The Hoedowners

The Story of The Hoedowners

Related: Earl Gill, Alpine 7, Caroline

Personnel through the years

Lead Vocals: Amy Hayden, Deirdre Wynne, Seán Dunphy
Lead Guitar:
Steve Pickering, Tony Lynch, Noel Guthrie
2nd Guitar/vocals: Mel Dean, David Carlisle
Bass: Pat Keohane, Gerry Ryan
Sax/Clarinet: Claude Phibbs, Eamonn Young
Earl Gill
Drums: Vinnie Keane, Shay Murphy
Trombone/Piano: Frank Mangan
Manager: Malachy O'Neill
From left: Frank Mangan,  Steve Pickering, Mel Dean, Claude Phibbs, Sean Dunphy, Vinnie Keane, Earl Gill, Gerry Ryan. Top: Amy Hayden

The showband led by trumpeter extraordinaire, Earl Gill, achieved national fame on two fronts. Firstly, from their weekly appearance on the RTE television show, “Hoedown” (from which they took their name) and secondly, by the success of singer Seán Dunphy in the 1967 Eurovision Song Contest. Earl Gill’s Showband had been resident band in the ballroom of Dublin’s Shelbourne Hotel for many years. Always highly-regarded by his peers, Earl had in his line-up musicians of the calibre of Jim Farley, Sonny Knowles, Seán Fagan and Jimmy Dumpleton, all of whom went on to greater success with other bands.

Seán Dunphy, who had began his singing career at the age of 15 in Dublin’s Theatre Royal, was working as a carpenter on the Hammersmith fly-over by day and singing in a London ballroom by night. The pace of double-jobbing caught up with Seán, and he decided to take a break from the carpentry and try his hand as a professional vocalist. He was keen to return to Ireland and when Earl Gill offered him a position in his band, he jumped at the chance.

Soon after, the band were offered a weekly spot on RTE’s new Sunday afternoon music show, “Hoedown”, and they became so well-known through their weekly spot that they decided to change the band’s name to The Hoedowners. Oliver Barry was now managing the band. Maisie McDaniel, Rose Tynan and the yodelling twins, Michael Conn and Joe Doherty of The Millionaires Showband also appeared regularly on “Hoedown”. On the show, the band wore distinctive “cowboy-style” suits with embroidered jackets, and wore them for a while in the ballrooms. However, when they decided that it was time for a change, the fans didn’t like the new suits and they were forced to order a new set of “Hoedown” suits!

In 1967, Seán Dunphy became a national hero overnight when he sang a memorable ballad, “If I Could Choose” to second place in the Eurovision Song Contest in Vienna.  Sandie Shaw, representing Britain, sang the winning song, “Puppet On A String”. This was Ireland’s highest-ever position in Europe, and Dunphy returned to a hero’s welcome at Dublin Airport, where he was welcomed home by thousands of fans. Other successful records followed including “The Lonely Woods Of Upton”, “Two Loves” and “Christmas Polka”. During this time Seán was an active member of the F.C.A. and had reached the rank of Corporal. He still meets regularly with his old friends from the 41st and 42nd Field Artillery Regiment based in Collins Barracks.

Though often seen as a country band, The Hoedowners were in fact a very versatile outfit, having in their ranks people like guitarist Tony Lynch, pianist Frank Mangan and a second featured vocalist, Deirdre Wynne.  In 1968, they adapted an old Scottish folk-song “Football Crazy”, adding new lyrics and a commentary by legendary sports commentator Micheál O’Hehir. At this time, Jimmy Magee’s Allstars were playing regular football games for charity all over Ireland, and many showband stars took part in the games. The Hoedowners called their song “Showball Crazy” and complete with a real football and goalposts, they put on a comedy show when they performed it onstage.

In 19**, Earl Gill had the country talking once again, when a mysterious bachelor-farmer appeared on the Late Late Show singing his new song, “The Poor, Poor Farmer”. The following week, the record shot up the charts, and it was a few weeks before people realised that “Tim Pat, the poor farmer” dressed in a tweed overcoat tied with binding-twine was really Earl Gill of The Hoedowners!

Towards the end of the ‘70s, The Hoedowners became “Hoedown Circus” and dressed on stage as circus performers. Brian Dunphy played the part of his father in the musical show “Dancehall Queues & Hucklebuck Shoes”.

The above text is strictly copyright of Irish Bands Archive and should not be copied in full or in part without written permission from the writer


Singles (7” vinyl records)

Oh How I Miss You Tonight / I'll Always Be In Love With You (Pye 7N.15895)
Wonderful World of My Dreams / I'm Gonna Change Everything (Pye 7N.17056)
Showball Crazy / True Loves A Blessing (7N  17182)
4033 / Come To The Bower (Pye 7N.17266)
If I Could Choose / Yellow Bandana (Pye 7N.17291)
Talking Love / The Blizzard (Pye 7N.17345)
Sunset / If I Could Choose (Target 7N.17420)
Two Loves / Gold and Silver (Dolphin DOS.1)
Christmas Polka / She's Mine  (Dolphin DOS.21)
Lonely Woods of Upton / Yellow Haired Woman (Dolphin DOS.22)
When The Fields Are White With Daisies / What Am I Doing Hanging Around? (Dolphin DOS.36)
Old Fenian Gun / I'm Gonna Be A Country Boy (Dolphin DOS.58)
The Old Refrain / Slaney (Dolphin DOS.74)
Poor Poor Farmer / Hairy Eggs and Bacon (Dolphin DOS.78) - Darby O’Gill (Earl Gill)
Sunday Morning Coming Down / The Taker (Dolphin DOS.88)
Island In The Sun / The Old House Died (Dolphin DOS.93)
Michael Collins / Skibbereen (Dolphin DOS.96)
Bells Across The Snow / Christmas Angel (Dolphin DOS.101)
Try It You'll Like It / Pretty House For Sale (Dolphin DOS.102)
The Old Bog Road / The Old Fenian Gun / The Boys of the Old Brigade (DOS.107)
Pal of My Cradle Days / Love Has A Mind of It's Own (Dolphin DOS.110)

Extended Play (7” vinyl records)

Black And Tan Gun (A1: The Johnny Thompson Song / A2: Flower Of Macroom, B1: Danny Boy, B2: Black And Tan Gun
1967 (France):
If I Could Choose (A1: If I Could Choose, A2: Yellow Bandana, B1: 4033, B2: Come To The Bower

Albums (12” vinyl records):

Sean Dunphy And The Hoedowners (Marble Arch MAL 832)
Ireland's Own
(Dolphin DOL 1001) also on Dominion (LPS.21018) and CBS (M.63624)
 If I Could Choose
(Hallmark HMA 221)        
The Best Of (Dolphin DOLB.7003

Gateway | Showbands Index | Beat-Groups Index | Ceili bands | Contact IBA 
If your late '50s, 1960's or 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
© francis beirne kennedy | 2001-2020