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The Jack Ruane Band (Ballina)

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The Jack Ruane Band pg. 2

My musical education started at an early age. First on piano and then the trumpet. I received tuition from the brass players in the band and in ’57 I was granted six weeks leave from school to go on the English tour. I was 12 years old and I remember this made headlines in the Sunday papers. But what a culture shock! I thought England was an awful place full of dirty red brick buildings where all the mothers worked - unheard of in Ireland in those days. When I returned to school I had to tell the class about the tour and England. When I told  them that mothers left the homes and went out to work, the boys thought it was so funny they started to laugh. How times have changed. Such is the price of progress.

That Summer I travelled the country playing with the band and by now I had the bug. I wanted to be a musician and no more school. Over the next few years we went through the transition from orchestra to showband. We were lucky. Some of the bands failed to change and so they folded.

During this transition period my younger brother Jack joined the band on bass guitar and vocals. Older members of the band were been replaced by younger musicians because the emphasis had moved on to the visual aspect of the “show”. Once the “new look” band was settled we went into the recording studios and released a few singles. We had some minor hits, nothing wild, but it was good exposure and good for business. Our most successful single could best be described as an immigrant song, "The Grand Old River Moy." The lyrics were written by a local man, Seamus Foody and the music by “the Head”.

Back in ’62 we went on our first American tour. We opened at the “City Centre” in NY and for six weeks we played to full houses in various cities. It was incredible! We got the real VIP treatment. Radio interviews and TV performances . but my dad was the real star. Every Irishman in America seemed to know him. Remember, immigration was rampant in those days but there were Irish dance halls all over the States. As soon as the Irish got off the boat they would head for the dance hall and continue where they left off at home.

The dance hall continued to be the centre of the social life for many of the Irish in the States (and England) until, eventually; they met a partner and settled down. Once that happened their life style and social habits changed and they would not frequent the dance hall so much. However, for everyone who dropped out, there was another one arriving on the boat. That continued until the immigration laws were changed in the ‘60’s and with the introduction of visas, immigration was greatly curtailed. By ’68 (my last tour) the writing was on the wall for the dance hall.  Slowly, but surely, these great halls closed.

At this time, disco was being discovered in Ireland. Women started going into bars and hotels were granted dance licences. The dance halls were refused liquor licences (the politicians were afraid that drink in the dance hall would corrupt Irish society). In the end, the halls were not able to compete with the discos. At first discos were viewed as a “young persons” night out but the liquor licence changed that. By the late 60’s I knew the writing was on the wall for the “dance hall” so I decided to leave the business before it left me without a roof over my head.

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