I was a working pro for eighteen years with the Jack Ruane Band and worked through the transition from the “15 piece, sit down behind the music stand, orchestra” (wearing black dress suits) to the “stand up, always smiling, kick your legs, clap your hands, patent shoes, bright suits, long (but tidy) hair, showband days.
My dad was known as “The Head” by his musicians. On the road he was a strict disciplinarian. It was not an easy job to control a bunch of professional musicians in those days. Some of these guys were tough journey men. At times I felt he was too strict but he commanded the respect of all who worked for him. It was a hard apprenticeship but on reflection we were all the better for it. He was born to be on stage and loved his music. A man with an ego who believed in himself and when he had a few drinks you knew he was in the room.
He had great energy. In the early days he and mam would take us to the bog to save the turf (as most Irish families did). He was a keen amateur photographer. He loved his garden and grew everything except potatoes. You name it, we had it…..fresh. The downside of all of that was we (the kids) had to do all the weeding. Every March when the band was away on tour, mam would set all the seed and and when it was ready for transplanting dad would take over. I can still remember the two pegs and the ball of string. All the ridges had to be perfectly straight and during the Summer the garden was a joy to look at.
Monday was usually the day off for the band so in the Summer months he would pile my mother and all the family (including the English musicians) into the band wagon and take us to the beach at Enniscrone. Mam would have the bag of turf and food. Dad would have the golf clubs. The English boys would have the cricket bat and stumps for the beach and we thought we were in heaven. Absolutely wonderful memories! He was a great family man. Everything he did centred around our family.
The Jack Ruane Orchestra was the first Irish band to tour outside the country. In ’47 “the Head” organised his first English tour. At that time dancing in Ireland was not permitted by the clergy for the seven weeks of Lent. With the dance halls closed there was no income so the only option was to go on tour. That was big news; it made the national headlines….. "Irish band travels abroad! Jack hits the big time!"
At that time, my sister Phyllis (alto sax) and my uncle Kieran (tenor sax) worked with the band The band played all the major cities in England breaking all sorts of records. The tour was a success and really established the band. Now, for the first time ever, Irish musicians had a full years work.