Four of the five founding members of Stockton's Wing claimed the distinction of winning individual All-Ireland championships before they joined forces in 1977 to establish the progressive group in Ennis, County Clare, Ireland. It wasn't long before they won a talent competition. By the following year Stockton's Wing scored a record deal with Tara Records and put out a self-titled debut album.
Kieran Hanrahan, Maurice Lennon, Paul Roche, and Tommy Hayes were the four champion musicians. Tony Callinan rounded out the band as the fifth member. The lineup would change in following years, and the first replacement occurred in 1979 when Mike Hanrahan, Kieran's brother, stepped in as a singer/songwriter, taking over for Callinan. The following year Tara released the album Take a Chance. Lengthy touring followed, and after an appearance at Ireland's Ballisodare Folk Festival the group added another member, Steve Cooney, an Australian didgeridoo player and bassist.
The following release, 1982's Light in the Western Sky, marked a major musical change, with the band adding more original material rather than traditional. The album spawned a pair of hits, "Walk Away" and "Beautiful Affair." "The Golden Stud" showcased an innovative and memorable blend of Irish and Aboriginal styles. The following year Hayes dropped out, and keyboardist Peter Keenan and drummer Fran Breen came aboard. The new lineup recorded the live Take One album in 1985. The following year the album Full Flight spawned four hits, "So Many Miles," "New Clare Revival," "Avondale," and "Why Wait Until Tomorrow."
After Cooney produced Stockton's Wing's next album, Celtic Roots, the band headed off to the U.S., where it played major festivals. By 1988 members were back in Ireland, where they played a show in Cork alongside Michael Jackson. In 1989 they played Dublin with Sammy Davis Jr. during Frank Sinatra's stop there on his tour with Liza Minnelli.
In 1991 Davey McNevin stepped in to play mandolin and banjo when Kieran Hanrahan, Cooney, and Breen left the band. Stockton's Wing swung toward a more acoustic sound and dumped its bass and drums. The Stockton's Wing Collection, a compilation, followed along with a contract renewal from Tara Records. Early the following year, Bill Whelan came aboard to produce The Crooked Rose, an album of all original material.
By 1994 the band welcomed Eamon McElholm into its ranks. The singer/songwriter from County Tyrone took over for Hanrahan, who decided to go solo. McElholm was honored with the PRS/John Lennon Songwriters Award, and his songwriting for the group was first showcased on the album Letting Go in 1995.