The Story of The Black Aces, Kilkenny

Related: Tweed  Nomads

In 1957, a group of young friends came together in the old De La Salle school in Patrick Street, Kilkenny, and having a mutual interest in music, decided to put a skiffle group together. Saxophonist Liam Drennan was joined by vocalist Ollie Kearney, who also played acoustic guitar, drummer John Joe Cantwell, Seán Holland (who later played trumpet) on washboard and Jim O’Dwyer on tea-chest bass. A local card-player, P.J. O’Neill suggested The Black Aces as a name for the combo, and throughout their long musical career, this name was never changed.

Soon the lads were joined by Val Reynolds who played electric guitar, trombonist Arthur Connick and by vocalists Jimmy Lennon and Paddy Hanrahan. In the early days, they played in local Kilkenny venues such as the CYMS, the Carlton and the Mayfair, but as their popularity grew, they decided to turn professional and accept engagements all over the island. Paul Fennelly took up the position as manager.

Jimmy Lennon was a dynamic singer whose movements onstage owed a lot to a certain Elvis Presley! While Dublin promoters weren’t particularly interested at first, The Black Aces were a huge draw in the north. In time they began to attract huge crowds all over the country.

Like most showbands, they travelled to play in Britain during Lent, as dancing was forbidden in Ireland. During one of their trips there, Jimmy Lennon decided to leave the band and settled in Birmingham, where he carved out a solo career in the music business.  Sonny Cullen replaced Jim O’Dwyer on bass and Tom Dullard joined as lead guitarist when Val Reynolds left.

The Black Aces appeared on RTE’s “Showband Show” and on the “17 Club” with Larry Gogan. They released a number of records including “Serenade Of The Bells” sung by Sonny Cullen and “Just Tell Her Jim Said Hello” featuring Ollie Kearney. Both songs reached the Irish Top 20.

When the band decided to call it a day in 1972, some of the lads continued their musical careers with other bands. Arthur Connick was a member of Tweed and later the Marble City Sounds where he played alongside Liam Drennan. Jim O’Dwyer and Paddy Hanrahan spent some time with other Kilkenny bands such as The Nomads and Swing Commandoes while Tom Dullard joined Brass Menagarie. Ollie Kearney is still playing with a local band called L.A.88 and Sonny Cullen can be heard with The Rockies.

Huge thanks to Jim O'Dwyer for information. All text is copyright and should not be copied without permission

Town/Village/County: Kilkenny

Vocals: Jimmy Lennon / Sonny Cullen / Paddy Hanrahan / Andy Murray
Lead Guitar:
Val Reynolds / Tom Dullard
2nd Guitar:
Ollie Kearney
Jim O'Dwyer
Seán Holland
Sax/Clarinet: Liam Drennan
Trombone: Arthur Connick
John Joe Cantwell


1965: Serenade Of The Bells / Cause I Love You - Emerald MD1023
1966: Just Tell Her Jim Said Hello / La La - Major MJS 02

 Gateway | Showbands Index | Beat-Groups Index | Ceili bands  | Submit a Photo
If your '60s/early '70s showband is not here, please send a photo and the line-up via email and it will be added to the Irish Bands Archive
© fkb | 2001-2023