Dance bands in Ireland in the late Forties and early Fifties of the last century fell mainly into one of three categories. They were designated (a) resident bands, (b) Ceilidh and old-time or (c) "gig" bands. The ceilidh and old-time bands changed little over the years and while they filled and continue to fill a particular musical niche they played no part in the evolutionary process which was to lead eventually to that particularly Irish phenomenon, the showband.
The resident bands, as the name implies, held residencies in the major city ballrooms. They rehearsed regularly and were musically very proficient. Some even employed vocalists. Their repertoire consisted of the swing classics of Miller, Shaw, Dorsey, etc. and some Latin American tunes. The few tunes from the hit parade which they played were almost always arranged by Jimmy Lally. The result of this universal use of stock arrangements meant that all these bands sounded the same. They rarely interacted with the dancers.
The better "gig" bands also rehearsed and maintained the same personnel. One such band was that of Mick Delahunty but the quality of gig bands in general varied from excellent to awful. Among the better touring bands of the time was the one led by Hugh Toorish. The younger members of this band, based in Strabane, persuaded Toorish to change the whole approach to dance music. They discarded their seats and their music stands. They created "head" arrangements of the Top Twenty exactly like the record and introduced comedy routines. Most importantly, they began to communicate and interact with their audience. The Clipper Carlton was born and with it began the era of the showbands.
The success of the Clippers inspired other musicians to form similar bands. The stock in trade of the showbands was the performance of songs from the hit parade in a manner that sounded exactly like the record. The big reading bands with their stock arrangements came nowhere near meeting the demands of the dancing public in this respect and they began to go into decline. Some, like Mick Delahunty and Maurice Mulcahy, adapted to the new scene and continued to have many years of success. In the winter of 1959 Des Kelly and his brother, John, were studying agricultural science and medicine, respectively, at UCD. The Kellys, from Turloughmore in Co. Galway, came from a family steeped in musical tradition. That tradition is carried on to the present day in the person of their talented nephew, Eugene. Together with their sister, Bernie, they formed the nucleus of the Quicksilver Dance Orchestra which enjoyed a degree of popularity in local halls in the area of east Galway. While at college the Kellys met pianist Eamon Monahan and trumpeter Paul Sweeney and decided to form a band. For the standard showband lineup they required wind players and enquiries among Dublin musicians came up with two names, Eddie Ryan, an experienced sax and clarinet player and Pat Loughman, a brass and keyboard player who had been active on the Dublin dance circuit since the early Fifties. Joe Dolan, a guitarist with the Swingtime Aces, was a student of art in Dublin at the time and completed the lineup of the original Capitol Showband.
Back Row (l. to r.) Eamon Monahan, Eddie Ryan, Joe Dolan, Pat Loughman
Front Row (l. to r.) Paul Sweeney, Des Kelly, John Kelly.