The starting point of my life as a musician.
As I recall today my first gig was in the original Embankment in Tallaght in 1965. I was booked by the late Peggy Jordan to play in this great venue, then being developed by Mick McCarthy (The real Mick McCarthy). I was paid ten shillings. I bought a shirt for 7/6 and went to town on the balance.
At this time the scene that was emerging in Dublin mesmerized me but I found it impossible to get a foot in the door. I had a small repertoire of good songs and I always went down well when I got a chance to sing. But looking back now I was probably not cool enough for the bookers.
I moved to England in ’66 and via work on buildings, factories, oilrigs I ended up on the folk club circuit in Manchester in 1967. My first gig as a professional folk singer was at The Wellgreen Folk Club, Manchester on May 4th. I was paid £6 and I sang:
Rocky Road to Dublin
Verdant Boys of Skryne
All for me Grog
Paddy on The Railway
On Saturday 6th May I played at The Bury Folk Club near Manchester. I sang some of the above songs plus:
I’m a Rover
The following day I celebrated my 22nd birthday. I was a Folksinger in exile
And I was on the pig’s back.
From ’67 onwards I developed my repertoire and spread my wings the length and breadth of the U.K. In ’68 I did my first radio broadcast in Dublin on Radio Eireann in a hall on O’Connell St. I sang ‘The Galtee Mountain Boy’, ‘Bogies Bonnie Belle’ and ‘The Bunch of Thyme’. On the back of my emerging career in the U.K, the Dublin bookers were starting to give me some gigs. I had many British songs that had not been heard in Dublin before and this worked to my advantage.
Around ’69 I was becoming desperate to make an album. To be a “Recording Artist” was essential if I was to break into the Premier Division of the folk circuit. I was doing well but there was still a way to go. I auditioned unsuccessfully for ‘Transatlantic’, which was the most desirable folk label of the era featuring the likes of Pentangle, Ralph McTell and Hamish Imlach. Subsequently I recorded my first album ‘Paddy On The Road’ with Dominic Behan in Sound Techniques, Chelsea.
I can still savor the feeling of getting that first L.P into my hand. I could not quite believe it. I went to Noel Murphy’s pad in Shepard’s Bush and we listened, me in awe and he being kind and encouraging. 500 were pressed and then it was deleted.
By the end of the ’60’s my ears were focused back on Dublin.