The Royal Showband, the most popular Irish showband of the 1960s, forms on September 27, 1957 and turns fully professional two years later, with a line-up comprising Michael Coppinger (saxophone, accordion), Brendan Bowyer (vocals, trombone), Gerry Cullen (piano), Jim Conlan (guitar), Eddie Sullivan (saxophone), Charlie Matthews (drums) and Tom Dunphy (bass).
After coming under the management of the astute T.J. Byrne, the Royal Showband is poised to emerge as the biggest act in Ireland, playing almost every night to audiences of 2,000 or more. Ballroom gods, they usher in the era of the showband and in Brendan Bowyer boast the genre’s most potent sex symbol.
In 1961, they tour the UK, are supported by the Beatles in Liverpool and receive the Carl Alan Award for their prodigious box-office success. At some halls firemen are called upon to hose unruly crowds as their popularity reaches unforeseen proportions.
Back in Ireland, they are the first showband to record a single, with Tom Dunphy singing lead on the infectious, quasi-traditional “Come Down The Mountain Katie Daly.” That is just the start. The Royal soon notches up four successive number 1 hit singles: “Kiss Me Quick,” “No More,” “Bless You” and “The Hucklebuck.” The latter becomes one of the bestselling dance records in Irish chart history. Dunphy and Bowyer continue the chart-topping spree with “If I Didn’t Have A Dime” and the cash-in “Don’t Lose Your Hucklebuck Shoes,” respectively.
Having conquered Ireland, the band switches their attention to Las Vegas where they become a regular attraction from the late 1960s onwards. In 1971, Bowyer and Dunphy rock the Irish music world by leaving Ireland’s most famous septet to form the showband supergroup, The Big 8. Although the star duo are briefly replaced by vocalists Lee Lynch and Billy Hopkins, the Royal Showband collapses within a year. The abrupt dissolution of the Royal Showband at the beginning of the 1970s symbolically ends the showband domination of the previous era, to which they had made an incalculable contribution.
Founding member Tom Dunphy dies in a car accident on July 29, 1975, just two days after three members of The Miami Showband are murdered near Newry. Brendan Bowyer dies in Las Vega on May 28, 2020.