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The Hilton Showband

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The Hilton Showband - A Brief History
by Tommy Tohill

In the late 1950's a small local Newry band called 'The Rhythm Aces' decided to approach a local ballroom owner and dance promoter, Mr. Malachy O'Neill, to manage the band. Malachy agreed but with one condition and he decided to augment the band with some up and coming and established locals from the music scene.

The original band started out on Easter Sunday 1962, with the following:

Ricky McVeigh(Vocalist)
Eleanor Toner(Vocalist)
Bobby Campbell [Ex-Rhythm Aces](Trombone)
Dee Dee Donnelly [Ex-Rhythm Aces] (Sax)
Luke Burke [Ex- No.1 Irish Army Band](Trumpet)
Hughie Kimmins [Ex-Rhythm Aces] (Drums)
Mickey Doran [Ex-Clippertones] (Lead Guitar)
Tommy Tohill [Ex-Rhythm Aces] (Bass Guitar)
Jimmy "Fingers" McGivern [Ex-Rhythm Aces] (Rhythm Guitar)

Although the band started rehearsals in January 1962 and did some local gigs, we hit the road on Easter Sunday with a double gig sharing the bill with none other than 'Pat McGuigan (McGeehan) and the Big 4'. The only comment I will make is we went a bomb.

After a fantastic first year and the decision to go professional , there were a few changes made to strengthen the band and in came John Hughes [Ex-Grafton Showband (From Coalisland)] on Trombone and Gerry Black from Bessbrook on Rhythm Guitar and Vocals. Very soon we had progressed to our first television performance on RTE where we were presented by Brendan Bowyer with an award for 'Best Young Showband'.

Down the years there have been many changes in personnel in the band, too numerous to get them all in, but some of them became local greats like Patricia(O'Kelly) Grattan (Vocalist), Peter Cowan (Vocalist), Briege(Jordan) Savage (Vocalist), Pat Savage (Drums) and many many more. Talented artists who I would love to have the space to mention them all.

After 40+ years on the road there are still 3 original members playing at present, namely Mickey Doran, Ricky McVeigh and Tommy Tohill. Also in the present Band are Donal(Dan) Bracken(Drums) and Nigel Simmons (Keyboards). Here's to the next 40 years!

©Tommy Tohill 11.1.2003

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