The Story of The Columbia Showband

Related: Columbia, Miami, Dreams, Freedom


With the success of their first single which coupled a romantic ballad “Way Out Of Reach” with an old Irish favourite, “The Spinning Wheel” in 1965, Arklow’s Columbia Showband made the jump from popular local band to national acclaim. Vocalist Eddie McEleheron (Eddie Mack) was featured on both tracks and the record reached No.4 in the Irish charts.

Three Tyrrell brothers, Jim who played trumpet, Pat who played saxophone and guitar and bassist Mick had augmented their semi-pro band The Red Seven, and were joined by guitarist Freddy Cutland, drummer George Byrne (who at the time was billed as “Ireland’s smallest drummer standing at 5 feet tall!), trombonist Joe Weadick and Eddie Mack to form The Columbia. The band did a polished programme including chart hits of the day with the emphasis on harmonies and arrangements which were handled by Jim Tyrrell, Irish ballads and Dixieland numbers. Trombonist Pat McCarthy replaced Joe Weadick and one of the strengths of the band was that all seven members doubled on vocals. Pat Tyrrell looked after all the show and comedy numbers.

Like most Irish showbands during the ‘60s, the Arklow lads travelled to England, Scotland or Wales during Lent and had a big following across the Irish Sea. They appeared on Irish television shows such as “The Showband Show”, “The Go 2 Show” and “The Life Of O’Reilly” with Brendan O’Reilly. Their best venues were The Pavesi in Donegal, The Arcadia in Waterford and the marquees in the west and north of the island. They shared Irish stages with such illustrious visiting acts as Roy Orbison, the Everly Brothers, The Tremeloes, Unit 4 Plus 2, Sounds Incorporated and Georgie Fame.

Eddie Mack has fond memories of their annual Christmas open-air concerts in Arklow, where the band raised money to cover the costs of distributing Christmas hampers to the town’s senior citizens. They also raised funds for the local youth club and many local charities including the Lourdes Invalid Fund. Though their first record was their biggest hit, the Wicklow band released some other fine singles including “Baby Come Back” (feauturing Jim Tyrrell), “Before This Day Ends”, “Someday You’ll Call My Name”, “In Your Arms” and “Back To The Hills”.

When four members of the Miami Showband left to form The Sands in 1968, Pat McCarthy was enlisted by The Miami. He later went on to play trombone with John Farrell and The Dreams and with Billy Brown in the Brown and O’Brien Band. Timi Weadick replaced McCarthy in The Columbia. When The Columbia disbanded, four of the band carried on forming The Ranchers while Eddie, Pat and Freddy formed the cabaret group, The Family.

In the ‘80s, Eddie, Pat and George toured the U.S.A. with the famous Avoca Céili Band. Today, Pat McCarthy is a member of the Paddy Cole All-Stars while drummer George Byrne plays with Groove-Jazz Mania. All the other lads are happily retired from the music business.

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Based in Arklow, Co. Wicklow

Lead Vocals: Eddie Mack / James Oliver
Lead Guitar: Freddie Cutland
2nd Guitar:
Bass: Mick Tyrrell
Trumpet: Jim Tyrrell
Sax/Clarinet: Pat Tyrrell
Trombone: Pat McCarthy / Timmy Weadick
Drums: George Byrne
Organ/Piano:
Manager:

Selected Discography

Rex: Way Out Of Reach / The Spinning Wheel

Back:Eddie McElheron, Jim Tyrrell, Timmy Weadick, Freddy Cutland.
Front: Michael Tyrrell, George Byrne, Pat Tyrrell.
Captioned by Joe Weadick.


James Oliver was the stage-name of Oliver Merrigan (Joe Weadick)
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