Belfast’s Witnesses Showband were probably the only Irish showband to welcome Elvis Presley to their show! The King and his entourage, including his wife Priscilla attended their Christmas Show at The Paradise Island Hotel in The Bahamas in 1969, took a bow when introduced to the audience by bandleader and compere Harry “Trixie” Hamilton and later told the lads that he had enjoyed the show. He bought drinks for the band and joined them onstage, though he did not sing.

The Witnesses began when six musicians from another great Belfast band, Dave Glover’s Showband, left to start a new band. Alex Burns (guitar), Harry Hamilton (bass), Gerry Rice (saxophone), Andy Wilson (trombone), Harry Mitchell (piano) and vocalist Joe Clarke formed the nucleus of the new showband and trumpeter George Mullen was recruited to complete the line-up.

Mitchell later left to be replaced by Tony Morelli and in the mid-60s, Dubliner Colm Wilkinson joined as lead vocalist. Italian-born Morelli was a former choirboy who had come from the Northern Comets Showband. His father had been a member of Glenn Millar’s Big Band in the USA. Colm Wilkinson has since gone on to be one of the world’s biggest stars of stage-musicals having starred in shows such as “Les Miserables” and “Phantom Of The Opera”.

The band made a huge impact on the British club and cabaret scene and while resident at The Talk Of The North in Manchester, were supported by acts who later went on to become famous, such as Gerry Dorsey (Englebert Humperdinck) and comedian Freddie Starr. In 1964, they traveled to America for a five-week tour where they appeared in venues in New York, Chicago and San Francisco traveling a total of 14,700 miles! While in the U.S.A. they had the pleasure of meeting stars like Lionel Hampton, Gene Krupa and Sammy Davis Jnr.


Vocals: Joe Clarke / Tony Morelli
Lead Guitar:
Alex Burns
2nd Guitar:
Colm Wilkinson
Harry Hamilton
George Mullen
Sax/Clarinet: Gerry Rice
Trombone: Andy Wilson
David Martin
Harry Mitchell


1965: Take Good Care Of Her / Each Time You Cross My Mind - Emerald MD1010
1965: Nobody's Child / Two Little Orphans Emerald - MD1011

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