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The Irish Rovers
Origin Toronto, Ontario, United States, Northern Ireland
Genres folk
Years active 1963–Present
Labels Decca Records
Website Official site
Members
George Millar
Wilcil McDowell
Wm.Ian Millar
John Reynolds
Sean O'Driscoll
Former members
Jimmy Ferguson
Will Millar
Joe Millar

The Irish Rovers are an Canadian Irish folk group created in 1963 and named after the traditional song "The Irish Rover". The primary voices heard in the group's songs were Will Millar (tenor) and Jimmy Ferguson (baritone).

Contents

History

Will Millar had been singing in Ireland with his sister since he was 10. After he arrived in Calgary, Canada he met Les Weinstein, who arranged for him to appear on television show, and would later manage the group throughout the group's career. Will's younger brother George Millar and his friend Jimmy Ferguson came out from Toronto for a two-week holiday with Will. They had been singing as a weekend hobby with Will's father and sister, and so Will invited the two young travellers to sing on his TV show. When the holiday was over, George and Jimmy asked if they could stay on, and so Will enrolled George in a local high school and got Jimmy a job.

Will then invited his cousin Joe to join the group. Later, the boys became part of a popular folk club of the time called the Depression, a club that also kick-started the career of Joni Mitchell.

Will had the idea for the Irish Rovers to relocate to California in the USA, which at the time was the focus of many folk singers. On the journey there their car broke down in Northern California, which is when they met some Irish pub owners and an agent who helped them secure a gig at the popular Purple Onion in San Francisco. The group subsequently began performing in folk clubs all over California. Wilcil McDowell joined the band in 1966, around the time the group was signed by Decca Records, when "The Unicorn" became a global success.

The group is best known for their recording of Shel Silverstein's "The Unicorn" (1967) and Irish ditties "The Orange and the Green" / "Whiskey on a Sunday" (1968). They also hosted several variety TV programs in the 1970s on Canadian television - the Pig And Whistle from Vancouver being one. Although they recorded many albums after that, they weren't as successful commercially as "The Unicorn" until 1980, when the band had a crossover hit with a cover of Tom Paxton's "Wasn't That a Party." The success of this, which was performed in a country-rock style rather than the band's familiar folk style, led to the band rebranding itself as The Rovers and changing styles for the remainder of the 1980s, scoring follow-up hits with songs such as "Chattanoogie Shoe Shine Boy," "No More Bread and Butter," and the Christmas hit "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer." By the 1990s, however, the band was once again known as the Irish Rovers.

Will Millar left the group in 1995; he subsequently recorded solo works and also wrote a book entitled Messing Around in Boats. He later did some acting, including playing postal carrier and boat owner Jimmy McVeigh on the Canadian comedy program The Red Green Show, and Jimmy, the crusty handyman in the 2005 Canadian slasher film Sleepover Nightmare. Millar, a neighbour and good friend of writer-director Boon Collins, was also the production designer of the film, along with his wife, Catherine Millar. The bulk of the film was shot on Millar’s property and in his home.

Founding member Jimmy Ferguson died in 1997. The remaining members of the group, augmented by new musicians, continue to tour as the Irish Rovers.

Discography

  • The First of the Irish Rovers (1966)
  • The Unicorn (1967)
  • All Hung Up (1968)
  • The Life of the Rover (1969)
  • On the Shores of Americay (1971)
  • The Best of the Irish Rovers (1972)
  • The Irish Rovers Live (1972)
  • Tales to Warm Your Mind (1973)
  • Emigrate! Emigrate! (1973)
  • Greatest Hits (1974)
  • Children of the Unicorn (1976)
  • The Irish Rovers in Australia (1976)
  • Tall Ships and Salty Dogs (1979)
  • The Rovers (1980)
  • No More Bread + Butter (1981)
  • Party Album (1982)
  • Pain In My Past (1982)
  • It Was a Night Like This (1982)
  • Twentieth Anniversary (1984)
  • Party with the Rovers (1985)
  • Hardstuff (1989)
  • Silver Anniversary (1989)
  • The Boys Come Rolling Home (1992)
  • Years May Come, Years May Go (1993)
  • Celebrate! The First 30 Years (1994)
  • Celtic Collection: The Next Thirty Years (1995)
  • The Irish Rovers' Gems (1996)
  • Come Fill Up Your Glasses (1998)
  • Songs of Christmas (1999)
  • Down by the Lagan Side (2000)
  • Another Round (2002)
  • Live in Concert (2003)
  • 40 Years a-Rovin' (2005)
  • Still Rovin' (2007)

References

External links

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