The Story of the
Johnny Quigley

Related: Green Angels, Jokers, Swingtime Aces

Front: Michael Quigley, Edmund Quigley (saxes), Johnny Quigley (clarinet), Denis Fisher, Roy Addinel (trumpets), Bobby Forsyth (trombone). Back: Joe Quigley (guitar), Jackie Flavelle (bass), Thomas McMenamin (drums)

Ever since a well-used and battered clarinet was thrust into his hands more than 60 years ago at a Saint Columb’s T.A. Band practice in Derry, Johnny Quigley was devoted to music and the music business. Young Johnny was only 10 years old and had joined his brother and first cousin in the concert and marching band. After four years however, he decided to give music a break for typical teenage activities, but in less than a year, the spark was re-ignited when he went to hear saxophonist Bill Ball at the Derry West End Hall. Working as an apprentice baker at the time, Johnny would take the short walk to Bill’s home after work and take lessons.  

His perseverance paid off and before long his parents made the big sacrifice of buying Johnny his first saxophone, which at the time cost £60, almost twelve weeks wages for his father. He practiced hard and soon began picking up gigs at parties and at the West End Hall. He freelanced with bands such as the Columba Gallagher Band (Strabane) and The Melville Dance Band before starting his own band, The Johnny Quigley Casino All-Stars, later to become The Johnny Quigley Showband.  

The line-up of Johnny’s first band included Leonora Fiorentini (piano), Liam Griffiths (drums), Dennis Fisher (trombone), Johnny [Peel] Quigley (vocals), Mike Quigley (tenor & baritone sax/vocals), Edmund Quigley (alto sax & bass), Joe Quigley (trumpet/vocals) with Johnny of tenor sax and clarinet. Neil Gill from Letterkenny was the band’s first manager and later Johnny’s brother-in-law returned from the U.S.A. and took over management.  

Quigley’s band made a massive impact throughout the country. They were different, sometimes a big band with thumping brass arrangements, sometimes a pop band, moving easily from rock ‘n’ roll to waltzes, chart hits to Latin-American and Dixieland. At the interval they changed from band-suits into yellow blazers and brown slacks and put on exceptional show for the dancers and those who may have just come along to look and listen. They were noted for their interpretations of The Coasters’ hits, songs like “Yakety Yak” and “Charley Brown”.  

They packed capacity crowds into venues such as the Guildhall (Derry), Orpheus and Floral Hall (Belfast), Caproni’s (Bangor) as well as ballrooms in Dublin, Waterford, Tralee, Limerick, Galway (The Hangar) and all over Ireland. They appeared on a live Telefís Éireann show with The Springfields (featuring Dusty Springfield) and also a live transmission on U.T.V. called The Half-Door Club. However, the Johnny Quigley All-Stars never released a record.  

Throughout the years, some magnificent musicians joined the ranks of the famous Derry showband. People like left-handed trumpeter Roy Addinell, one of Ireland’s greatest drummer, Tommy McMenamin, bassist Jackie Flavelle who went on to play with Chris Barber’s band, Bobby Forsyth, Jack Bonner, Ian Bell, Mickey McFadden, Liam Griffiths, Mickey McCool, Stan Cauley and the legendary Eddie (Every-Voice) Kerr. They toured England, Scotland, Wales and were the first Irish band to perform at the Edinburgh Festival. In 1964 they toured the U.S.A. playing in New York, Chicago, Boston and San Francisco.                                                         

In 1964 however, earlier than most of the top showbands, Johnny Quigley made the difficult decision to stop touring and take his band off the road. With a wife and seven children to think of, he decided to open a small family-run hotel on Derry’s Foyle Street. Soon after he took a job with the Western Education & Library Board as a teacher of woodwind instruments, a job which he dedicated himself to for twenty years.  

Evergreen Johnny was still playing with his own family band in his 70s. His daughter Sharon plays alto sax while another daughter Carol concentrates on vocals. His sons Joe (guitar/vocals), Paul (keyboard/sax/vocals), John (bass/vocals), Gary (trumpet/vocals); son-in-law Andy Monk (guitar/vocals) and cousin George Hasson (trumpet) complete the line-up.  

“A family band was something I always wanted to set up” says Johnny, “the thing about music is that once it’s in your blood, you’ll never get it out!”.

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Based in Derry

Lead Guitar:
2nd Guitar:
Johnny 'Peel' Quigley
Joe Quigley / Roy Addinell
Sax/Clarinet: Johnny Quigley / Mike Quigley / Edmund Quigley
Denis Fisher
Tommy McMenamin

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