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The Royal Blues

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Reproduced with Permission. Commins, Michael, "Doc Carroll embodied Charisma of the Memorable Showband Era, Western People, Weds. May 11, 2005.

Doc Carroll Embodied Charisma of the Memorable Showband Era
By: Michael Commins

The death after a lengthy illness of Doc Carroll (65) on Sunday, May 1, removes a link with the golden era of showband music in Ireland in the 1960s and 1970s.

Doc Carroll and the Royal Blues were the first west of Ireland act to top the Irish charts with the song ‘Old Man Trouble’, and at their peak they played six nights a week to crowds often in excess of 3,000 people.

Doc Carroll was born Martin O'Carroll in Tourmakeady, Co. Mayo, on November 19, 1939, but from a young age became known as Doc Carroll. His father Frank was a GP and his mother was American woman Catherine Collins. The family moved across Lough Mask to Ballinrobe when Doc Carroll was young.

He received his primary school education at Ballinrobe CBS from where he progressed to St. Nathy's College, Ballaghaderreen. From a young age, he displayed a love of music. He was an accomplished singer, and played piano, guitar, banjo, and accordion.

Doc Carroll studied to be a radio officer at Atlantic College, Dublin. But the lure of music proved irresistible, and he enjoyed stints with the Pete Brown Showband and The Cleffonaires.

In 1962, Mayo promoter Andy Creighton put together Doc Carroll and The Royal Blues. The other band members were Shay O'Hara, Brendan Arnold, Vincent and Frank Gill, Don Flanagan, Bobby Smith, and Brian Carr. Curiously, a young Louis Walsh took his first steps in the music industry by helping Mr. Creighton at that time.

In later years, Doc Carroll admitted he felt for his parents who were shocked by his decision to go full-time into music.

"I could not blame them. I was throwing away everything for what must have been to them a big gamble," he said.

By 1963, Doc Carroll and the Royal Blues had become one of the big acts on the Irish showband scene and embarked on their first major tour of America. Over the next 40 years, Doc Carroll would spend long periods touring England and America.

"People who didn't live through the showband era in Ireland find it hard to comprehend how big it was - when Doc Carroll and the Royal Blues came to town, everyone danced," said a close friend and showband veteran.

At the end of 1965, Doc Carroll and the Royal Blues released the Fats Domino number ‘Old Man Trouble’ as their debut single. Doc Carroll was at the wedding of a family friend in Galway on the night the disc went number one. He was carried around the dance-floor.

‘Old Man Trouble’ spent two weeks in the number one slot before being displaced by Nancy Sinatra singing ‘These Boots Are Made For Walkin'.

Doc Carroll and the Royal Blues enjoyed glorious years on the showband circuit until 1972, when they broke up. He continued to make a living from the music industry through the entire 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s in a variety of bands - Doc Carroll and the Night Runners, Doc Carroll and the All-Stars - and also as a solo artist.

The Royal Blues re-united on a number of occasions, most notably in 1983 when they played before 2,000 people in Claremorris Town Hall, and again in 2001 when they played a week-long series of dates around Ireland.

Doc Carroll introduced some well-known stars to the music industry, including Tony Allen of Foster & Allen, and Donna McCaul, who will represent Ireland in the Eurovision later this month. He spent much of the 1990s touring England.

Yet Doc Carroll never had his head turned by the music scene. He enjoyed huge popularity and respect. He was a willing, but quiet, worker for charity.

Friends and family say his priorities in life were religion, family, music and sport.

"He lived by the Ten Commandments, and was a great advisor and mentor to many people, including all of us in his family," said a family member.

Doc Carroll was a keen angler, golfer, and snooker player. He followed the Gaelic football fortunes of his native Mayo and was an avid rugby fan. Through the final days of his illness in St. Vincent's Private Hospital, Dublin, his family gathered around him.

"He tried to protect us to the end. He didn't want us to be sad at all," said a family member.

The family sang to him as he slipped away, including his favourite song ‘Blueberry Hill’.

Doc Carroll is the first of the Royal Blues to die, though charismatic manager Andy Creighton passed away at the end of 2003. Many of the band, and countless other figures from the Irish music scene, attended the funeral ceremonies in Athlone and Coosan on Wednesday and Thursday.

Doc Carroll married Mary Moran, Church Street, Athlone, on January 30, 1967. He is survived by his wife Mary, daughters Claudine and Nicola, sons Franklin and Conor, brothers John and Kieran, and sisters Bernadette, Isobel, and Kathleen. His brothers Donny and Brendan predeceased him.

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