Dancehall favourites to thrill fans again

Credit: Photo by John Reidy
Credit: Photo by John Reidy

TO coincide with rampant rumours of a return to Dancehall Days here in the Castleisland area in the near future comes the news of the return to the stage of the legendary Gina, Dale haze and The Champions.

Their many fans in the greater Castleisland area will be thrilled to hear that the band is reforming and that Kerry is top of the list for of venues for a nostalgic reunion tour.

One of the most popular bands on the dancing and concert scene in Ireland during the 1970s and 80s, Gina, Dale Haze and The Champions, are getting together again for what promises to be a very special reunion.

They were hugely popular visitors to venues like The Astor and Woodies during the height of their fame. Take a look at the picture above and you're off down memory lane before you know it.

With 12 chart hit singles and several bestselling albums during a glorious 10-year period from 1974 to 1984, The Champions extended the showband era by at least 10 years as they kept the interest in live, quality music very much alive.

They will perform in the Gleneagle Hotel, Killarney on Saturday, October 31 and the venue is very fitting given that it was a real home from home for Gina and the band in the heydays.

A whole generation of dancers and concertgoers will remember Gina, Dale Haze and The Champions for such hits as Do Ya Wanna' Do It, You're the Greatest Lover, Minnie Minnie, Drunken Sailor, Give Me Back My Love and, of course, their debut hit Dreams Are Good Friends.

The Champions remained cool with a whole generation of young music fans at a time when many of the older showbands were facing into an era of fading popularity.

While essentially a pop band, Gina, Dale Haze and The Champions were extremely versatile and could diversify into country and big ballads as well as doing excellent live versions of instrumentals such as Portsmouth which was popularised by Mike Oldfield in the mid-1970s.

After working on the scene for 19 years Gina, Dale Haze and The Champions went their separate ways 17 years ago but all the original members say they are excited about getting together again.

The catalyst for The Champions coming together again was when RTÉ's Ronan Collins contacted them regarding their appearance at the launch of a walkway dedicated to music stars from the showband era outside the former Arcadia Ballroom in Cork over two years ago.

"It was an emotional get-together and the chemistry was so right when we all met up again that it did not seem like 17 years since we had worked together," said Gina.

"We had the best of fun and craic during that meeting and over some cups of tea afterwards, we all said that it would be lovely to tour the country together once again and entertain all the fans we played to and got to know so well in the past," she added.

The reunion tour will commence in Cork's Opera House on October 4 and will continue with a series of shows all over Ireland which Dale Haze says will be a trip down memory lane for many.

"The fans were fabulous and even though we all went our own ways in life it is great that each member of the original band is excited about this comeback tour," he remarked.

He said during their time on the music scene they insisted on producing the best possible records and in emulating the studio sounds as close as possible on stage.

"We did many of our recordings in London at leading studios, including the Red Bus Studio, and when the band's management gave a record to Larry Gogan or any of the other RTÉ DJ's at the time we knew that our best efforts had gone into producing the singles or albums," he added.

Gina, Dale Haze and The Champions recorded with a number of major record labels including the international WEA (Warner Brothers) and Irish labels Release, Play and Spider.

After reaching the pinnacle of their profession the band broke up for a variety of reasons 17 years ago.

"After I got married and had our second child I felt it was time to quit," said Gina who is married to band member Pat Walsh.

Along with his brother and band leader, Mossie Walsh, Pat continued to work on the local scene around Cork.

"I would join their group from time to time, mostly for some corporate gigs and a few shows abroad," recalled Gina.

Guitarist Eddie Fitzgerald went back to working in the electrical trade as well as continuing with his love of boating while drummer Tony Hornibrook is now best known as radio presenter Tony Brook on Tipp FM Radio.

"After a bad road accident near Killarney and seeing the dramatic changes from a dancing scene full of live bands to discos in clubs and pubs, I decided it was time to quit and I have been concentrating on a career in the insurance business for the past 17 years," said Dale Haze.

But there is no doubt about the enthusiasm and the energy of the whole band as they now gear up for their comeback tour.

"We have been rehearsing for the past eight or nine weeks and everyone is so enthusiastic. There is a great buzz about it all over again.

"We can't wait to get out there on stage and we hope all the fans will enjoy what should be a huge party atmosphere at all the shows and an enjoyable trip down memory lane for everybody," said Gina.

So The Champions of the Irish music scene from two decades ago seem set to become champions all over again.

Gina, Dale Haze and The Champions will play at the Gleneagle Hotel, Killarney on October 31 and Cork Opera House on October 4.

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