… and Tommy Makem: 1956-1969

There's little doubt that in the 1960s, The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem were the most popular Irishmen in America. Clad in their trademark Aran sweaters they attacked the stage with boisterous exuberance.

The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem introduced hundreds of songs, well known in Ireland, to a new and eager audience — their editing of many of these caused much displeasure to many purists in Ireland. Other Irish musicians preceded the boys and were popular in their own right, but never reached the heights or audience as did the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem.


1951: Tom and Paddy Clancy arrive in Greenwich Village, New York City. Both pursue acting careers, and establish their own production company, "Trio Productions".

1955: American song-collector Diane Hamilton goes to Ireland in search of songs and tunes. Paddy and Tom send Hamilton to the Clancy family home, in County Tipperary, where she meets Liam Clancy. As she continues her journey to the north, Liam joins her and they arrived in the town of Keady, County Armagh, where Liam meets Tommy Makem.

At the end of the year, Tommy Makem emigrates to the United States, arriving first in Dover, New Hampshire.

1956: In January, Liam Clancy emigrates to New York city. Liam and Tommy Makem both pursue acting careers.

Paddy Clancy forms Tradition records, with the financial backing of Diane Hamilton. Among the first releases by Tradition is the Lark in the Morning, containing material recorded during Diane Hamilton's 1955 trip to Ireland.

Tommy Makem moves to New York City after crushing his hand in a Mill accident. At Tommy's urging, Paddy Clancy agrees to record an album of Irish rebel songs, The Rising of the Moon. This is first album to feature Paddy, Tom & Liam Clancy and Tommy Makem.

Over the next three years, Tom and Liam Clancy, as well as Tommy Makem, continue with their acting endeavors. While Paddy Clancy's main focus is running Tradition records, releasing over 25, very diverse, recordings between 1956 and 1958. The Clancys and Tommy Makem continue to sing together, primarily in non-professional and informal settings.

1959: The Clancys and Tommy Makem release their second album, more polished album, Come Fill Your Glass with Us — a collection of Irish drinking songs. This leads to professional gigs in New York, Chicago and into Boston. Without an official name for the group, a club owner billed them as "The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem" on the marquee.

The group decides to try singing full time for six months. If they can't make a go of it, they will return to acting.

1961: On March 12, the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem appear on The Ed Sullivan Show. Evidently, another act failed to show up, and CBTM perform live for a record breaking 16 minutes, on arguably, the most popular American Television show of the time. This appearance leads to the group being signed by Columbia records.

Their first recording for Columbia is a self-tilted album, also know as, A Spontaneous Performance Recording, featuring Pete Seeger on banjo. This recording is nominated for a Grammy — as best folk album of the year.

By the end of year, the group releases their final LP on Tradition label, also a self-titled album.

Between 1961-1969, CBTM release approximately two albums a year for Columbia Records.

1962: Popular Irish radio personality, Ciarán MacMathuna, visits America. MacMathuna hears of the group, brings CBTM albums back home to Ireland and plays them on his radio show. The group, virtually unknown in Ireland at the time, become "famous" in their our country. World-wide fame follows.

In late 1962, the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem make their first, sold-out tour of Ireland,

1963: CBTM perform on television in front of President John F. Kennedy.

1964: One third of all the albums sold in Ireland are Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem records

1966: CBTM take part in the 50th Anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising: appearing on Columbia's commemorative album, The Irish Uprising; and with the release of the Freedom's Sons LP and concert appearances in Dublin.

The Clancys sell Tradition records to Bernard Solomon at Everest Records. After the Clancys signed with Columbia, Tradition virtually stopped releasing new material. Liam Clancy would later go on record as regretting the sale of Tradition.

1968: Tommy Makem gives the Clancys one year's notice that he's leaving the group. CBTM record and release two more album's before Tommy's departure.

1969: Tommy Makem leaves the group in April 1969 to pursue a solo career.