Gerry Madigan and George Kaye made their separate marks on Ireland’s live music scene in two phenomenally successful bands of the late 1960s and 1970s, and both of them did it by opening the ears of ballroom audiences to the sounds of authentic Americana.
The vibrant dancehall circuit, dominated by big showbands, was already changing under the influence of new bands with ‘Country & Irish’ instrumentation and repertoire. George Kaye, in the Smokey Mountain Ramblers, and Gerry Madigan in the Cotton Mill Boys pushed the envelope further, changed the way audiences viewed country music, and set new standards of excellence.
The Smokey Mountain Ramblers served up a unique sample of old-time country, bluegrass, Carter Family, and roots music. George was the first musician to front a full band on the ballroom circuit playing electric fiddle, and wowed packed houses with his dynamic rendition of ‘Orange Blossom Special’ and other bluegrass favourites.
The Cotton Mill Boys, featuring Gerry on 5-string banjo, vocals, and pedal steel guitar, was the first band to feature the 5-string banjo, the core of bluegrass music. They were also the only Irish band capable of playing live on stage ‘Foggy Mountain Breakdown’ or ‘Dueling Banjos’, known throughout the world through the smash-hit movies ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ and ‘Deliverance’. They extended their reach from ballrooms into cabaret venues throughout Ireland and the UK; won ‘Opportunity Knocks’ (similar to today’s ‘American Idol’) with their new fiddler, Charlie Arkins; recorded 15 albums and 25 singles; and the only band in history to have a #1 and #2 hit record concurrently in the Irish music charts.
Besides playing on the live music circuit, Gerry and George were both in high demand in recording studios, and took part regularly in folk sessions, jam sessions, and anywhere bluegrass enthusiasts gathered. As the dancehall circuit waned in the late 1970s, they teamed up with mandolinist Dermot O’Connor (whose band Spud had a #1 hit record in the Irish music charts) to form Mash – a three-piece acoustic band playing bluegrass mixed with old-time, Cajun, and solid folk and roots music, delivered with red-hot impeccable instrumentals and tight vocal harmonies. Mash was signed by Polygram Records, released one single and one album, toured Ireland and the UK, and held a regular Dublin residency, playing to packed houses.
Gerry Madigan and George Kaye have been called ‘seasoned professionals’, and their offering of live music today is one born of a lifelong love for bluegrass music, years of hard experience on the road, and the illustration of that experience in the songs they have written. They are well known and respected among the musicians and devoted longtime fans of bluegrass and acoustic country music. And for today’s younger audience, avid to hear this music, these two guys are the ‘real deal’.
Gerry has enjoyed a successful career as a best-selling author and as a keynote speaker on the international speakers’ circuit throughout Canada and the USA, and now lives in Calgary, Alberta, in western Canada. He has also just released a new CD of all original songs, entitled Wild Bird, Fly Free (available on iTunes). George has enjoyed great success with multiple bands (including the Permanent Cure) in the UK and Germany, and now calls Germany his home. But now they’re ‘bringing it all back home’ with their visit to Ireland in October 2017. Playing a rich blend of authentic bluegrass, folk, country, and roots music (sprinkled with some original compositions), they will be playing a series of acoustic concerts (with a special guest at each show) in a select number of intimate theatres and clubs throughout Ireland. Two pioneers of bluegrass music in Ireland coming together to provide an exciting night of dynamic live music entertainment - this is a show not to be missed!