December 6, 2011
This is the 45th year for The Irish Rovers as recording artists. The band formed in 1963 in Toronto, Canada.
Today, all band members hail from Ireland. Founding member George Millar is from Ballymena, original member Wilcil McDowell is from Larne, John Reynolds from Belfast, Sean O'Driscoll from Cork, Ian Millar from Ballymena, and percussionist Fred Graham is also from Belfast. The Rovers’ freedom to produce their own music, combined with their years of experience, original compositions, and an All-Ireland Champion in their ranks, has contributed to their longevity. Photo (from l): John Reynolds, George Millar, Ian Millar, Fred Graham, Wilcil McDowell, Sean O'Driscoll.
The story of The Irish Rovers (aka The Rovers) is one for the big screen; hosting three award-winning television series, topping the music charts again and again, several appearances as musical bank robbers on “The Virginian”, and more than 45 years of international recordings and touring their music around the world. The Irish Rovers were also the inspiration for one of the world 's best-known party anthems. The boys in the band have lived large.
The band regularly tours Canada, the United States, New Zealand and Australia, and in 2010, released their latest CD, Gracehill Fair (Rover Records), which won Song of the Year at the VIMA's for the title track, on their home turf of Vancouver Island. Celtic artist, Hamish Burgess reflects their 45 years in "Irish Rovers Tree of Life", (above) on the album liner notes. In September 2010, the lads returned to their roots, while filming in Northern Ireland for their DVD/television special, "Home in Ireland". The DVD celebrates the beauty of their homeland as they perform on location at Carnlough Harbour, Dunluce Castle, The Giant’s Causeway, Slemish Mountain, Glenarm, Galgorm Manor near Ballymena, and Waterfront Hall, Belfast. George Millar says, “It’s basically The Irish Rovers ‘Coming Home’ because this is our home, for all of us. We want to show the world what the northwest Irish coast is like. I’ve traveled the world now for over 40 years and there’s nothing like it.”
These Irishmen became so much a part of the Canadian cutlure that Canada’s Prime Minister Trudeau personally asked them to become Canadian so they could officially represent Canada around the world. By 1989 they had hosted three international television series, recorded 25 albums and had represented Canada at no less than five world Expos - Montreal (1967), Osaka, Japan (1970), Okinawa, Japan (1976), Vancouver (1986), and Brisbane, Australia (1988). In recognition for a quarter century of Canadian contributions to the International music world, The Irish Rovers won the Performing Rights Organization's (PROCAN) 'Harold Moon Award'. Their album, "The First Thirty Years” was recorded at the notorious Irish Rovers Free House “The Unicorn” at Vancouver’s, Expo86. In ‘89, their “Silver Anniversary” Collection Album featured songs written by Randy Bachman, Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance.
The Irish Rovers formed their own record company in 1993, which gave them full control over their music production. After that, several of their albums were recorded in both Canada and Ireland. The Rovers have survived management changes, record label changes, personell changes and still sell out tours internationally. Since '95, they've released ten more albums including "Come Fill Up Your Glasses", "Down by the Lagan Side", "Still Rovin'", "Gracehill Fair" and two Greatest Hits albums, "Gems" and "40 Years A-Rovin'". Recently, their recording of "Drunken Sailor" has gained mammoth attention at various sites on YouTube, which in turn has lead to the release of their upcoming album, "Drunken Sailor". Will Millar left the group in 1994, Jimmy Ferguson passed away in 1997, and in 2005 Joe Millar also retired from the band, while his son, Ian (who inherited his father's golden tones) took up the family ranks. Big Sean O'Driscoll and the hilarious John Reynolds have both been with the band for about 20 years, and drummer, Fred Graham has been touring with the lads since 2007. Founding members, George Millar and Wilcil McDowell still perform the majority of songwriting and management duties for the band, which hopes to tour again through Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the US and Ireland, before they retire.
Celtic Radio Comments:
The Irish Rovers "Merry Merry Time of Year" captures the spirit and magic of Christmas in 15 of the most delightful Christmas melodies to grace this holiday season. Old Fizziwig himself would approve of these lively Christmas tunes for any Christmas eve party. Some of our favorite tracks are the immortal "Christmas in Killarney", "I saw Three Ships" and an inspirational song called "Down Amoung the Bushes of Jerusalem." Although the song that put the biggest smile on our face was "Must Be Santa" - definitely a classic that could become as popular as The Irish Rover's 1980's hit "Grandma Got Run over by a Reindeer". So, here is a big Celtic Radio challenge for all of our members and listeners to request "Must be Santa" on your favorite local Christmas radio station.
If you are looking for a new Christmas CD this year that has a little bit of celebration, a little bit of reflection and alot of musical talent, then we would highly recommend the Irish Rover's "Merry Merry Time of Year" to add to your Christmas collection. 5 Christmas Stars from Celtic Radio!