After 14 years of retirement The Carlton Showband has ventured out on a cross Canada reunion tour, with a Red Deer stop slated for Sept. 21.
They play the Memorial Centre at 7 p.m.
The Showband was formed back in 1963 by three Irish fellows living in Toronto. From the start, they connected with audiences as their first single, The Merry Ploughboy, shot to the to top of the Canadian charts in 1966. From there they joined the CTV show The Pig ‘N Whistle in 1967 – a program aired for 11 seasons. It was also in 1967 they signed to RCA – a label they stayed with for 15 years and 18 records.
From that point on, it was 32 years of rollicking fun and entertaining from Vancouver Island to St. John’s, Newfoundland. Awards came in droves – including Junos, Big Country Awards, and both gold and platinum albums. The Showband evolved as one of the most respected bands in Canada with their clever melding of Irish-flavoured tunes, country and pop/rock sensibilities and even a touch of classical here and there.
Lead tenor Gregory Donaghey, who hails from Dublin, now calls St. John’s home. He came to Canada in response to an invitation to temporarily join the group in 1976. It was meant to be a mere three-week tour with the band, but he had such a great time they offered him a permanent post. He didn’t have to think too much about what his answer would be.
“It was absolutely brilliant,” he recalls with a chuckle during a recent chat. “I loved the traveling – it was all new to me.”
He’s looking forward to playing all the old favourites for fans on the reunion tour, and also says just rejoining with the guys a few weeks back to prepare for the tour was a blast.
“Two months ago we met to talk about the tour, and all we did was laugh for two days.”
Freddy White who handily plays guitar and banjo and sings, agrees.
Originally a rocker from Cape Breton, White now lives in Brampton, Ontario. White is also the only member from the original group and penned many of the Showband’s most well-known tunes.
Although he was immersed in rock music in his younger days, White was not stranger to east coast style melodies. “I’d go to sleep at night listening to all this Scottish and Irish music,” he remembers from his childhood. And while rock was his speciality, he found himself drawn to what The Carlton Showband served up.
“I didn’t really have any experience, but I just really enjoyed what they did – it was so different.” He also loved that no one in the popular band thought they were any better than anyone else.
“There was no such thing as egos with the band. If you had one, you parked it at the door.”
Rounding out the group are Roddie Lee (drums/vocals); Aaron Lewis (piano/vocals); Robert Benoit (guitar/fiddle/mandolin and banjo) and Larris Benoit (bass/rhythm guitar).
As for their long-time success, it essentially boils down to a proven formula – a stage show as nostalgic as The Pig ‘N Whistle but appealing in a modern sense as well.
The guys will serve up many familiar tunes during their show in Red Deer including The Merry Ploughboy, Roll It Around In Your Mind, Hard Times (Comin’ Down Again) and Daisy Bell (A Bicycle Built for Two).
For more information, call the Black Knight Inn Ticket Centre at 403-755-6626 or 1-800-661-8793 or visit www.blackknightinn.ca.