Sunday 17 December 2017

Maisie McDaniel

Singing legend who livened up rural Ireland in sixties, writes Liam Collins

But for a few old timers from the early days of the showband era, Maisie McDaniel is a forgotten name.

But back in the 1960s as the ballroom boom was bringing thousands into the newly built dance halls dotting rural Ireland, the young and very talented singer Maisie McDaniel was a household name, with hits like Roomful of Roses and Blackboard of My Heart.

It's difficult now to convey the excitement that the Sligo-born singer brought to the dull landscape with her brand of country and Irish music.

But a career that seemed destined for the top was cut short with almost tragic consequences when she and her then husband, the well-known accordion player Fintan Stanley, were involved in a serious accident which left her very badly injured and led to her premature retirement from the mainstream music business.

Although she would later have a local show in Sligo called Jamboree the promise of a much bigger career ended with the accident.

Maisie McDaniel came to prominence in the early 1960s with a local band in Sligo called The Fendermen. She then teamed up with Fintan Stanley who was recognised as one of the great 'five-button' accordion players of his era, whose prowess with the instrument was recognised by such players as Dermot O'Brien.

It was an era where ceili bands were gradually transforming into the showbands that would dominate the industry for decades. Maisie McDaniel and Fintan Stanley were so successful that they came to the attention of the record companies and a shrewd George O'Reilly.

Recognising that the ceili dancing days were coming to an end, a showband called The Nevada was formed, and although it had musicians like Tommy Hayden, it was seen in the early stages as a backing group for Maisie McDaniel.

But the new band was just getting off the ground when the accident happened and her place was taken by the singer Kelley, who went on to have some success with the band which lasted for many years and was fronted by, among others, Red Hurley.

Meanwhile, Maisie McDaniel avoided the limelight, preferring to live quietly and almost forgotten in Sligo, where she died last Saturday at the age of 62.

At her funeral Mass her only daughter Lisa Stanley paid tribute to Maisie and requested that her best-known number, Roomful of Roses, be played as her coffin was carried from the church.

"It was the ordinary fans who turned out in their hundreds to touch the coffin and say a last goodbye," said broadcaster and former senator Pascal Mooney, a long-time admirer of the country and western singer.

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