number One Army Band, but was thrown out because his vision was not up to scratch. By this time he had mastered the banjo so well, that he embarrassed most musicians who had ever attempted to play it. He left school at 14½ and whilst working at a variety of jobs he played the banjo at concerts and cabarets until he met Ronnie Drew after a Gaiety Theatre success with John Moloy. Barney also plays the mandolin and melodeon. His tastes in music are varied — Flamenco, all good folk, Irish trad. Trad Jazz, most classical guitar, especially Segovia and Julian Bream. His favourite singers are Paul Robeson, Ronnie Drew, Luke Kelly and Joe Hearney. Barney's hobby is seafishing and his personal ambition is to have enough money to buy a fishing trawler and a farm by the sea. Asked his most noteworthy experiences, Barney says: "Meeting my wife, and the Edinburgh Festival 1963, because of the sensitive reaction of the audience to every musical mood."
Ciarán Bourke, born in 1935, had an Irish nanny and went to an Irish bi-lingual school. He uses Irish in the family especially with his daughter Ciara. He is a great dreamer and hates to live in the city. He has a house in the Dublin mountains, where he is very proud of a huge fireplace he built himself out of granite. He lives in a world of music, singing, playing the guitar, mouth organ, whistle and is now learning the Irish Uileann pipes — a quieter version than the Scottish pipes. Ciarán tried agricultural college and many jobs before using his music and voice professionally with The Dubliners.
John Sheahan, born in 1939, studied the violin for five years at the Municipal School of Music in Dublin. He then won a number of awards in Feiseanna, where the Irish Traditional Music competitions are held. He also plays clarinet, guitar, banjo and accordion. Before joining The Dubliners and whilst playing with a number of Ceili bands around the country, John studied for two years at the College of Technology, then served a two-year apprenticeship with the Electricity Supply Board and qualified in 1960. He then worked as a draughtsman in the ESB drawing office, so it is understandable that amongst his hobbies now are wiring and decorating houses and drawing plans. He also likes repairing cars, and would like to have more time and money so as to be able to put all these hobbies to use in helping people, such as the blind who find it difficult to do such things for themselves. John is very precise and quiet. He is the only member of the group who drinks nothing stronger than Coca Cola.