There were some strangely named hit songs in the 50’s, like “Does your chewing gum lose its flavour on the bed post over night”, by Lonnie Donegan, Lonnie introduced “Skiffle groups” to the music scene, and true to form, as kids follow fashion, I and a few other kids in Ballymurphy got our own Skiffle Group , “The Jack Boys” together, We played to huge audiences in our coal shed.
Lonnie Donegan also had a No.1 hit with,, “My Old Man’s A Dustman” There was “Davy Crockett” and then, “The Man From Laramie” by Jimmy Young, Bill Haley came to Belfast back then and sang “Rock Around the Clock”, there were riots outside the Ritz Picture house where his film was opening when teenagers surged forward to get close to their idol, Haley, was a far cry from the usual “idol” he was near balding and sported a well placed “Kiss Curl” on his head, which became his trade mark. poor old Jimmy Lismore was on his way home from work that night and happened to intervene when an R.U.C Inspector was wailing into some girls with his Black Thorn stick,. Jimmy took the stick off him and gave him a dig, and ended up getting three months, I’m sure Jimmy always remembers Bill Haley. In the ’50’s and 60’s we had a wealth of local musical talent, we had the “Witness’s Showband“, “The Grenadier Showband” “The Freshmen, “The Velvet Tones”, “Dave Glover Showband”, “The Martells”, “The Oceans Showband”, “The Melotones”, to mention just a few and from these bands came artists like Bo Birch, Gerry McCrudden, Toni Morelli, Joe Clarke, Liam and Danny Burns, Sean McVicker, Trixie Hamilton, and of course later we had Van Morrison and his group, “Them” who had two songs in the Hit Parade, their first song hit No.10 and was nine weeks in the charts, their second hit No.2 and was 12 weeks in the charts. The female singer with the Dave Glover band was quite unique in so far as she had THREE names, Dave apparently married twice, a rare thing in those days which brings me to a funny conversation between him and a fellow musician from another band. Dave met the fellow musician on the street some weeks before he was due to marry for the second time and asked him if he was coming to the wedding. The other musician on learning the date, answered, “Ah, sorry Dave, we have a Gig on that date... Sure maybe next time”, apparently even Dave chuckled. This subject, Belfast and musical talents, I covered more extensively in my little book, “Belfast Music City Ireland”.
From "Belfast Born Bred And Buttered" By Joe Graham
My mother used to always say, “Do you see our Joe, he will never die in the asylum, he changes his mind too often,” and I must admit I am quite prone to mind changes, in fact some times I think my mind has a mind of its own ..if that makes sense?
I remember one morning walking down the Cotton Mill Lane to St. John’s School with Eamon McLaughlin, Liam Green and Gerard McGlade, we would have been about ten or eleven it was a bright sunny morning. We were talking about what we were going to do when we grew up , Liam said his piece, then Gerard and Eamon, and I said, “You know what I am going to do...I am going to get a car and drive all over America.”
The years came and went, I got married we had three children, Deborah, Joseph and Sean, I got a car alright but had not got to America.
Then one day, it was 1980, I had completed a biggish building job I had undertaken and had just collected the payment, a considerable sum of money and was driving through the town when that old video recorder in my head clicked in automatically to ’rewind ’mode, then ’pause ’, then ’play’ and there I saw these four little boys walking down a cinder lane talking about what they were going to do when they grew up. The wee dark one said, “I am going to get a car and drive all over America”. I parked the car and walked to the nearest Travel Agents and asked for five return tickets to California, two adults and three children. The girl took the money and gave me a receipt and a date of departure, which was in three weeks time. I didn’t even know I needed pass boards or visa’s, I just didn’t think about that. Off I rushed home , the kids had just got home from school “Quick Ann, get the kids into the car we have to get photographs and pass boards”. Ann looked stunned, “What are you talking about Joe”. I stayed by the door “C’mon, I will tell you in the car”
Three weeks later we landed in California, hired a big Malibu car and hit the road, Disneyland here we come, we just drove and drove and drove and seen a lot of California, but we never got out of California for no one told me just how big California was, let alone America.
We landed back home, skint, not a penny, but sun tanned, Ann went to make a cup of tea, I turned on the television, it gave a bang and died right before my eyes. “Ah well ” thought I, and leaned my head back in the chair and would you believe it, that bloody video recorder clicked on and there was those four kids walking down that cinder lane again. Over the next twenty odd years the wee guy did eventually get to drive ‘all over America’, from east to west, north to south and all in between, Some dreams don’t die and dreams can become a reality, never give up on your dreams. Keep your options open to change your mind though.
Joe why did you have to mention that "old cinder lane", boy, could it tell some stories, probably even more than you Joe. I remember one summer night just as it was getting dusk a crowd of us, I`m sure you went to school with them all Joe, were coming down from the fields after playing football, we were spread out and three others and myself were at the back telling ghost stories. This face appeared arond the end of the wee dam and made a howling noise,F>>K I never ran as fast in my life, the football boots were bating the back of my head, by the time we reached the "bridge wall" and safety the four of us were leading and you could see a big cloud of dust behind us. By the time we recovered we could hear this mad laughing and good auld Christy McGowan the wee window cleaner came down ****** as a fart while twenty not so brave Irishmen were disappointed and ashamed that it hadn`t been a real ghost.
Do you remember the high trees in the lane Tom, with the dozens of crows nests perched in them, the oul crows wailing would put the fear of God in you.