The People, Sunday July 14, 1968
The Wolfe Tones arrived here today from Los Angeles after a "close shave" on the United States - Mexico border. When the Irish ballad group presented their entry visas at the border post just south of San Diego, Mexican Customs men took one look at their beards and hair - and refused to let them in.
An official told the Wolfe Tones: "Sorry amigos. Your papers are in order, but we have a new ruling, no one with long hair is permitted to enter our country. Please pay a visit to barber and come back again". The Wolfe Tones, who all wear their hair long by American standards, protested that officials at the Mexican consulate in Los Angeles had said nothing about their appearance when they applied for visas earlier in the day. But the guard stood firm. "Sorry senor, there is nothing I can do", Derek Warfield was told, "Please see barber".
Feeling I was in a suitable position to intervene - a customs man described my hairstyle as "regular" - I stepped in to explain to a pistol carrying official that the Wolfe Tones were Irish musicians and that beards and long hair were part of their "traditional" image. He smiled, tucked his thumbs into his breast pockets and said: "We have musicians in Mexico also, amigo. But they have to get their hair cut before thay play".
I pointed out that the group would only be in Mexico for a few days; that they had spent time and money on obtaining the necessary documents, and they had already travelled 150 miles to reach the border. Finally, after a "confrontation" lasting 30 minutes, the red tape was cut. An official took up the Wolfe Tones passports for a second time and whispered: "I cannot stamp these or I might get into trouble. But if the customs people say they will let you back in looking like that, then you may proceed".
Brian, his brother Derek, Noel Nagle and Tommy Byrne almost jumped with joy. They grabbed their instruments and rushed to the US customs building a few yards away to get re-entry permission. Then, drawing a deep breath, they marched back through the checkpoint and into Mexico. They Lost no time in finding a Taxi which whisked them two miles to the nearest town, Tijuana.
The sights and sounds of this little desert town, famous for it's street markets, speedy marriages and divorces, were enough to take their minds off the border incident. Mexico came as a rest for the group after another busy week in California. However, during the tour, they found time to meet singer Pat Boone, one of many Hollywood stars who centre their business activities in Los Angeles. Pat turned up at his office in a pale blue sweater with matching trousers, a double breasted blue cardigan and white leather shoes. At 34, he still is the idol of many American teenagers. Derek exchanged Wolfe Tones albums for copies of Pat's latest single "Gonna Find Me A Bluebird". Pat was delighted to hear that his records are popular in Ireland, and he told Noel that he would like to tour Ireland - perhaps next year.
On to Mexico....and for what must have been the most exciting part of the tour. Being refused entry would have been a big disappointment for the Wolfe Tones. They had promised to visit friends who gave them such a big welcome on their last tour - when Derek was the only one with the beard.
The Mexicans are not too familiar with Irish music, the boys discovered, but they love musicians - of any nationality. The Wolfe Tones had chosen to play Ensenada, a seaside resort 60 miles from the border, because of it's cosmopolitan reputation. Their first day here was an unforgettable experience. Crowds gathered whenever they stopped to pla, reminding the Wolfe Tones of the atmosphere of music festivals in Ireland! It was then their turn to be serenaded when they took a breather in one of the town's charming bars. Along came a couple of Mariachis, strolling guitarists who earn their living singing in bars and cafes.
Not surprisingly the mexicansing-song developed into a party, Irish style. Tommy Byrne delighted everyone by singing "The Deportees" a ballad about Mexicans labouring in the Californian fruit fields, which is a favourite with folk music fans in Ireland, and Derek remembered a catchy Mexican folk song he learned in Acapulco last year.
And so it went on....the skies are blue, the smiles are friendly, the hospitality is warm. Mexico is a country the Wolfe Tones will be sorry to leave.
Contact Us | Home | Press Menu | Story Menu