During their lifetime the significance of the Johnstons was somewhat overlooked: Criminally so. They achieved immense popularity of course at the turn of the last decade, but their full impact has probably been felt only recently with the Irish music explosion and the emergence of bands like Planxty.
Their importance was in the bridge between the boozy chorus ballads of the Clancys and the Dubliners, which had previously dominated Irish folk music, and the subtler approaches of the new contemporary folk musicians flourishing in Britain and America. It would be misleading to indicate that the Johnstons alone paved the way for the marvellous blossoming of Irish music during the Seventies, but they were undoubtedly an integral factor, and that's something which has been largely overlooked. Perhaps only when ex-Johnston Paul Brady joined Planxty in 1973 did people belatedly start re-examining the work of the Johnstons, and acknowledge the gems they did produce.
The Johnston family from the Boyne Valley sired seven daughters but only two of them — Luci and Adrienne — were in at the formation of the Johnstons as a folk singing groop with brother Mike. When he quit, a couple of friends from Dublin University, Paul Brady and Mick Moloney joined instead, and their success was rapid. They quickly had a number one hit in Ireland with Ewan MacColl's " Travelling People" and when they came to England, mixing traditional material with contemporary songs, their taste and energy again served them well. "The charm of the Seekers and the vocal excitement of the Mamas and Papas" said one early press release.
Luci left, but they continued as a trio and were regular visitors to the outskirts of the charts with singles like "Streets Of London" (one of the first covers), Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides Now" and "Give a Damn". They also made several durable albums — notably Give A Damn and Colours Of The Dawn and did much to bring to attention in this country the songwriting skills of Gordon Lightfoot with versions of "Bitter Green" and "If I Could".
When Mike [sic] Moloney left he was replaced by Chris McCloud, whose songs were already in the Johnstons repertoire. They then spent most of their time in America before Brady joined Planxty and The Johnstons concluded an auspicious life.