THE CLANCY BROTHERS & TOMMY MAKEM
For too many years, Americans and other people around the world have been fed a steady diet of sugary schmaltz or moony moaning that has been passed off as legitimate Irish singing. The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem have taken the true songs and music of Ireland, and introduced them to the world for what they are — hale, hearty and honest.
The authenticity of the group's approach to their music is a direct reflection of their own personalities. They are all directly honest and strongly opinionated individuals and they see no point in glossing over the deeper meanings of their songs. As one friend notes, "Each one is a complete artist unto himself and you'll find out why when you examine their personal histories."
"We try to avoid sentimental songs," says Tom Clancy firmly. "But if what we sing is caustic or sorrowful, we do it only because it's the truth we find in the lyrics." But most of all, they are recalling the conscience of their people who fought Mother England for 700 years.
Tom, Liam and Pat Clancy hail from Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary, and Tommy Makem from Keady, County Armagh. The story of how he came to meet The Clancys is wittily recalled by Liam in a recent interview. "It was … beyond that mystical border that separates the blessed subjects of the Queen from the Irish misfortunates that I first met Tommy Makem. I went to a Ceilidhe in Newry town one night in a big dance hall there. I was very embarrassed when the band leader announced, in the midst of the fun and the dancing, that this one poor chap was going to sing and not a person in the hall stopped talking or looked up at the stage. Your man wasn't fazed the slightest — he just sat down and started silently to work on his boot.
One person looked up and another, and in ten seconds you could hear a pin drop. Then when he had complete attention he began to sing, 'O me name is Dick Darby, I'm a cobbler.' That was my introduction to Tommy. We both took the 'emigrant ship' to America the next year."
Pat, the oldest, and Tom Clancy arrived in the United States a few years earlier. Being enterprising young men, each pursued his own career. Pat started a record company called Tradition Records; Tom. became a successful actor appearing in three Broadway shows and many television shows.
Liam also started an acting career and Tommy Makem found work as a solo singer.
Once together in New York, the four boys started singing as a group on week-ends, "out of the sheer joy of it." Finally they cut a record with Pat's company. Their first big break came at a concert at Greenwich Village's "Circle in the Square." From there the group went to the "Blue Angel," one of the most famous night clubs in New York. They were an immediate success; the audience was simply overwhelmed by the vitality and honesty of their singing and all the critics raved.
In the months that followed, they brought their music to the "Hungry I" in San Francisco, the "Village Gate" in New York, and on television appeared on the "Ed Sullivan Show," "Tonight Show" and "The Arthur Godfrey Show."
Since these first performances, the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem have gone on to appear before capacity concert audiences in all the major cities of the world, including New York, London, Toronto, Boston, Dublin, Edinburgh, San Francisco, Melbourne and many more. On television they have appeared on all the major shows in the United States and in England, Ireland and Australia, they regularly appear on their own TV specials. They record for Columbia Records, and their LP's are best sellers.
Tom Clancy speaks for the group when he states "We'd rather do concerts. There, you can really stretch out and present a well-rounded package of entertainment and, best of all, you don't have to wrestle with drunks, hecklers, loud talkers, clinking glasses and all those other distractions. In a concert, by contrast, you can really establish a rapport with your audience and that's one of the most precious things in the world to a performing artist."
To hear the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem is a memorable occasion, because they have taken the songs, the dialect and the humor from out of the country and made it memorable.
Fortunately, their singing assignments are so scheduled that any one or all of them can take time off to resume acting, go back to Ireland, or do whatever they want when opportunity presents itself.