History of Irish Rock Music
An Exhibit Presented by the Ward Irish Music Archives
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The History of Irish Rock Music exhibit examines through displays and artifacts the development of rock music in Ireland. It begins in the 1950's with the Irish showband phenomena. The Irish showband was a unique mix of the popular American Big Band sound and the Irish Ceili Band. They were extremely popular in their heyday and they still exist today. Unfortunately, most of the showband music was covers of American or British top 40 hits. This left some of the better musicians frustrated. Out of this frustration the beat bands developed and solo artists also broke away from the showband scene.
The beat bands that broke away from the showbands still did some covers, but they performed esoteric material such as songs from Ray Charles, Jerry Lee Lewis and, of course, The Beatles. Most of their music was original. The Greenbeats were one of the first beat bands to make an impact, but Ian Whitcomb and his band Bluesville was the first Irish beat band to hit the charts in America with "You Turn Me On," which reached #8 in the charts. Although it reached the charts, it was also banned in many areas because of its "overly suggestive" lyrics. The beat bands didn't last very long, but they laid the groundwork for the great Irish progressive rock bands to come such as Thin Lizzy and Skid Row.
History of Irish Rock Music on display at Kansas City Irish Fest
The solo artists that left the showbands include two of the most renown Irish Rock musicians of all time: Van Morrison and Rory Gallagher. The one genre besides the showbands that was solid during this period in Ireland was the blues. Ryhthm and blues bands did tour Ireland in the fifties and sixties and many of the young artists picked up on this style. Both Morrison and Gallagher made a career in this genre. Morrison is regarded today as a pop icon. His music has been used for more major motion pictures than any other band or musician in history.
These stories and many more are told through the Irish Rock exhibit. Besides those artists listed above, others in the exhibit include Barry McGuire, The Bachelors, Elvis Costello, Chris de Burgh, The Boomtown Rats, Bob Geldof, U2, Sinead O'Connor, Clannad, The Cranberries, The Corrs, The Poques, Stiff Little Fingers, Paul Brady, Gary Moore, The Commitments and many more.
The exhibit includes artifacts such as tour programs, tickets to events and concerts from around the world, sheet music, posters, books, LP's, tapes, eight-tracks, rare tour itinerary books, buttons, pins, badges, photos and many other items that document these groups.