To document the story of "The Clancy Bros. & Tommy Makem" or to select from their extensive catalogue of recordings, "THE BEST OF THE CLANCY BROS. & TOMMY MAKEM," one had best have an extra long sheet of paper, or write very small.
Here is a group which has had a most varied, most unusual and most musical background. It is of no small wonder that they have (in such a short time) reached the pinnacle of their careers, and have retained it. They will no doubt continue to retain it for many years to come.
The Clancy clan, and there are many, are all singers from Mom, Pop — Patrick, Tom, Liam, (the group) — Bobby, Peg and four sisters, including their offspring, which number 21 — at last count.
Their family home is Carrick-On-Suir, in county Tipperary, 4,000 population, settled in a valley with Comeragh Mountain on one side, Slievenamon (Mountain of Women) on the other and all overseen by Ormonde Castle. The town is a cattle market where Pigs are sold on Mondays — Dairy stock on Wednesdays — and beef cattle on Fridays. The schools are taught by the local nuns and Christian Brothers and all subjects are taught in Gaelic as well as English.
The traditional music of Ireland is basically Irish tunes — with English words — but sung in Gaelic. The original songs were sung without accompaniment, but down through the years the guitar, harmonica, pennywhistle and harp have been more widely used.
Patrick, the eldest brother, along with his vocalising, is an actor and producer but is least interested in these activities. He plays the harmonica on most of their recordings. Patrick was an active member of the I.R.A., consequently the rebel songs which they sing — are done with great gusto and tradition. He was in the RAF during Word War II and has done decorating and painting as a vocation in many parts of the world — as he is an avid traveler.
Tom, came to the USA in 1948, having had acting experience, being trained in English Shakespearean repertory. He has done welding, cooking and was a Warrant officer in the RAF.
Liam, the youngest came to the USA in 1956, also an actor, and plays the harmonica and guitar.
Tommy Makem, came into the world in Keady, county of Armagh. He plays the Pennywhistle, Warpipes, piccolo and drums. At the age of five, he made his first public appearance singing "The Little Beggarman" — at eight, he joined the St. Patricks Church choir and continued with them for 15 years, doing Gregorian chants and motets along with the choral work. At 14 he worked in a garage as a clerk-bookeeper, and at 19 was a barman. He also wrote a sports column for the local paper. Tommy came to the USA in 1955 and in '56 made his first recordings with the Clancy Bros. In 1959, at the Newport Folk Festival, the New York Times picked Joan Baez and Tommy as the "best young folk singers." Tommy's advice to the myriad of fans who want to join the ranks of better folk singers, "The chief thing is to believe in what you are singing. If it's a fun song — you must be in a fun mood, it's like acting — don't try to imitate anyone. Just because Joe Doakes has a bad voice, but is a traditional singer — you don't have to sound like him. If you have a better voice than those you learned from — use it. It enhances the songs."
The group has had numerous guest appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show, Arthur Godfrey's Show — they have appeared at Gerde's Folk City — One Sheridan Square — The Blue Angel — The Gate of Horn — The Village Gate — The Hungry I — Playboy Club in Chicago, and are continuing to play to Folk Clubs all over the world.
America has taken to their hearts, these four tough-fisted, gentle-hearted Irish singers, who have opened up a floodgate of entirely new songs, Irish folk music with its lilting charm, fierce independence of spirit, and whimsical view of life. For the first time in the revival of folk music, the line between "authentic" and "entertainment" has been narrowed, to satisfy the core of devotees who know that the real folk music is so much richer, deeper and more durable.
1968, Emerald Records Limited