Three members of Johnny Flynn’s popular Tuam showband decided to leave and form their own band in 1963. Charismatic trumpeter Olly Maloney, vocalist Gerry Cronin and guitarist Bill Potter were joined in the new line-up by Olly’s brother Jarlath on trombone, drummer Des Hopkins, saxophonist John Lee and Limerick bassist John Browne.
For two months in the winter of 1963, the new band rehearsed in Tuam’s Odeon Cinema, and managed by Tyron man Charlie McBrien, The Ohio Showband made their debut on 1st December 1963. The band quickly gained a loyal following in the ballrooms and marquees, but didn’t release their first single “Tips Of My Fingers / Ring Of Fire” on the Pye label until April 1965. Their version of the Johnny Cash song on the B-side became very popular on radio requests programmes and is still played to this day.
The Ohio had high hopes for their follow-up, a melodic ballad called “Among The Wicklow Hills” featuring the deep voice of Gerry Cronin, but the same song was released within days by Larry Cunningham and The Mighty Avons, and sales were badly affected as were radio plays. Ironically, manager McBrien left to manage The Mighty Avons and Art O’Hagan formerly of The Clipper Carlton took over the reigns briefly, before handing over to Pat Creighton from Claremorris.
The Ohio had their first personnel change when saxophonist Paraic Potter came from The Clefonaires to replace John Lee. This was followed by the departure of the Maloney brothers to form the Olly Maloney Showband and they were replaced by trumpeter Marco Petrassi and trombonist Frank Greeley. John Browne was replaced by Glaswegian bassist Billy Carson from Athenry’s Swingtime Aces It was with this line-up that the band toured the U.S.A. in the winter of 1967.
Other record releases followed including an instrumental “Mynah Bird” featuring Marco Petrassi and a skit on a Cadbury’s advertisement “The Club Kick”. Drummer Walter Lynch came in when Des Hopkins left to join The Kings in May 1968. Others to feature with The Ohio were Brendan O’Loughlin (bass), Eamon Mangan (trumpet), Frankie Coughlan (guitar), Martin Hynes (trumpet), Paul Keating (bass) and Frank Clancy (keyboards). The band continued for a few more years with various personnel changes.
Gerry Cronin passed away in 1988, Ollie Maloney, Jarlath Maloney, Billy Carson, Marco Petrassi, Frankie Coughlan and original manager Charlie Mc Brien are also deceased. Paraic Potter lives in Sligo and leads the popular local band, The Jazz Lads. Brendan O’Loughlin is still involved in the music business in the U.S.A. Frank Clancy is M.D. of CEL Electronics in Tuam. Walter Lynch and Paul Keating still play with local Galway bands. Paul’s daughter Sarah was a member of the “Popstars” group “Six”.
Des Hopkins is leader of the well-known Cluskey-Hopkins Jazzband playing jazz festivals all over Europe. He also runs his own entertainment agency DH Entertainment based in Co Kildare. Des’ son, Graham, is well known on the rock scene, having played drums with “Therapy” and is now signed to Warner Music with his band Halite.
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