The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem were the seminal Irish Ballad group and their influence has been central to the folk revival, in both Irish and American contexts, and the huge revival of interest in and performance of traditional Irish music throughout the world.
The group comprised of Paddy (1922-98), Tom (1923-90) and Liam Clancy, three of nine children, from Carrick-on Suir, Co. Tipperary and Tommy Makem of Keady, Co. Armagh. After a spell in the RAF during the Second World War, Pat and Tom emigrated to America in 1948, working first in Cleveland and eventually settling in New York. They worked at various jobs, always aspiring to be actors, eventually producing and acting in a very successful productions of "Othello" and of Sean O'Casey's The Plough and the Stars. Other plays were not quite as successful and in order to pay the theatre rent, they decided to put on midnight concerts in the Cherry Lane Theatre. Folk music interest was emerging and people who are now legendary, Pete Seeger, Burl Ives, Jean Ritchie, Jack Elliott, Theo Bikel and Bob Dylan took part. Paddy and Tom also performed. Later, they teamed up with Lou Gordon to do a "Swopping Song Fair" at the Sheridan Square Theatre. These performances encouraged them to develop their Irish song repertoire and the popularity of the Irish songs gave Paddy the idea of putting out an LP on his own label, which he formed in l956 and called Tradition Records. Liam Clancy and Tommy Makem, met in Ireland while working with Diane Hamilton who came to Ireland to collect traditional songs, both emigrated to the United States in 1955. They became involved in acting but discovered they could make a better living singing at clubs. Paddy and Tom joined in whenever they could and the group, while not yet classed as a group, began to build popularity.
The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem first were billed as such in 1956 when they performed at the Gate of Horn Club in Chicago and they became more widely known performing at fund-raising concerts for the Cherry Lane Theatre and at the Woodie Guthrie benefits. They first recorded in 1959, producing their LP "The Rising of the Moon" on Pat's Tradition Records. At this time the band began touring in the United States, especially in Chicago and New York and became well known for their performances in the Village Vanguard, the Village Gate and Gerde’s Folk City. At a very elegant uptown club, The Blue Angel, they were spotted for their first major exposure to a large American audience which came when they first appeared on the Ed Sullivan show in 1961 and it lead to widespread acclaim all over the United States.
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