The Story of The
Clefonaires
Combo

Related: Ohio, Victors, Savoy Swing 7

In the late 1950s, all over Ireland, having discovered rock ‘n’ roll and pop music through radio stations like Radio Luxembourg and A.F.N., young men were taking up instruments and forming groups to play at local hops. Sligo was no exception and in 1957, some local lads got together and formed a skiffle-group. Soon after, manager Louis Chapman from Strandhill came on board and The Clefonaires Showband were on the road.

During the early years, Paraic Potter (sax/clarinet), Seán Hunt (bass), Eddie Brennan (drums),  Carl Nielsen (trumpet), Peadar Leonard (piano), Seán Haran (vocals), Mickey Brennan (trombone), Noel Morrison (bass guitar), Frank Brennan (lead guitar), Dominic Smith and Tony Doyle were members of the band. Their programme consisted mainly of chart hits of the day, with some country and western and Latin-American numbers. They played mostly in the west and north-west and among their best venues were Seapoint Ballroom in Galway and The New Hall in Ennis.

Paraic Potter recalls the band’s first trip to England in the early 1960s. “None of us had ever driven in England before and it only became clear when we saw London Bridge for the fourth time that we were getting nowhere! Eventually we made it to the ballroom in Shepherd’s Bush and as we pulled in, a group of lads from Tubbercurry crowded around the wagon shouting ‘How are ye lads?’”

Earlier than most showbands, The Clefonaires folded in 1964. Business wasn’t great and some of the band-members were keen to move on. Mickey Brennan joined Jack Ruane’s Band and later moved to Cork with The Victors. Paraic Potter went first to Jack Ruane, then onto Tuam to The Ohio. He later joined The Kings. Dominic Smith, Frank Brennan and Noel Morrison have passed away. Roddy Gillan, Robert Burnside, Carl Nielsen and Paraic Potter have formed a very popular group called The Jazz Ladds and they can be heard on Sunday afternoons at The Harp Tavern in Sligo. Carl Nielsen’s son, Michael, is one of Ireland’s leading jazz guitarists and performs internationally as well as at Irish events like the Cork Jazz Festival.

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Based in Sligo

Vocals:
Lead Guitar:
Roddy Gillen
2nd Guitar:
? Brennan
Bass:
Noel Morrison
Trumpet:
Karl Neilsen
Sax/Clarinet: Padraig Potter
Trombone:
Mickey Brennan
Drums:
Domnick Smyth
Piano/Organ:
Manager:
Discography:
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