The Dubliners took the folk music world by storm in the 1960s and although that was mainly down to the quality of their music, it’s also true that many audiences warmed to their down-to-earth approach.
They also had a rebellious, irreverent streak which also endeared them to audiences who liked their readiness to “tell it like it is”.
Billy Connolly on the Dubliners
Billy Connolly started out as a folk singer before he became famous as a comedian.
In the Rough Guide to Irish Music by Geoff Wallis and Sue Wilson, he described how he was blown away by The Dubliners and sat mesmerised when he first saw them perform.
He said: “I had never seen such a collection of hairy people in my life. I had never seen such energy as Luke Kelly’s. I had never heard a voice as extraordinary as Ronnie Drew’s. I had never heard banjo playing as amazing as Barney McKenna’s.
“Ciaran Bourke looked like the gipsy from of his own songs who was quite likely to run off with your girlfriend if you didn’t keep a close eye on him.”
Clash of styles with The Clancy Brothers
The Clancys and Dubliners were friends and had great respect for each other, but they had very different styles.
The Clancys first achieved success in America and they were careful to maintain a clean cut, presentable image that would make them acceptable to American audiences at that time. They were clean shaven, short-haired and wore a “uniform” of Aran jumpers.
The Dubliners were the opposite, hairy and unkempt, riotous and uncompromising.
Here we are: take it or leave it – John Sheahan
John Sheahan later described how they had an attitude along the lines of : “here we are, take it or leave it.”
Thankfully for them, fans loved their approach and flocked to their concerts. The comparison with the Clancys was always there, however, with most folk music fans having a strong preference for either The Dubliners or The Clancy Brothers, in much the same way as many pop fans had a strong preference for either The Beatles or The Rolling Stones.