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Monday 22 September 2014

Eighties favourites The Rhythm Kings back on the Rocky road

Sunday Independent Reporter

Published 24/02/2013 | 04:00

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They were Gerry and Morah Ryan's wedding band, and now, 30 years after breaking up in "disgust and disarray", the controversial Rocky de Valera and The Rhythm Kings are back together, with a new album and some live dates.

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From 1980 to 1983 the band toured Ireland non-stop with Louis Walsh as their booking agent and left mayhem in their wake.

Lead singer Rocky de Valera – in real life Ferdia MacAnna – and the band once campaigned in a by-election against Fianna Fail candidate Sile de Valera (and for Billy Loughnane Jr), which really confused the voters of Co Clare.

"There were good gigs and bad gigs. Some promoters paid up promptly, others did a runner into the night," says band member turned journalist Richie Taylor.

'The Rockys' had a Top 20 hit with John Wayne, which was produced by Gerry Leonard who is now working as David Bowie's musical arranger and guitarist in New York.

But the band were "unhappy" with the follow-up album and, after meeting up again last year, decided some of their old recordings from that era were far superior.

A new album called The Best of Rocky de Valera and The Rhythm Kings will be launched with a gig in rockabilly haunt The Thomas House in Thomas Street, Dublin, this Friday.

On the new CD Dave Fanning is heard saying: "Gerry is up next." The Gerry in question being the late G Ryan, a staunch supporter of the band along with the likes of Noel Redding (Jimi Hendrix Experience) and BP Fallon.

In fact, The Rhythm Kings played at Gerry's wedding in the ill-fated 'Sports' hotel in Kilternan. There were strict conditions, recalls Taylor. "There were to be no cover versions – except for a version of Shotgun Wedding – and the band was to play at their usual high volume," he says.

"While the old folks there didn't exactly boogie, Gerry and Morah loved it and egged us on.

"Throughout the whole two hours on stage we studiously ignored all those who lumbered towards the front to ask for the volume to be turned down."

The band pretended they couldn't hear what these people were saying! Eventually, many of them left the room and the younger folks partied on."

Gerry and Morah were delighted and paid the band straight away. The Rhythm Kings declined the offer to stay for a drink and drove off into the sunset, some members heading for Dublin clubs.

"It all ground to a halt in the summer of 1983 with a farewell gig in the famous Baggot Inn," says Taylor. U2's Adam Clayton even attended, but was gone by the time the band came off stage.

The current line-up of The Rhythm Kings is Rocky de Valera (vocals), Richie 'Milkboy' Taylor (guitar, vocals), Martin 'The Lizard' Meagher (lead guitar), Shea Stadium (bass) and Gonz (drums).

Sax and harmonica player Eamon 'The Individual' Murray is in France recovering from an illness and hopes to join the band on stage at a later date.

Irish Independent

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