The  DERBY Showband,  Newbridge

by Pat Lonergan

The origins of the Derby Showband go back to a trio of friends from Kildare town who got together in the early 1960s to play guitar music - particularly the music of The Shadows. They first called themselves The Squares, later changed to The Strangers. They were asked to provide backing music for a local singer, Seán Breen, for an album recorded for release in North America. For this venture they changed their name again to The Short Grass Trio. The trio eventually broke up, and one of them, Steve Talbot, got together with some other friends who were keen to form a band; so the Derby Showband was born.

After some personnel changes they settled down with the following line-up: Betty Gibson (vocals); Steve Talbot (vocals, rhythm guitar and trombone); Tommy Murphy (lead guitar); Louis Melia (bass); P.J. Byrne (saxophone and accordion); Christy McNamara (trumpet) and Tony Farrell (drums). They were managed by a local businessman who had contacts in the showband world, and they got dates around the country and tours in Scotland and London. They played frequently in the CYMS halls in Kildare and Newbridge, in the Ritz ballroom in Carlow and the Entertainment Centre in Arklow, as well as in many of the well-known ballrooms in Dublin, such as the Town & Country in Parnell Square, the Crystal in South Anne Street and the Television Club in Harcourt Street.

Because the members of the band had other jobs, they tended to limit their performances to weekends where possible. There were no support bands and they could be on stage from 9.00 till 2.00 or from 10.00 till 3.00, and without the services of a ‘roadie’. They unloaded and set up their own gear, and took it down after the show. After some years their manager left the area to pursue other business interests, and they didn’t have the financial resources to continue as a band. They never turned professional or made a recording, and were part of that vast army of bands who had fun, didn’t make much money from it and played and sang largely for the love of it – and made the showband scene what it was.                                                                   

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