The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem
In Print: Concert Programs

The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem (1965)

  • The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem
    • Concert Program: circa 1965

The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem

There is a Tavern in the Town, and there the Clancys did sit down. The rest — praise be — is recorded history. Three sons of a pub-keeping family from Eire, and a teetotalling ex-crooner from County Armagh in the North of Ireland, have combined to create a vivid extension of the Irish Renaissance, and they'd just as soon you came along for the ride. It's entirely possible that they'll convert the entire world to their cheerfully irresistible brand of chauvinism, excepting perhaps the English, whom they gleefully lambast at the slightest provocation … or none. It is, after all, their national privilege.

For a fact, Paddy Clancy was a practicing member of the IRA (the Irish guerilla militia that has vowed not to rest until all of Ireland is joined together again) who traded his trench coat for a suit of RAF blue during World War II, because he believed that Hitler was somewhat worse than the Sassenachs. Coming to New York after the war, he joined his brother Tom, a well established actor hereabouts, and while trying his own hand at the acting trade, Pat founded and still heads Tradition Records. A seemingly quiet man — soft spoken — with the reserve and special courtesy that mark an aristocratic spirit, there is yet a tension to the man, and a flash of the wild in the sudden spark of his eye, that speaks of fires barely banked within. His version of the gallows valedictory of one Samuel Hall, which you will probably never hear on record, is an overwhelming portrayal of sheer malevolence that comes as a shock to audiences who suddenly realize this charming good fellow is a man who cannot lightly be measured.

One of them can, and that is part of their fascination. You must accept them as human beings first and last, and not as mere performers to be enjoyed, applauded and dismissed. Tom Clancy parlays a rousing baritone from a manly chest, with a face that is the original map of his homeland. He specializes in leading the way on the stir-em-up numbers, yet he can be very moving in simple lament for the myriad of Ireland's shattered causes.

I've said elsewhere that Liam looks like the handsome, smiling devil of a lad who usually dies gallantly and beautifully in the next-to-last reel of the derring-do film, and whose proud and smiling face is superimposed on the clouds, as his pals in the regiment, to the tune of Garry Owen, march splendidly off the screen to Glory. His voice can caress like the lazy humming of a bee in the next garden … but he can sting like a bee, when he turns to consider the iniquities of Albion.

Tommy Makem has the face of a Leprechaun to top his six feet of ordinary mortality. Even when he sings softly, his sonorous bass-baritone can shake the chair on which you sit, as well as the pit of your stomach, and he brings an actor's truth to every song, a projection of reality that is larger than life, yet pulses with it.

They are something apart, when it comes to the sharing aspect of song — that magic for getting a room full of strangers to roar out songs they'd never heard before.

Today, the Clancys and Makem are the living proof that you don't have to dirty your art in order to become professional and successful. At the present they've become popular in the first rank night clubs in the country as well as in the Folk Music rooms. They sing the same songs that they sang in the White Horse, with the same feeling and conviction, but appearing before audiences of every kind has sharpened their presentation, and improved their singing to the point where they have become my favorite act, not only in the Folk World, but in all the worlds of entertainment.

Folk Music Authority


image TOM CLANCY, often as not, leads off the rousing good spirits of the quartet, onstage and off! Curly-haired, broad of chest, and Irish-in-extreme, Tom's preoccupation is making merry. Still, he shines best in two-fisted, blood-and-thunder rebel songs and manages, somehow, to personally embody the indomitable militance of Ireland. Whenever he performs "The Rising of the Moon," he conjures up stark visions of bursting shells, battle cries and pike-welding patriots. Like brother Pat, Tom was an officer in the R.A.F. and hardly a covert member of the I.R.A. His career, like Tommy Makem's, began as a band singer in Ireland, but this proved less soul-satisfying than the legitimate theatre. Tom performed in an English Shakespearean repertory company and appeared in plays of all the modern Irish playwrights. His theatrical career was equally promising after his arrival in the States, in numerous summer stock, off-Broadway and ultimately, Broadway productions. Tom has appeared with Orson Welles in "King Lear," Siob-han McKenna in "St. Joan," Helen Hayes in "A Touch of the Poet" — over 150 roles, all told — as well as every major dramatic television program. For his portrayal of Dylan Thomas on CBS-TV's "Camera Three," Tom received critics' unqualified praise. Once together with his brothers and Tommy Makem, however, Tom's career direction ricocheted right back to singing. Although he takes time out on occasion to make starring dramatic appearances on such television shows as "The Defenders," Tom finds his commitment to the group one of total involvement … totally satisfying.

image LIAM CLANCY's charm lies partly in his sweet, honeyed voice, partly in his shy smile, and partly in his knowing eye. He is a tall, husky, handsome Gael, with the sunniest of dispositions. The youngest of the four Irish troubadours, Liam is, for a fact, a charming fellow with the gift of gab, and tastes that run to good music, good company, good porter, and, as he might put it, the kind of girl you're never quite sure about! Liam had formal dramatic training at the National College of Arts in Dublin. His interest in folk music was always evident, but, once commissioned by his brother in the States to collect "Ethnic" Irish songs for Pat's recording company, Liam took to the green hills with tape recorder and a newly-awakened relish for Irish folksong. It was on one of these forays that Liam chanced to meet up with Tommy Makem. The two hit it off immediately, and became fast friends. Coming with Makem to the United States in 1956, Liam's professional acting career was launched at the Poets' Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He then appeared in New York in the play adaptation of Frank O'Connor's "Guests of the Nation." Other major stage credits include Brendan Behan's "The Quare Fellow," and the Broadway production of "Little Moon of Alban" with Julie Harris. Liam first began singing as a folk duo with Tommy Makem in Greenwich Village coffee houses, pairing his guitar with Tommy's banjo. Of the quartet, Liam is perhaps best cast as a singer of love songs. But, however sweet and lilting his solos, they do not lack the acid to set an Anglophile's teeth on edge when he sings such bitter-sweet laments for a divided Ireland as "The Patriot Game."

image PATRICK CLANCY is an Irish rebel, with a rebel's relish for adventure. He has dark good looks and a daring manner of going to the heart of things straight-away. Onstage, Pat Clancy is no less intriguing — his moods of song change as swiftly as his modes of thought, his deep voice flavoring the satirical strains of "Moses" or the tragic lyrics of "The Foggy Dew." Patrick, one of a family of nine and the oldest of the Clancy brothers, was the first to wander afield from his native Carrick-on-Suir in Tipperary, to such outlandish cultural havens as the jungles of Venezuela and remote points in India. Pat served two years in the R.A.F., a military career neatly balanced by his active membership in the I.R.A, He first came to the United States in the early 1950's, and began his career in the legitimate theatre, first with the Cleveland Playhouse, then back to Ireland with the touring Abbey Players, then again back to New York for parts in ptays by Yeats, O'Casey and Synge, on and off-Broadway. During this time, recording companies specializing in folk music such as Elektra and Folkways had call for Pat's services editing and arranging Irish songs, and he soon found himself in full charge of recording sessions. It was a short step to founding his own firm, Tradition Records, which Pat directly controls to this day. Because of his studied eye and ear for talent. Tradition label was the first to record Odetta and Jean Ritchie, and Tradition's catalogue lists many fine folk singers — Oscar Brand, John Jacob Niles, Josh White — not to mention The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem! Despite his hectic big-city activities, Pat loves Irish country life, and plans to settle down "some day" on a large breeding farm which he owns in his native county of Tipperary.

image TOMMY MAKEM is a slender, jaunty young man with intense and unsettling clear-blue eyes and sand blond coloring. Tommy is always full of rakish fun — with a good dosing of what is known as "the black humor" of the Irish — but beneath his roguish merriment, Tommy is a consummate artist. Music was Tommy's birthright. The Makem family of Keady, County Armagh, Ireland, had a long tradition of musical accomplishment. Tommy, his three sisters and brother Jack, followed the lead of their parents, well-known folk singers and musicians. From the age of 5, Tommy was onstage, singing and acting, collecting trophies. At 15, he'd formed his own Ceili (Irish country dance) band and, at 17, he was a top vocalist, specializing in American "pop" tunes! A chance meeting with the youngest of the Clancy clan, Liam, proved the turning point in Tommy's life, and rekindled his interest in folk music. In 1956 the two emigrated to the United States. At first, Tommy worked as a "single," appearing as a folk singer at the "Circle in the Square" in Greenwich Village, and the "Gate of Horn" in Chicago. As an actor, he toured with the Irish Players, and gleaned credits in "Playboy of the Western World," then appeared on Broadway in "A Hatful of Rain" and "Finian's Rainbow." His performance at the Newport folk festival resulted in Tommy's being chosen, together with the then unknown Joan Baez, as the most promising young performer of 1960. Although Tommy usually limits his instruments to the banjo and pennywhistle, he also plays the drums, piccolo, guitar and bagpipes' Tommy has a rich, resonant bass baritone voice and he infuses lyrics with the shadings of the skilled actor. His painstaking, seemingly effortless, song interpretations are deeply emotional, as in "Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ye."

From Philharmonic Hal! and Carnegie Hall in New York to the Civic Auditorium in California, you'd be hard put to find a major folk club or concert hall that hasn't resounded with the voices of THE CLANCY BROTHERS AND TOMMY MAKEM.

It was just January of 1961 that the quartet made their professional night club debut, and made it at the top — New York's plush Blue Angel. Since then, THE CLANCY BROTHERS AND TOMMY MAKEM have starred at such folknik watering sheds as the hungry I, San Francisco; The Gate of Horn, Chicago; Village Vanguard, New York; Freddie's, Minneapolis; Harold's Club, Reno; in fact, every top club on the folk nitery circuit in North America, Their magic appeal extends through cities and college campuses throughout the United States, Canada, and the English-speaking countries of Europe — England among them!

Personal appearances at music festivals, such as the Edinburgh Festival, Scotland, where they appear annually, have brought them even added international fame.

In the last thirty months that the Clancys and Makem have been signed to Columbia Records, they have released four discs. The first of these was titled simply, "The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem," and was recorded with 200 of the Clancy faithful in attendance. The next, "Hearty & Hellish!" was picked by TIME Magazine as one of the top ten of all LP's released in America in 1962. The third, aptly entitled "The Boys Won't Leave the Girls Alone," followed close on the heels of these, again to critics' huzzahs.

Their recent Columbia record, "In Person At Carnegie Hall," is a live recording of their last concert in Carnegie which, like most, sold out weeks in advance of the scheduled date. "Carnegie Hall" features a most delightful medley of children's at-play songs that stirred many a memory when delivered in performance.

THE CLANCY BROTHERS AND TOMMY MAKEM have single-handedly stirred up a new excitement for Irish folk music, an excitement that started here in the States and rebounded to Ireland!

Television appearances were perhaps the catalyst that spurred their sudden coast-to-coast fame in the United States. Each season, Ed Sullivan is their frequent host on C8S-TV. Late-nighters know them to be Tonight guests just as often. Early-risers have them in to breakfast time and again on NBC-TV's Today Show.

And, of course, THE CLANCY BROTHERS AND TOMMY MAKEM are a staple on the highly successful ABC-TV all-folk "Hootenanny" Show. They are star performers on many network spectaculars, such as the "Dinner with the President" special, hosted by Robert Preston, with John F. Kennedy in smiling attendance.

The Irish Troubadours have also appeared on the Danny Thomas Show, and a pilot film which they made for that show's producer, Sheldon Leonard, has resulted in an offer of a television series of their own.

The quartet is seen frequently on network television programs in Canada and countries of Western Europe.

Today THE CLANCY BROTHERS AND TOMMY MAKEM find themselves face-to-face with the ideal of every performer: The greatest commercial success, attained with not a whit of compromise with themselves, their material or their growing public. The fact that they are drenched in their national tradition is one answer. Another is that they are dynamic performers, with range of voice, mood and emotion that can move an audience deeply.