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Summary Article: Dubliners, The
from Brewer's Dictionary of Irish Phrase and Fable

A ballad and folk group that first performed for drinks in O'Donoghue's Pub in Merrion Row, Dublin, in 1962. The original members, all bearded, were Ronnie Drew (b.1934, vocalist), Barney McKenna (b.1939, fiddle and banjo), Luke KELLY (1940-84, vocalist) and Ciarán Burke (1935-88, guitar, tin whistle and harmonica), and they originally called themselves The Ronnie Drew Ballad Group after their lead singer. The story goes that it was Luke Kelly who suggested the name ‘The Dubliners’ in the back of a taxi on the way to a gig in Howth, Co. Dublin; he was reading Joyce's DUBLINERS at the time. The group's first album, released in 1964, was called The Dubliners with Luke Kelly. In 1967 the single ‘SEVEN DRUNKEN NIGHTS’ was a major hit in Britain, and the group became popular performers there and in the USA as well as hugely successful in Ireland — their success due to the combination of the superb musicianship of McKenna and Burke, the talented gravel-voiced Drew and the superb vocalist Luke Kelly. The line-up was fluid: John Sheahan (b.1939, fiddle and tin whistle) joined in 1964; Ciaran Burke left because of illness in 1974; Ronnie Drew was replaced by singer Jim McCann in 1974, but returned in 1979; Seán Cannon (b.1940) joined in 1982. Although feeling keenly the loss of Luke Kelly, who died in January 1984, the group continued to perform and record, and in 1987 a LATE LATE SHOW special marked their 25th anniversary. This show, which featured Christy MOORE and many other star performers, is remembered for the rendition of ‘The Irish Rover’ by The Dubliners and The POGUES — especially the combined voices of Ronnie Drew and Shane MCGOWAN. Drew himself closed the show with his trademark version of Brendan BEHAN's ‘The Auld Triangle’. He left the Dubliners to pursue a solo career in 1995 and was replaced by Paddy Reilly of ‘The FIELDS OF ATHENRY’ fame. Barney McKenna is the only founder-member still performing with the group.

Copyright © Chambers Harrap Publishers Ltd 2009

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