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The Fontana Showband (Antrim)

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The Fontana Showband, Antrim
by Ray Fynes

I recall reading somewhere that Rory Gallagher also played in a Fontana Showband, but the band I am referring to started off in Dunloy, Co. Antrim in the early sixties as the Teenbeats.

The Teenbeats were formed by Rory Reilly and his brother Charlie from Dunloy. Rory played tenor sax, and Charlie played trumpet. The remaining line-up consisted of Harry Lynn on trombone, Des Nicholl on rhythm guitar, Johnny McRory on drums, and Benny Hemas on vocals. I was brought into the band to play lead guitar. Benny got married shortly after that, left the band and moved to England.

Fate had a hand in the affairs of the Teenbeats when Gerry McLean and his brother Kevin quit the Walter Lewis Showband (also based in Dunloy) in 1962. Walter recruited the Teenbeat's Johnny McRory as his new drummer. Gerry and Kevin joined up with the Teenbeats and changed the band's name to the Fontana Showband. Kevin replaced Johnny behind the drum kit. Gerry was a superb singer, and replaced Charlie Reilly as the band's trumpet player. Gerry also took over as band-leader. Joe Rankin from Clady was recruited to the Fontana to play bass and add to the vocal talent.

Des quit the band in 1962 and was replaced by George Dillon, from Ballymena. I left in 1962 to move to Belfast, and was replaced by Ivan Owens from Ballymoney on lead guitar. The band made a record around that time ("Wedding Bells" and "Story of 20 Cigarettes"). Soon after, the band was re-named as the Green Angels and had another release "Let it Happen".

When the Green Angels finally broke up, Harry Lynn formed a new Ballymena-based showband -- the Red Admirals. Joe Rankin went on to play in the Ballymena-based Cossacks Showband, before creating the singing group Par Three with another ex-Cossack, Jimmy Lynn. George Dillon joined Harry Lynn's Red Admirals soon after leaving the Green Angels. Later, several members of the Red Admirals including Dillon and Lynn started a new band - the Countrymen Showband. Dillon eventually went solo (1985) and still plays locally. Ivan Owens moved to England where he now plays jazz guitar.

Gerry McLean's children continued in their father's musical foot-steps and brought new life to the old band name by calling themselves the Young Fontana. Kevin and Gerry have since passed on.

©Ray Fynes 2002-2003

If anyone has further information on the Teenbeats, Fontana, Green Angels or Young Fontana, I will be happy to update the above information.

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