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HOW THE JIVENAIRES WERE FORMED

By William B. Devine

One thing leads to another is a truism which sums up how the Jivenaires came into existence. Four distinct decisions were involved:

Four Steps

Firstly a decision by a number of teenagers in the Tennis Club in Boyle in 1962 to have a petition, signed by about 40 young people both inside and outside the Tennis Club, presented to the Committee of Boyle Catholic Club, which, at that time controlled the Tennis Club. The petition requested that the Tennis Club be left open as a Youth Club between September 31st and Easter Sunday when the Tennis Club was usually closed.

The Catholic Club committee duly made a decision to accede to the request. The members of the Committee present were Canon Mahon, Paddy McDermott, Paddy Leonard, Gus Gallagher, Gerry Dodd, Willie Bushell, Barry Feely, Bartly Moran and Paddy Kennedy. As the current Secretary of the Tennis Club Committee and the person who submitted the petition I was present at the meeting to present the arguments in favour. Of all the decisions made by the Committee of the Catholic Club they little realized that this was the one for which they would be remembered forty years later.

The third decision leading to the ultimate formation of the Jivenaires was that of the newly formed Committee of the Winter section of the Tennis Club, if it could be so called, to hold a fund raising concert in the Club Pavilion featuring a number of items including a Band.

The concert was duly held and those people who had been brought together on an ad hoc basis to form a band made the final decision – to stay together as a band. I was asked to act as Manager and I then suggested the name The Jivenaires which was agreed to.

The initial members of the The Jivenaires were Pat Feely(Vocalist), Pat Hever (Drums), Michael Kennedy (Rhythm Guitar), Sean Kenny (Lead Guitar), Andrew McKeon (Electric Organ) , Evelyn O’ Mara (Vocalist) and Christy Regan (Bass Guitar). All except Christy Regan (who was ex the Blue Rockets Dance Band) were still teenagers.

At this stage the band had no electric guitars, no microphones, no amplification, no set of drums, no uniforms, no repertoire, no practice hall and, of course, no money – so when I (also still a teenager) was asked to become manager I naturally said Yes, No Problem! At that time the mood was decidedly upbeat – the success in starting the Club, holding the Concert successfully and forming a Band meant that difficulties were seen as challenges to be overcome, not reasons for giving up.

The Role of the Defence Forces

Getting the Jivenaires off the ground meant raising funds. Some members of the band including myself were members of the FCA (now known as the Army Reserve) and attending a two week Training Camp in Finner immediately arose as one way of raising some money which would be made available to the band. Such Training Camps were held all through the Summer months and we did not all attend at the same time.

The Jivenaires with hired amplification and hastily assembled equipment proved popular at hops in the Tennis Club Pavilion which provided only a nominal income. A repertoire was quickly put together and a reputation was being established locally.

I arranged to attend a camp in Finner at the earliest opportunity. I had postponed writing to such Dance Halls in the locality as might have been interested in employing the Jivenaires until I had received the Jivenaires printed letterheading from the printers in Dublin. This happened to arrive just before I went to Finner which meant I would be unable to type the required letters until my return which would have meant the loss of valuable time during the Summer season. A diplomatic word with Captain Des O’Neill an Army Officer who was based in Boyle and who was in Finner at the time gave me the use of office facilities and a typewriter after working hours – in a hut used as an office in the camp. I was in the process of typing these letters when the door opened and a Corporal looked at me from the doorway. I decided it would be preferable if he did not proceed further as he would see that I was typing letters on Jivenaires Showband letterheading. If I had to quote the authority of Captain O’Neill for doing so it might have been embarrassing for him and, in any case, I would prefer not to have it as a talking point around the camp. I realized that he did not know who I was and, as I was dressed in civilian clothes, he did not know what rank I was. Giving him a hard look I said,

“That door is meant to be locked, so consider it locked!”.

“Sorry. ” he said, and withdrew.

A few weeks later the band was given the opportunity of playing at an open-air concert at Rockingham (now the Lough Key Forest Park ) which was being opened to the public. The only problem was that Michael Kennedy was then at Camp in Finner. I sent him a letter setting out the predicament in which the Band found itself and that the engagement would have to be abandoned if he could not come home for the event. Michael duly produced the letter to Captain O’Neill who, notwithstanding his suspicions (well founded) that the letter had really been written for his benefit agreed to Michael taking leave of absence to keep the engagement on the basis that he would have to be on duty the next morning! So between providing funds and office facilities and giving leave of absence the Defence Forces played their part in the launch of The Jivenaires.

A final word about the FCA and the Jivenaires. About 12 months later I again went to Camp in Finner. At this stage the band was much more established and now had printed photographs for distribution at dances. On one particular morning I was a member of a unit getting ready to march on to the Square as soon as the recorded bugle was heard through the public address system. At that point hundreds of recruits would march on to the Square from different directions and finish up in perfect formation. Getting close to the crucial moment one of the men a few rows in front of me turned round and said “Devine, are you the CO of a band”. Reaching into my tunic pocket I said,

“Yes, would you like to see a photo?”

– at which point everybody in the unit broke ranks to take a look at the photograph – to the consternation of the NCO in charge who quickly restored order!

Amplification

One of the more expensive items of expenditure for the band would be amplifiers for guitars, microphones etc. This was an essential investment but also stretching finances to straining point. Local electrician, Tom Murray who worked for Donal Farrell the TV Dealer on the Crescent , came to the rescue. Also still in his teens Tom fell into Jivenaires mode and said,

“No Problem – I will build you an amplifier”

And, he did! Over a period of time he worked on this amplifier in a workshop at the back of his house with occasional visits from band members inquiring as to progress. When the amplifier was finally finished it was well tested and proved to be a success. Everything worked from it, and so dependent was the band on this amplifier that Tom agreed to come along to the earlier dances “just in case”. On one such occasion Tom was given the nod that there was something wrong –

“More juice needed here, Tom”.

No problem – play on while Tom adjusted the insides of the amplifier with a screwdriver, soldering iron or whatever else was needed. It was years later when we heard about people getting electrocuted from microphones or guitars that were wrongly connected. Such thoughts did not occur to us – Tom had our complete confidence and never let us down! We eventually got around to using more fashionable amplifiers but Tom and his amplifier will always hold a special place in the folk memory of the Jivenaires.

Microphones

One of the band members, while searching the attic in his house, managed to find a microphone that had once been used by an airline pilot – it was attached to the throat and not fixed to a microphone stand – and the band decided to give it a try at the next dance. Sean used it for some numbers to the puzzlement of the dancers who did not know where the voice was coming from, not seeing a microphone – and complained that he was miming to a tape. This was before such miming on stage became respectable in some quarters and the use of the throat microphone was discontinued!

Words

At another of the early dances – a New Year’s Eve Dance in Cootehall I think – 12 midnight duly arrived and Sean enthusiastically sang "Let old acquaintance be forgot” – and the crowd joined in with gusto. Afterwards Sean said “It’s a good thing they joined in – I only knew the first line”!.

The band subsequently changed some of its personnel, acquired brass instruments and developed a strong, commercial sound. It travelled the length and breadth of the country, from Belmullet to Dublin and Falcarragh to Shannon, from the Metropole in Dublin to the Metropole in London and on to the RTE Showband Show – but those early months provide memories of a unique and unforgettable kind!

©William B. Devine 2002


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