Irish Independent, 1976
As the ballads boom swept this country more than 10 years ago, hundreds of young musicians and singers set out to emulate the famous Clancy Brothers. Many faded as rapidly as they had appeared, with only the inevitable handful of groups managing to survive the competition.
Among the groups still very much in business are the Wolfe Tones, whose beat stretches from Carnegie Hall in New York (five appearances) to the Embankment in Tallaght. Overwhelming evidence of their success story is a string of album records, 22 American tours and counless European engagements. These four Dubliners agreed during the week : "Five years ago we said it could have all ended any time, but its getting better all the time".
Tommy Byrne recalled with a grin the time Radio Eireann banned their hit record, "James Connolly". He said: "That was in 1966, the year of the Golden Jubilee celebrations of the Easter Rising, and although it is banned on the radio we are still singing it as one of our top numbers 12 years after starting to play it". Several years later, they were again to become somewhat contraversial when they produced the record, "The Helicopter Song", telling of the airlift escape of three Provisional I.R.A. Prisoners from Mountjoy Prison.
Brian Warfield said: "People have accused us of singing too many Republican songs with a Provo favour and cashing in on the troubles, but that's simply not true. Only 20 percent of our songs are Republican".
He elaborated: "It just so happens that some of our numbers coincide with the Troubles and some of them actually date back 300 years . These songs could apply to any stage in our history". The Wolfe Tones have found that many Americans are confused about the meaning of the name of their group. "They think that it is something to do with us making certain wolf sounds - in a certain tone!" said Brian, who comes from Inchicore and started his working life as an apprentice photographer.
"We explain to them, of course, that Wolfe Tone was a patriot and was Ireland's George Washington, and that we named ourselves after him because what he was". The group has a repertoire of about 200 songs "and we are making good money, but not a fortune".
Tommy Byrne's normally good humour turns to sadness as he tells that the Wolfe Tones have not crossed the border since the Miami Showband massacre. "We were in the north a week before it happened but cancelled the other dates we had after that", he said. "It's a pity because we always got on well with audiences up there who were a mixture of both protestants and catholics".
The group has sold a massive total of over 100,000 copies of their L.P.s and their latest is out, entitled "Irish To The Core". They have also produced a new single "Farewell to Dublin", with the words by Brian Warfield. But their fans in this country will be glad to know that the group wo'nt be saying a temporary goodbye until next October when they take off on another American tour.
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