Wicklow People

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Showband legend Pat receives the An Post stamp of approval


■ Arklow-based musician Pat McCarthy is to feature on an upcoming An Post stamp as part of the commemoration of the showband era of Irish music.

■ Arklow-based musician Pat McCarthy is to feature on an upcoming An Post stamp as part of the commemoration of the showband era of Irish music.

■ Arklow-based musician Pat McCarthy is to feature on an upcoming An Post stamp as part of the commemoration of the showband era of Irish music.

A RENOWNED Arklow-based musician's image is to be immortalised on a new stamp as part of a series paying tribute to the great showband era.

Trombone player Pat McCarthy from Fernhill was a member of the Miami Showband for two years when he was plucked from obscurity in 1967 during a live show with the local Columbia Showband.

'I was on stage at a show in Castlepollard and a man handed a note up to me with a message to call him the next day. I thought nothing of it but when I called it was the Miami Showband office and they asked if I would come for an audition.'

Pat got a spot on the band which was fronted by showband legend Dickie Rock and never looked back.

'I was delighted. I had been playing professionally with The Columbia and loved it. After I did the Leaving I worked for a while in the fert' (IFI Arklow) and got out of it as quick as I could when I got a spot in the band.'

During his two years with Miami, a whole new world was opened up to Pat which took him on an American tour taking in New York and Miami itself.

'It was the biggest showband of the time. A big hit was ' Simon Says' which we recorded and made our own. There was much criticism of showbands at the time for not producing original material but even if we wanted to we didn't have any time. We were playing six nights a week. It was all go and we did a lot of TV work too.'

As Pat explains there was a lot of moving around regarding band members during the showband era and after two years he decided to move on to take a spot with The Dreams.

As The Troubles raged bands found that they were losing out on a large section of their gigs in Northern Ireland as many considered it too risky and refused to travel.

This was sadly realised when the new Miami line up continued to play gigs in dangerous territory and in 1975 were viciously gunned down at a bogus checkpoint by men dressed in British Army uniforms.

It shook the showband circuit to the core and the violent murder of lead singer Fran O'Toole, guitarist Tony Geraghty, and trumpeter Brian McCoy, became known as The Miami Showband Massacre.

'At the time I was with Billy Brown's and we had to go to Canada for work. The Troubles cancelled out a lot of work. A lot of bands refused to go over the border because it was just too dangerous.'

From Brown and O'Brien, Pat moved to perform with Johnny McEvoy and from there to The Jazz Coasters, Coolgreaney Jazz Band and to where he is today with Paddy Cole.

As time moved on and tastes changed, Pat progressed to playing jazz, which was always his preferred genre.

'I was always into jazz and my music career just developed that way. With Paddy Cole I played at the New York St. Patrick's Day Parade and a tour of the Middle East, which were highlights. We did a good bit of television again and play the National Concert Hall a couple of times each year. For me the Cork Jazz Festival is a highlight. I look forward to it all year and it is the biggest festival for jazz in the country. It is fantastic.'

When Pat is not busy with his Paddy Cole commitments he is in big demand as a freelance musician and solo artist.

He has run a winter season show in Tenerife and performs regularly with a number of acts throughout the country.

'I am still very much at work and never see myself giving up. I love what I do. I must admit the travelling is a bit of a bind as I get older but I enjoy playing as much as ever. There is always variety and a new challenge so that keeps me on my toes.'

Learning that he would feature on the Miami Showband tribute stamp was an unexpected surprise for Pat.

'I was on holidays when I heard. My daughter text with the news and sent us a picture of what the stamp would look like. I was very surprised about it but delighted.'

The stamps pay tribute to a popular era throughout Ireland where the shows were the highlight of the social week in local dance halls.

'It was a wonderful time. It was before discos and there were no bars. People went to dance and it was all about the band. It was the band that attracted the crowd.'

For Pat, who got his first taste of music on an old melodeon given to him as a child, live music has been his life's work. With no formal training he mastered the trombone which he had ambitions to play from a very young age and enjoys it today as much as ever.