The Clancy Brothers

The Clancy Brothers
The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem

The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem in the 1960s.
Background information
Origin County Tipperary & County Armagh, Ireland
Genres Folk
Years active 1955–various
Labels Tradition Records
Columbia Records
Audio Fidelity Records
Vanguard Records
Blackbird Records
Shanachie Records
Helvic Records
Associated acts Danú, Makem and Clancy, Robbie O'Connell
Website Official MySpace page

The Clancy Brothers were an influential Irish folk music singing group, most popular in the 1960s, they were famed for their woolly Aran jumpers and are widely credited with popularizing Irish traditional music in the United States.[1] The brothers were Patrick "Paddy" Clancy, Tom Clancy, Bobby Clancy and Liam Clancy. Paddy, Tom, and Liam are best known for their work with Tommy Makem, recording dozens of albums together as The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem. They were a primary influence on a young Bob Dylan and on many other emerging artists.[2]



The early years

Oldest brother Paddy was born on March 7, 1922. Tom followed on October 29, 1924, Bobby on May 14, 1927 and youngest brother Liam Clancy was born September 2, 1935. Tommy Makem was born November 4, 1932

After serving in World War II, oldest brothers Paddy and Tom emigrated from England to Toronto in 1947 on the S.S. Marine Flasher, along with 400 returning G.I. brides. The only men on board were Paddy, Tom, their friend Pa Casey and a few sailors. Once in Toronto, Paddy and Tom worked various odd jobs before coming to the United States two years later, through the sponsorship of two aunts. Residing for a time in Cleveland, Ohio, the two brothers began to dabble in acting. They decided to move to Hollywood. They didn't get too far, as their car broke down soon after the trip began. They decided to move to New York City instead.

Arriving in Greenwich Village, New York City in 1951, Tom and Paddy both established themselves as successful Broadway actors, appearing in televised performances of their plays. The two brothers established their own production company, Trio Productions. It was here that the singing career began. To help raise money for the company, Paddy and Tom organized 'Midnight Special' concerts every Saturday night at the Cherry Lane Theatre. Here they would sing some of the old Irish songs that they knew from their childhood. At this time, younger brother Bobby Clancy, among his many travels of Europe, emigrated to New York City for a time, joining his brothers in Greenwich Village. This was the little-known, first 'unofficial' lineup of a singing group of Clancy brothers.

In 1955, Bobby returned home to Carrick-on-Suir to take over father Robert J. Clancy's insurance business, freeing youngest brother Liam Clancy to emigrate to New York City to pursue his dream of acting. Liam arrived in New York in January 1956.

A month earlier, Tommy Makem emigrated to the United States from his hometown of Keady, County Armagh in Northern Ireland. Tommy Makem, born November 4, 1932, had met Liam Clancy months before they both emigrated. Diane Hamilton, friend of Paddy Clancy in New York, followed in the footsteps of her mentor, Jean Ritchie, came to Ireland in search of rare Irish songs. Knowing Paddy Clancy, her first stop was at the Clancy household, where she recorded several members of the family, including the Clancys' mother, sister Peg and Joan, and nineteen-year-old Liam Clancy. Hamilton asked Liam and recently returned Bobby Clancy to join her on a trek through Ireland to locate and record source singers.

One of those source singers was Sarah Makem who had been recorded by Jean Ritchie in 1952 on a similar search of Irish song. Her son Tommy Makem, then twenty-two, and the young Liam Clancy instantly became friends. Said Liam, "Our interests were so similar: girls, theater and music. He had told me he was going to America to try his luck at acting. We agreed to keep in touch." Tommy was recorded for the first time by Hamilton in that autumn of 1955, among the songs he performed was "The Cobbler."

The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem: early recordings

In March 1956, Tommy Makem was out of work; he had landed himself in Dover, New Hampshire, to where many of his family members had emigrated, working in the mills. A two-ton iron printing press fell on Tommy's hand, crushing it. His hand in a sling, and knowing the Clancy brothers down in New York, he decided that the time was right to make a record. He told this to Paddy Clancy, who had founded a record company, Tradition Records. Paddy agreed and brought in brothers Tom and Liam, as well as Tommy Makem, to record an album of Irish rebel songs, The Rising of the Moon.

Little thought was given to continuing as a singing group. They all were busy establishing theatrical careers for themselves, the real reason they were all there. But the album was a local success and requests were often demanded for the brothers and Tommy Makem to sing some of their songs at parties and informal pub settings. Bit by bit, that's how the singing career began. Slowly, the singing gigs began to outweigh the acting gigs and by 1959, serious thought was given to a new album. Liam had developed some guitar skills, Tommy's hand had healed enough he was again able to play tin whistle and bagpipes, and the times spent singing together had improved their style together. No longer were they the rough, mostly unaccompanied group of actors singing a couple Irish songs for an album to jumpstart a record label; they were becoming a professional singing group.

The release of their second album, this one of Irish drinking songs called Come Fill Your Glass with Us, sealed their fate. The album was a success, and the gigs grew along the pub circuit in New York, Chicago and into Boston. It was at their first official gig after Come Fill Your Glass With Us that the group finally found a name for themselves. The owner begged the guys for a name to put on the marquee, but they had none. Unable to agree on a name (which included suggestions like The Beggermen, the Tinkers and even The Chieftains) the club owner decided for them, simply posting "The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem". The name stuck. They decided to try singing full time for six months. If singing turned successful, they'd stick with it; if not, then back to acting. The Clancy brothers and Tommy Makem proved successful after all and in early 1961, they attracted the attention of scouts from The Ed Sullivan Show.

The sweaters

The Clancy Brothers' Mum read news of the terrible ice and snow storms in New York City. So she sent Aran sweaters for her sons & Tommy Makem to keep them warm. Paddy & Liam Clancy stated they wore the sweaters for the first time in the Blue Angel club. When Marty Erlichman, their Manager saw the sweaters, he was beside himself! "That's it!" he exclaimed. I've been looking for a special costume for the group. It was also the night that Barbra Streisand sang in the Blue Angel for the first time. (Ref. Regis & Kathy Lee show 1991)

Shortly before landing a spot on Ed Sullivan, by chance, the Clancys' mother sent three white Irish-knit Aran sweaters, purchased from "Babington" (a store in their home town of Carrick), so they would not catch cold in the winters of New York. Realizing the brothers' friend Tommy Makem would also be exposed to the cold, she sent one for him as well. Their manager Marty Erlichman, desperately seeking a way to "package" his clients, found exactly what he was looking for when he saw the three brothers and Tommy Makem wearing the sweaters. The sweaters became the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem's trademark. When back in their hometown, the band purchased their Aran jumpers from Babington, on the main street. Babington had a local woman by the name of Betty McGillivray née Duggan[citation needed]knit the jumpers and supply the shop on regular occasions.


On March 12, 1961, the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem performed for 16 minutes in front of a televised audience of 80 million people on The Ed Sullivan Show. As Pearl Bailey did not show that night, the Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem were given her time. The televised performance instantly attracted the attention of John Hammond of Columbia Records. The group was offered a five year contract with an advance of $100,000, a huge sum in 1961. For their first album with Columbia, they enlisted Pete Seeger as backup banjo player for the live album A Spontaneous Performance Recording It included songs that would soon become classics, such as "Brennan on the Moor," "Jug of Punch," "Reilly's Daughter," "Finnegan's Wake," "Haul Away Joe," "Roddy McCorley," "Portlairge" and "Moonshiner." The album was nominated for a Grammy Award in 1961.

By the end of 1961, they had released two more albums, one final one with Tradition Records, and another with Columbia, Hearty and Hellish: A Live Nightclub Performance, and they were playing Carnegie Hall. Additionally, they were making appearances on major radio and television talk-shows in America.

International stardom

1962 proved to be an even better year. Ciarán MacMathuna, a popular radio personality in Ireland, was visiting America when he heard of the group. He collected the few albums they had out at the time, brought them back home to Ireland and played them on his radio show. The broadcasts skyrocketed the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem to fame in Ireland, where they were still unknown. In Ireland, songs like "Roddy McCorley," "Kevin Barry" and "Brennan on the Moor" were slow, depressing songs full of melancholy, but the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem had transformed those songs (the disgruntled purists in Ireland said "commercialized") and made them lively. For generations the songs had been a reminder of the troubles in Ireland and therefore they weren't anything anybody sang proudly. The Clancy Brothers changed all that, and the transformed songs reinvigorated Ireland's pride in her music. The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem were brought over for a sold-out tour of Ireland in late 1962. Popularity in England and other parts of Europe soon followed, as well as Australia and Canada. By 1963, appearing on major talk-shows in America, Canada, England, Australia and Ireland, as well as their own TV specials, the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem were "the most famous four Irishmen in the world" as said by Ireland's Late Late Show host, Gay Byrne, in a retrospective interview in 1984. In 1964, one third of all the albums sold in Ireland were Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem records.[citation needed]

The 1960s continued to be a successful decade with the release of approximately two albums per year, all of which sold millions of copies. They continued to peak with television appearances in front of President John F. Kennedy in 1963.

Their popularity is the result of several factors. There was already an American folk revival beginning in the United States, and men such as Ewan MacColl popularizing old songs on the other side of the Atlantic. But it was the Clancys' boisterous performances that set them apart, taking placid classics and giving them a boost of energy and spirit (not that they took this approach with all their songs; they would still sing the true mournful ballads with due reverence).

But by the late 1960s, rock music had taken full swing, and the ballad and folk boom was waning. To keep the Clancys at the top, Teo Macero began producing their records for Columbia. Macero introduced new instrumentation to the Clancys' music, the among them Louis Killen coming in to play concertina on backup, particularly on their 1968 album of sea songs, Sing of the Sea. But their last three albums for Columbia Record in 1969 and 1970 are considered by many to be overproduced, with a multitude of string instruments and synthesizers added the simpler traditional Clancy mix of guitar, banjo, tin whistle and harmonica.

In 1969, the group recorded a song for a two-minute-long TV ad for Gulf Oil: "Bringin' Home the Oil". They adapted a traditional Scottish tune they had recorded, "The Gallant Forty Twa," with new words singing about large-capacity supertankers. The song and commercial featured the then-largest supertanker in the world, the Universe Ireland, which operated with sister ships Universe Kuwait, Universe Japan and Universe Portugal, all mentioned in the song and which operated from the seaport at Bantry Bay.

Changes amongst the Clancy Brothers

Other changes in 1969 included the amicable departure of Tommy Makem from the group. Giving them a year's notice, Makem left in April 1969 to pursue a solo career armed with such recent compositions as "Four Green Fields", debuted on 1968's Clancy Brothers album, Home Boys Home.

The "other brother", Bobby Clancy filled Tommy Makem's vacancy. Also, two of the Furey Brothers (Finbar and Eddie Furey) joined the now-four Clancy Brothers at this time.,[3] Finbar Furey was asked by Paddy if he would join them to play whistle and 5 string banjo in Tommy Makem's place. Finbar also added uillean pipes to the show and opened up a new sound to American audiences on stage and TV. The six-piece band recorded two new albums in the summer of 1969: Clancy Brothers Christmas, released later that year, and Flowers in the Valley, released in 1970. The latter was their final album for Columbia Records.

Later that year, Finbar and Eddie Furey left the lineup and for a short time it was just the four brothers, Paddy, Tom, Bobby and Liam Clancy. This lineup recorded only one album together, 1970s Welcome to Our House under their new label, Audio Fidelity Records. Later that same year, Liam and Bobby got into an argument which resulted in Bobby quitting the group.

In 1971, the trio brought in the man who had introduced the concertina to the music mix, Louis Killen. They recorded two studio albums under the Audio Fidelity label: Save the Land and Show Me the Way. Their next, and final, album for Audio Fidelity was a live album, Live on St. Patrick's Day in 1973, recorded the previous year at the Bushnell Auditorium in Hartford, Connecticut.

But by the early 1970s, the Clancys were growing tired of touring and singing as a group; their touring schedule was down to five months a year. The brothers were moving in different directions. All of them had young families at home. Paddy wanted to be home with his family and tend to his farm. Tom began acting again, first on stage then film and television. He moved his family out to Los Angeles in 1974 and landed parts in The Killer Elite with James Caan and Robert Duvall and a major role in Swashbuckler with Robert Shaw. Liam Clancy was looking to branch out of his older brothers' shadow, the men who had veto power over he, Tommy Makem and Louis Killen over the years in what they sang, according to his feature film documentary, The Yellow Bittern: The Life and Times of Liam Clancy. He moved to Calgary, Alberta, Canada in 1972 and began a solo career when not with his brothers.

Despite ill-givings and desires to move on, the group made one more album with Vanguard Records, Clancy Brothers and Lou Killen's Greatest Hits as well as several television appearances on the "Irish Rovers Show" in Canada and a TV special for Brockton television in 1974 (in which Bobby Clancy made a surprise special guest appearance with the group). Further rumblings in the group occurred during a scheduling conflict between a tour of Australia and a film or television role Tom Clancy was set to be in. Tom allegedly accepted the television role over the tour of Australia and told Liam to "Get off my fucking back, little brother," when he informed Tom of the conflict. In 1976, their sister, Cait Clancy O'Connell, was killed in a car crash. After the funeral in Ireland, Liam told his brothers that they would have to find a replacement. "I'm not going to work with you anymore," Liam said, according to his interview in the 2009 "The Yellow Bittern" documentary. Louis Killen left as well and Paddy and Tom decided it was time for a hiatus.

Break-up and reunion

The dissolution permitted Paddy Clancy to devote his full attention to the dairy farm he had bought with his wife in 1963, while Tom flourished in Hollywood, regularly appearing in movies, TV films and TV shows such as Little House on the Prairie, The Incredible Hulk, Charlie's Angels and Starsky and Hutch. Liam Clancy, suffering financial setbacks in taxes, filed for bankruptcy and moved his family to his in-laws in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The only one to continue singing, Liam's brother-in-law helped him get some concert gigs to get him back on his feet. Liam was introduced to "The Dutchman" at this time, which became a hit. The gigs caught the attention of a TV producer and Liam was signed for thirteen episodes of his own music and talk show. The show was a hit and Liam was signed for thirteen more. On the final episode, old friend Tommy Makem was a guest. This hit episode led to the two of them being signed together for twenty-six episodes. Their show together was called "The Makem & Clancy Show."

Makem and Clancy

Tommy Makem and Liam Clancy had both been signed as solo acts at the Cleveland Irish Festival in July 1975. According to interviews they gave for local newspaper articles, the two of them had to keep meeting with each other to make sure the other didn't sing the same songs at each others' separate gigs. They grew tired of it and decided to just team up for a one-time gig. The team-up was a tremendous success, receiving a 5-minute standing ovation! Makem & Clancy was born.

Liam invited Tommy onto his Canadian television series, "The Liam Clancy Show." It was to be his last episode of that season. Lightning struck twice and the show was renewed for 26 episodes. On the last episode, Scottish folk singer Archie Fisher was invited as a guest. Once again, luck was in order. Fisher told Makem & Clancy he wanted to produce a record with them.

Fisher produced their debut self-titled album which included all new songs they hadn't recorded before, such as Makem's own compositions "Windmills," and Gordon Bok's "Hills of Isle Au Haut." A last minute addition in "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda" helped the album soar. That song became Liam's signature number as well as ending his financial troubles. With Maurice Cassidy as their international manager and Tommy's wife Mary Makem as stateside manager, the duo hit the road on their first tour in February 1976.

Makem & Clancy followed up their debut studio album with a live record recorded at the Gaiety Theater in Dublin in July 1977, the double LP The Makem & Clancy Concert. They continued taking Ireland, England, Australia, Canada and America by storm with several television specials and successful follow-up albums. They brought their old show from Canada to PBS in America and filmed 13 new episodes for New Hampshire PBS.

In 1978, they hired a total of 10 backup musicians to help record their next effort, a studio album called Two for the Early Dew. The album featured mostly calmer ballads such as the now classic Red is the Rose, Dawning of the Day, Grey October Clouds, another Gordon Bok number Clear Away in the Morning and Journey's End. The latter became their standard closing song. Fast, up-tempo songs included the all-Gaelic Cruiscan Lan, previously recorded by the Clancy Brothers in mostly English. The opening song Day of the Clipper came from the group Schooner Fare, whom Makem & Clancy had recently seen in concert. When Schooner Fare saw Makem & Clancy in the audience they immediately changed their entire repertoire into Clancy songs. Except for one song, "Day of the Clipper." After the show, Tommy and Liam told the fledging group they were a bit disappointed they sang stuff they new, but they asked, "What was that other song?" They loved it so much, it was used as their opening number.

During the rest of the 70s and early 80s, they recorded several singles, some of which made it onto their compilation album, Makem & Clancy Collection in 1980. TV specials such as an on location show called "The Music Makers" followed.

In 1983, Makem & Clancy recorded their fifth album, Makem & Clancy Live At the National Concert Hall. The album was recorded in February 6, 1983 at Dublin's National Concert Hall and included what many regard as the greatest, most powerful rendition of Tommy's Four Green Fields. The concert was also filmed for Irish television and PBS in America and included several songs not included on the album, such as Pete Seeger's Rainbow Race. Little Beggarman from this album features a wooden dancing marionette man manipulated by Liam to dance to the beat of the song. This version of the song reportedly received lots of airtime on radio and has become a favorite of many fans.

Clancy Brothers and Robbie O'Connell

Meanwhile, after taking the rest of 1976 off, Paddy and Tom made plans to bring back the Clancy Brothers. Liam, now part of Makem & Clancy, wouldn't join so they asked Bobby to come back and take the post he vacated in 1970. Tom was at the height of his new career in Hollywood and Paddy was busy with the farm so it was ultimately decided to tour on a part-time basis and only in the United States. Their recently deceased sister Cait Clancy O'Connell's son Robbie was an up and coming musician in the States and in Ireland; he was also helping manage, along with Bobby, the Inn that Cait had opened up years before. So they asked him to take on the role Liam had vacated. He would play guitar and occasionally mandolin and Bobby would play banjo, guitar, harmonica and bodhran. Paddy was well versed on the harmonica too and continued playing it. At that point, it was the most musically inclined version of the Clancy Brothers.

Beginning in 1977 they toured three months a year in March, August and November, all in the United States. Tom would fly over a few days before each tour and rehearse material, mostly oldies from their albums in the 1960s but some new ones as well. Robbie was a songwriter, composing several songs the group sang regularly, such as "Bobby's Britches," "Ferrybank Piper," "There Were Roses," and "You're Not Irish." He also brought in songs from others such as "Dear Boss," "Sister Josephine," "John O'Dreams," and possibly his signature song "Killkelly." Bobby brought "Song for Ireland," "Love of the North," and "Anne Boleyn" to the table. In America, the Clancy Brothers and Robbie O'Connell continued where they left off, still packing Carnegie Hall. Reviews cited Robbie as a fresh addition to the group with his original compositions, the future of the group.

Over the next several years, Paddy and Tom brought some new material. "Greenfields of France" also known as "Willie McBride" by Eric Bogle had taken off with a recording by the Clancys' old backup musicians, the Furey Brothers in the early 1980s. Soon, every Irish group was singing it, including the Clancys and Makem & Clancy. It became a staple in Tom's repertoire. He also sang "Logger Lover." The group added new lyrics to the old Irish ballad, "She Didn't Dance," and reworked old classics such as "As I Roved Out," "Beer," and "Rebellion 1916 Medley." Some of these songs ended up on the Clancy Brothers' first album in 9 years in 1982, a live album simply titled Clancy Brothers with Robbie O'Connell Live 1982. Many believe the new album was a fresh offering from a reinvigorated group.

In the summer of 1983, the group travelled to their hometown in Ireland to film a 20-minute special on sea songs, all sung on location on the fishing ships in the area. It was called Songs of the Sea. Directed by Irish filmmaker David Donaghy, it was to be broadcast on the BBC Northern Ireland. It is unknown yet if it was indeed ever broadcast. It is known that Tom tried on many occasions to put it on videocassette but the plans fell through.

The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem reunion

In 1984, Makem & Clancy's manager Maurice Cassidy, brought the original foursome together with prospects of a documentary of the original lineup to be followed by a concert at Avery Fisher Hall in Lincoln Center in New York City. Paddy and Tom Clancy took some time out from the Clancy Brothers and Robbie O'Connell, and joined forces with Makem & Clancy. Paddy, Tom, Liam Clancy and Tommy Makem were reunited and production on the documentary commenced after a 90 minute debut on Ireland's Late Late Show on April 28, 1984. Traveling to Keady, Tommy Makem's hometown, Carrick-on-Suir, the Clancys hometown, then New York City in Greenwich Village, a dress rehearsal concert at Tommy Makem's Irish Pavilion on East 57th Street and finally the big night on May 20, 1984 at the Lincoln Center for the recorded concert, the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem had returned! The Lincoln Center show had sold out within a week, all 3,000 seats, the rowdy audience providing a great participation on the album, released as Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem Reunion. A Reunion Tour of Ireland, England the United States followed in late 1984 and the fall of 1985.

Makem and Clancy break-up

Makem & Clancy returned to recording studio in 1986 to produce their final album, We've Come a Long Way. Not wishing to overstay their welcome, or let their material begin to go stale, the duo amicably broke up after 13 years. Both men resumed the solo careers they had begun before reuniting back in 1975.

Tunes and Tales

The Clancy Brothers (Paddy, Tom and Bobby) with Robbie O'Connell recorded a new live album at St. Anselm College in Goffstown, New Hampshire, Tunes and Tales of Ireland. Even Bobby Clancy called this album "crap," and Paddy referred to it as "not our best effort." Regardless, the album is valuable, for it is Tom Clancy's final record.

Death of Tom Clancy

In May 1990, Tom Clancy was diagnosed with stomach cancer. When Tom went into surgery to save his life later in the summer, brother Liam stepped in Tom's place and joined his brothers and nephew on their tour in August. The surgery proved unsuccessful, and Tom Clancy died at the age of 66. Tom also left behind one son and five daughters, one daughter and his only son from his first marriage, one from his second marriage, and three with his third; the youngest daughter was two years old when he passed.

Clancy Brothers and Robbie O'Connell of the 1990s

With the death of Tom, Liam stepped in full time with his brothers. This lineup experienced a more active time than the previous decade, with appearances on Regis and Kathie Lee in 1991, 1993 and 1995, an appearance on a 30th Anniversary Bob Dylan concert in 1992, seen by 200 million people worldwide, and the formation of Irish Festival Cruises in 1991, an annual cruise of the Caribbean. The guys also brought their own tour groups to Ireland, which Robbie O'Connell continues to do to this day.

The Bob Dylan Concert inspired the recording of the first studio album by the Clancy Brothers in over 20 years, since 1973's Greatest Hits. Older But No Wiser, introducing 12 new songs, with the exception of When the Ship Comes In, was released in late 1995. It was the first and only album to feature the lineup of Paddy, Bobby, Liam Clancy and Robbie O'Connell.

The Irish Festival Cruises had led to financial disputes between the group, Paddy and Liam especially. Liam decided to leave the group. Robbie O'Connell, now with the group for nineteen years, was ready for a change as well. The two departed the Clancy Brothers together and formed their own duo, simply Liam Clancy and Robbie O'Connell. Before splitting, the Clancy brothers and Robbie O'Connell gave a Farewell Tour of both Ireland and America in February and March 1996. The Irish tour in February was filmed near the Clancys' hometown, televised and later released to video and DVD as The Clancy Brothers and Robbie O'Connell: Farewell to Ireland. On both the album Older But No Wiser and the concert video Farewell to Ireland, two sons of two of the Clancy Brothers made their debut. Donal Clancy, Liam's youngest son played backup on the studio album while Bobby's son Finbarr Clancy played backup on the Farewell video. Bobby was beginning to ail at this time and Finbarr was brought on, in part, to aid his father for this concert video. Finbarr did not join them for the American tour.

Clancy Brothers influence on Bob Dylan

The Clancy Brothers were contemporaries of Bob Dylan and they became friends as they played the clubs of Greenwich Village in New York in the early 1960s. Howard Sounes in his biography of Dylan [4] describes how Dylan listened to the Clancys singing Irish rebel songs like "Roddy McCorley" which he found fascinating, not only terms of their melodies but also their themes, structures and storytelling techniques. Although the songs were about Irish rebels, they reminded Dylan of American folk heroes. He wanted to write songs on similar themes and with equal depth.

Dylan stopped Liam Clancy and Tommy Makem in the street one day in early 1962 and insisted on singing a new song he had written to the tune of "Brennan On The Moor," a song from the eponymous Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem album on Tradition Records. It was called "Rambling, Gambling Willie" and was Dylan's attempt to replicate Irish folk heroes in an American context. Dylan continued to use the melodies of songs from the Clancys' repertoire for his own lyrics several more times, including "The Leaving of Liverpool" for "Farewell To You My Own True Love," "The Parting Glass" for "Restless Farewell," and "The Patriot Game" for "With God On Our Side."

Dylan never forgot his debt to the Clancys, which is why they were invited to perform at his anniversary concert. After the concert, the guests were due to go back to Dylan's hotel for a party but at the last moment, Dylan decided he wanted to celebrate at Tommy Makem's pub instead so they all went there.

Sources describes how Liam Clancy tentatively asked Dylan if he would mind if the Clancys recorded an album of his songs, arranged in a traditional Irish style. Far from minding, Dylan was amazed that Clancy felt he had to even ask: Dylan said: "Liam, you don't realise... you're my heroes."

Clancy Brothers & Eddie Dillon, and Clancy, O'Connell & Clancy

After the breakup Paddy and Bobby continued touring as the Clancy Brothers, with Bobby's son Finbarr Clancy becoming an official member of the group. The trio added longtime friend of Bobby's daughter Aoife, Eddie Dillon, to the group for a thirteen city engagement in early 1997. The quartet was known as the Clancy Brothers and Eddie Dillon. Eddie Dillon, a Boston based musician, is the only American ever to perform with the Clancy Brothers.

Liam Clancy and Robbie O'Connell toured for a while as a duo, but very soon added Liam's son Donal Clancy to the mix, forming the trio Clancy, O'Connell & Clancy. The trio released two albums, a self-titled debut album in 1997 and an album of sea songs in 1998, The Wild and Wasteful Ocean. Robbie O'Connell regards the self-titled Clancy, O'Connell and Clancy album as his most favorite work. In 1999, with Liam in Ireland, Robbie in Massachusetts and Donal in New York, the trio decided to call it quits as a full time group. They did say they would occasionally regroup for concerts, which they have, seldom as it is. Officially, Liam Clancy and Robbie O'Connell perform as solo musicians now.

Death of Paddy Clancy

The other group members, as far back as 1996 when Liam and Robbie were still in the mix, had noticed aging Paddy Clancy's unusual mood swings. In the spring of 1998 the cause was finally detected - Paddy had a brain tumor as well as lung cancer. He wasn't told of the lung cancer so as not to discourage him when he went for a brain operation. The brain tumor was removed successfully, but lung cancer was terminal. Paddy was told of the other ailment which he accepted "with great bravery and courage," said his wife Mary Clancy. Paddy Clancy died in the morning hours of November 11, 1998, at the age of 76. Two weeks before he died, knowing Paddy didn't have long, Bobby called Liam and Paddy together to reconcile their differences - Paddy and Liam had been at odds for two years since the breakup over the Irish Cruises. But the two brothers did reconcile and the three brothers sang together that night at an informal session at their local pub. Liam, Robbie and Donal took time out of their November tour of the US to go to attend Paddy's funeral. Old partner Tommy Makem also attended.

Reunion and death of Bobby Clancy

Bobby, Finbarr and Eddie Dillon resumed touring as a trio, The Clancys and Eddie Dillon. The trio recorded a live album in October 1998, Clancy Sing-a-Long Songs and one in March 2001 during Bobby's last tour. In 1999 Bobby had been diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis a lung ailment. During his last years Bobby was unable to stand and perform at the same time because he would quickly run out of breath, so the trio would perform a sitdown concert. Bobby became more frail in his last two years, often becoming confused and forgetful during the concerts. Finbarr and Eddie regularly covered for him, but Bobby pressed on, continuing to do what he loved doing most.

In 2000, the Milwaukee Irish Fest had its 20th anniversary and in celebration, they had the entire performing Clancy Family sing together on one stage. This once in lifetime lineup included Robbie O'Connell, Donal, Liam, Bobby, Finbarr, Aoife Clancy and Eddie Dillon. These festival sets, August 18, 19 and 20, 2000 were the last times the Clancy Brothers (Bobby and Liam) appeared onstage together.

By March 2002, Bobby's illness had advanced such that he was unable to perform, necessitating in Finbarr and Eddie performing as a duo for the short March 2002 tour. He made one final appearance on an American CBS TV spot promoting Liam's February 2002 autobiography, The Mountain of the Women: Memoirs of an Irish Troubadour. On September 6, 2002, Bobby Clancy died at the age of seventy-five. He was survived by three daughters, one son, his wife Moira and several grandchildren.

The 21st Century and the next generation

The last surviving member of the Clancy Brothers, Liam Clancy, continued to tour solo, as well as write. In 2002, through Doubleday, Liam published the first part of his memoirs, Mountain of the Women: Memoirs of an Irish Troubadour. Liam enjoyed a bit of a resurgence on TV spots promoting the memoirs on American TV and Irish TV. Taking some time off from touring, Liam came back in full force in 2005 with his tour "Seventy Years On." Liam turned 70 in September 2005 and sang with an Irish Legends act at the Gaiety Theater in Dublin in August 2005, with Ronnie Drew and Paddy Reilly.

In March 2006, fifty years after the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem recorded their debut album, The Rising of the Moon in March 1956, the first full-length biography on the Clancy Brothers was written and published by Conor Murray. The book, titled The Clancy Brothers with Tommy Makem & Robbie O'Connell: The Men Behind the Sweaters chronicles the Clancy Brothers from the birth of Paddy Clancy in 1922 to early 2006. Simultaneously a two hour documentary on Liam Clancy was aired on Irish television, The Legend of Liam Clancy, as was a new TV concert special from Tommy Makem and his sons, the five-piece Irish folk song group The Makem & Spain Brothers.

From 2005 to 2009 Liam was once again joined by Kevin Evans of Evans and Doherty, both onstage and in the studio. His last album, The Wheels of Life, was released in October 2008 and features prominent musicians such as Donovan, Mary Black, Gemma Hayes and Tom Paxton.

Tommy Makem died on 1 August 2007, at the age of 74, after an extended fight with cancer.[5]

The last surviving member of the group, Liam Clancy, died on 4 December 2009 at the age of 74, in a Cork, Ireland hospital.[6][7]

Every June, in their hometown of Carrick-on-Suir, the Clancy Brothers Festival takes place over three days to commemorate the achievements of the Clancy Brothers. The tradition is carried on by The Makem & Spain Brothers and by the group Clancy Legacy, consisting of nephew Robbie O'Connell, Aoife Clancy (daughter of Bobby Clancy) and Dónal Clancy (son of Liam Clancy).

Bobby's son, Finbarr is a member of The High Kings. Aoife Clancy was a member of Cherish the Ladies. She is currently performing as a singer accompanying herself on guitar. She performed in 2003 on the WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour.[8] In addition to performing with guitarist, Ted Davis from Boston who served as backup; she talks about her work with Cherish the Ladies. Both she and her brother have relocated to the United States.

In 2010, a brand new theatre production was commissioned. 'Fine Girl Ye Are' - The Legendary Story of The Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem, commenced a theatre tour of Ireland. Produced and narrated by RTE Producer, Cathal McCabe, and featuring a 4 piece ballad group from Kilkenny City - The Kilkennys, the show will perform in a 28 date tour of the UK (February/March 2011). It will also appear at Dublin's National Concert Hall and Belfast's Ulster Hall later in 2011.

Partial discography

With Tommy Makem

Tradition Records

Columbia Records

  • A Spontaneous Performance Recording (1961)
  • Hearty and Hellish! A Live Nightclub Performance (1962)
  • The Boys Won't Leave the Girls Alone (1962) - 2 stereo issues (one includes alternate mixes)

*the last two albums were issued on now out of print Shanachie CDs

  • In Person at Carnegie Hall (1963) - also on Columbia CD
  • The First Hurrah! (1964)
  • Recorded LIVE in Ireland (1965)
  • Isn't It Grand, Boys (1966)
  • Freedom's Sons (1966)

The Irish Uprising (1966)

  • In Concert (1967) - also on Columbia CD
  • Hearty And Hellish (1967)
  • Home, Boys, Home (1968)
  • Sing of the Sea (1968)
  • The Bold Fenian Men (1969)
  • Reunion (1984) - Released on Blackbird LP/Shanachie CD
  • Luck Of The Irish - Columbia/Sony compilation. Contains 1 new song (Wars Of Germany) and 3 new performances of previously released songs: (Home Boys Home, The Old Orange Flute and They're Moving Father's Grave To Build A Sewer) (1992)
  • The 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration (Bob Dylan/Various) (1992)
  • Irish Drinking Songs (1993) - contains unreleased material from the Carnegie Hall album
  • Ain't it Grand Boys: A Collection of Unissued Gems (1995) - unreleased material from the 1960s era

The Clancy Brothers (Liam, Tom, Pat, Bobby)

  • Christmas - Columbia LP/CD (1969)
  • Flowers in the Valley - Columbia LP (1970)

Audio Fidelity Records

  • Welcome to Our House (1970)

Lou Killen, Paddy, Liam, Tom Clancy

Audio Fidelity Records

  • Show Me The Way (1972)
  • Save the Land! (1972)
  • Live on St. Patrick's Day (1973)

Vanguard Records

  • Clancy Brothers Greatest Hits (1973) - Vanguard LP/CD

*This was reissued as 'Best of the Vanguard Years' with bonus material from the 1982 Live! album with Bobby Clancy and Robbie O'Connell.

Liam Clancy and Tommy Makem

Blackbird and Shanachie Records

  • Tommy Makem and Liam Clancy (1976)
  • The Makem & Clancy Concert (1977)
  • Two for the Early Dew (1978)
  • The Makem and Clancy Collection (1980) - contains previously released material and singles
  • Live At The National Concert Hall (1983)
  • We've Come A Long Way (1986)

Bob Dylan

  • The 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration (Pat, Liam & Bobby Clancy sing "When The Ship Comes In" with Tommy Makem and Robbie O'Connell)

The Clancy Brothers (Tom, Pat, Bobby) and Robbie O'Connell

  • Live - Vanguard (1982)
  • "Tunes and Tales of Ireland" - Folk Era Records(1988)

The Clancy Brothers (Liam, Pat, Bobby) and Robbie O'Connell

  • Older But No Wiser - Vanguard (1995)

Clancy, O'Connell & Clancy

Helvic Records

  • Clancy, O'Connell & Clancy - (1997)
  • The Wild And Wasteful Ocean - (1998)

Tommy Makem

  • Ancient Pulsing - Poetry With Music
  • The Bard Of Armagh
  • An Evening With Tommy Makem
  • Ever The Winds
  • Farewell To Nova Scotia
  • In The Dark Green Wood - Columbia Records
  • In The Dark Green Woods - Polydor Records
  • Live At The Irish Pavilion
  • Lonesome Waters
  • Love Is Lord Of All
  • Recorded Live - A Roomful Of Song
  • Rolling Home
  • Songbag
  • Songs Of Tommy Makem
  • The Song Tradition
  • Tommy Makem Sings Tommy Makem
  • Tommy Makem And Friends In Concert

Liam Clancy

  • The Mountain Of The Women : Memoirs Of An Irish Troubadour - audiobook
  • The Dutchman
  • Irish Troubadour
  • Liam Clancy's Favourites
  • The Wheels of Life

Bobby Clancy

  • So Early in the Morning - (1962) Tradition LP
  • Good Times When Bobby Clancy Sings - (1974) Talbot LP
  • Irish Folk Festival Live 1974 (Bobby appears on 4 songs) - (1974) Intercord LP/CD
  • Make Me A Cup - (1999) ARK CD
  • The Quiet Land - (2000) ARK CD

Robbie O'Connell

  • Close To The Bone
  • Humorous Songs - Live
  • Love Of The Land
  • Never Learned to Dance
  • Recollections

Clancy, Evans & Doherty

  • Shine On Brighter (featuring Liam Clancy) - (1996) Popular CD

Peg and Bobby Clancy

  • Songs From Ireland - (1963) - Tradition LP

Video Footage

  • The Story Of The Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem
  • The Clancy Brothers And Tommy Makem Reunion Concert At The Ulster Hall Belfast
  • Liam Clancy - In Close Up Vol. 1
  • Liam Clancy - In Close Up Vol. 2
  • The Clancy Brothers & Robbie O'Connell - Farewell To Ireland


External links

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