The Johnstons

The Johnstons

…a brief history

" The Johnstons were a family folk group who were immensely popular in Ireland in the late 1960s. They recorded both traditional and contemporary folk material, some of the latter straying into folk-rock and pop-folk areas on occasion." [1]

  • Adrienne Johnston: Group member — 1965-1973 (died 1981)
  • Lucy Johnston: Group member — 1965-1969
  • Michael Johnston: Group member — 1965-1967
  • Mick Moloney: Group member — 1967-1971
  • Paul Brady: Group member — 1967-1973


  • 1965:
    • The group began as a family trio consisting of sisters Adrienne & Luci on vocals, and brother Michael, 12-string guitar — performing at their family's pub in Slane, Co. Meath.
  • 1966:
    • In February, the Johnstons came in first at the Wexford Ballad Competition, winning £100 and an appearance on the Late Late Show.
    • Within a short period the group was signed by PYE records.
    • In August, their first single "The Travelling People" reached #1 in The Irish Charts.
  • 1967:
    • "Realising that they needed to develop musically, they recruited Mick Moloney, a singer and instrumentalist from Limerick. Moloney also was beginning to become an Irish traditional music virtuoso and authority, an attractive asset to The Johnstons. Moloney quickly established himself as the dominant musical force within the Johnstons." [2]
    • With Mick Moloney, the Johnstons released (the single) "The Curragh of Kildare", which reached #11 in the The Irish Charts.
    • "It was inevitable that Moloney, who was getting frustrated with the musical limitations of group member Michael Johnston would want to make some changes. After some familial soul searching and 'negotiations' Michael reluctantly left the band." [2]
    • Paul Brady joined the band in the summer.
  • 1968:
    • After Paul Brady joined the group, the Johnstons were signed by Transatlantic records.
    • Their first LP release, "called simply The Johnstons known affectionately at the time as 'the white album'." [2]
    • This same year, The Travelling People was released — a compilation LP made up of the Johnstons' first 4 single releases and the 2 tracks from Irish Cabaret, Jury's Hotel, Dublin.
  • 1969:
    • In January, The Johnstons relocated to London (where they subsequently lived for three years), and released two albums on the same day, Give A Damn and The Barley Corn.
    • "The 'two records' idea was to show the two sides of the band." [2].
    • Give A Damn was released in North America as Both Sides Now, with 2 different tracks.
    • Later in the year, Luci left the group and returned to Ireland.
    • The Johnstons (trio) of Adrienne, Mick & Paul, released another album, Bitter Green.
  • 1971:
    • Colours Of The Dawn is released in the USA on the Vanguard label.
    • The American LP includes an additional track.
    • This is the last album with Mick Moloney.
    • "Strains were beginning to appear in the artistic direction of the band, Moloney favouring the traditional direction while Adrienne and Paul wanted to move into uncharted waters." [2]
    • By the end of year, Mick Moloney leaves the group.
  • 1972:
    • The Johnstons release their last album, If I Sang My Song — on Transatlantic in the UK. Again, this LP is released in the US on a different label — this time Mercury, and titled The Johnstons.
    • And again, The American LP includes an additional track.
  • 1973:
    • "…though talented English musician, Gavin Spencer, joined for a year or so, the band's days were numbered and in 1973 things ground to a halt and they went their separate ways." [2]
    • After the break up of the group, Paul Brady joined Planxty.
  • 1976:
    • The Johnstons had a reunion concert in Canada, but never performed again.
  • 1981:
    • May 27th — Adrienne Johnston died at the age of 35 (in the USA) — under somewhat mysterious circumstances.