Formed in Strabane, Northern Ireland during 1949, the Clipper Carlton are widely accepted as the first Irish showband. Originally known as Hugh Tourish and the Carlton, the band toured extensively during the 50s with an all Northern Ireland-born line-up including: Terry Logue (saxophone), Art O’Hagan (vocals/double bass), Fergus O’Hagan (vocals), Victor Fleming (trombone/piano) and Hughie Tourish (piano). With their innovative use of costume, comedy and impersonation, the Clippers seriously challenged the traditional orchestras and dance bands that had previously dominated the halls in Ireland. Allied to their strong visual appeal was a mixed bag of standards, incorporating jazz, dixieland, foxtrots and later rock ‘n’ roll. Their pastiches included readings of Al Jolson, Louis Armstrong, Eddie Calvert, Elvis Presley and the Everly Brothers and the highlight of their set was the frantic finale ‘Juke Box Saturday Night’. With the arrival of vocalist Don Shearer, their popularity extended southwards and they were soon demanding 50 per cent of dancehall receipts. Tours of the USA and UK improved their standing and by the end of the 50s, they were still the undisputed kings of the showband scene. By the early 60s, however, younger rivals, most notably the Royal Showband, were overtaking the Clippers in popularity. At the end of 1963, the Strabane unit fragmented, with several members forming the Sante Fe. Quinn and the O’Hagan brothers struggled on until the old line-up reconvened in 1966. Amid the beat showbands of the mid-60s, their act seemed increasingly outdated and they parted amid some acrimony in 1969. The most popular live act in Ireland during the mid-late 50s, they were highly influential in spawning a generation of showbands which dominated the dancehall circuit in the 60s. In 1985, the Clipper Carlton were reunited and continued to play shows until the untimely death of their leader Hugo Quinn in October 1989.
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