In a exclusive interview with Brian Warfield, we are pleased to tell you the real story behind an extremely eventful year for the Wolfe Tones.
The day is Sunday October 13th 2002. The Wolfe Tones have just played a successful concert at the National Stadium in Dublin, and are on their way to the Airport this morning to complete their UK tour. As I drive through the rain to meet with Brian Warfield of the Wolfe Tones, I ponder on the questions that so many of their fans would like some straight answers to.
Are the Wolfe Tones Broke up? Is there a split? Will they still tour? Will they record again?
Many friends and fans are very concerned as they are one of the few voices left to tell the story of Ireland, and one of the last of the great ballad groups of the 60’s boom. They were, and still are, very important to Ireland and to the Irish communities across the world. They brought a little bit of Ireland into their lives and their songs concerning Ireland and Irish emigration - Music they could relate to and songs that told their story. There was many an emigrant whose life was lifted by a show in the National in Kilburn, in Birmingham, or at the Archway in London. They could sing proudly of their country without looking over their shoulder. Sing the Irish National anthem and stand proud without fear. They amassed legions of fans across Britain not only among the Irish Diaspora but with the second and third generation, who enjoyed listening to songs and stories of their history and heritage. The Wolfe Tones are legends in their own lifetime.
I asked Brian why Derek broke up with the band after so many years trooping together and he was quite candid with me: “The group consisted of four very talented people all pulling together and contributing to what was the Wolfe Tones. This was the way it was for many years until Oliver Barry went into Radio and ceased managing our group. Derek unfortunately seen (sic) this as on opportunity to gain control and committed the group to a contract in America which gave the rights of our recordings to a record company in perpetuity. He signed the contract and misrepresented its contents to us. He refused to co-operate with the rest of the group in reversing the contract and relationships went down hill. This action prevented the group recording for twelve years. We felt he was putting self-interest above the interests of the group. He was referring to himself as the leader of the band, which of course he never was. No one had elected him so. We tried to get things back on track at several meetings and offered him an opportunity to continue touring for another couple of years if he towed the line and worked with us. It became more and more apparent by his actions he was not prepared to work with the group. He was obviously more interested in pursuing a solo career. Indeed, we generously asked him to contribute to our new CD ‘You’ll Never Beat the Irish’. At first he refused. He later called the record company and said he would agree - But it was felt he was just stalling the release, which was scheduled for late October 2001. The CD became a best seller at Christmas and has gone from strength to strength. It’s sold way over double platinum - no mean achievement”.
I then asked Brian what the future holds for the Wolfe Tones: “We have had a very successful year so far this year A huge hit CD and Single with ‘You’ll never beat the Irish; Our appearance on the Late Late Show had the biggest reaction since Pat Kenny began hosting the show; A sell out tour in America in February and March and a festival tour in June where we sold out four nights in Boston; Then of course our tour of Britain last May was a wonderful success; There was only one problem. We received many complaints about the way Derek was falsely advertising himself as the Wolfe Tones. This is very misleading and blatantly trying to fool people. He was only one member of our group so he can never be the Wolfe Tones”.
Brian goes on to explain, “I think it is very important to continue the work of the Wolfe Tones. The group is bigger than any one man so we are glad to tell our friends and fans that we will continue and we will be touring England and Scotland this October. The show is bigger and better than ever. We have just finished the Irish tour and the highlight had to be the Ardoyne Fleadh, where over twenty thousand people watched and enjoyed the music and songs of the Wolfe Tones. The atmosphere emotion and craic was mighty. We played sixty shows and got great reviews and reaction everywhere. Most comments from our fans were favourable; in fact they said we were better than ever. Of course, we had a great night at the National Stadium (Dublin) last night, where we begun recording a new Live CD and DVD. It was really great to be back playing in our hometown. We continue the recording at the Barrowlands in Glasgow next week (18th Oct). This will be broadcast on RTE and public TV in the states, so we’re really looking forward to that. The shows at the Barrows are always brilliant and the Celtic supporters are the best in the world. Three of us will now be touring as the Wolfe Tones 3: Noel Nagle, whose father founded the New Eire girls pipe band, continues the tradition and plays the whistle and sings the songs he loves; then Tommy Byrne, who many believe is the greatest ballad singer in Ireland since Luke Kelly; last, but hopefully not least, myself (Brian), I will continue writing songs that tell the story of Ireland and its people and be very proud to do so for many years to come”.
Well we certainly hope so, Brian, I said you have given the world the true story of our land over the years with songs like Joe Mc Donnell, Celtic Symphony and you never forgot the Irish in Britain with the classic song my Heart is in Ireland. May you prosper and continue for many years to come. There is only one Wolfe Tones.
Paul Preston - Wolfe Tones Fan - (In an exclusive interview with Brian Warfield for the Wolfe Tones Official Website)