Popular Music History, Vol 9, No 3 (2014)

Hucklebucking at the tea dances: Irish showbands in Britain, 1959–1969

Rebecca S. Miller
Issued Date: 8 Sep 2016

Abstract


Showband music emerged in Ireland in the mid-1950s as a hybrid genre that drew on popular music from Britain and the United States. Consisting of electric guitar and bass, drums, piano, a horn section, and a charismatic lead singer, showbands performed an eclectic mix of covers of rock’n’roll, pop songs, country and western, songs from the English Top Ten, and an occasional Irish popular song. Learning the newest hits from American and British radio broadcasts, showband musicians brought new sounds and provocative choreographies to their dancing audiences, ultimately revolutionizing popular entertainment in Ireland. In Britain, showbands were popular among the thousands of young Irish who emigrated there from the 1950s through the 1960s. Irish showbands in residence in British dance halls and on tour from Ireland underscore hybridity at its most inventive with the host culture serving as both an object of imitation as well as a source of creative transformation. Showbands offered a vital network that connected their largely young, immigrant audiences throughout Britain. Showband music served as a progressive and generative force in Ireland’s changing social, cultural, and economic landscape; in Britain, the genre translated into a more conservative expression among the emigrant Irish, but one that served as a bridge between Ireland and contemporary British culture.

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DOI: 10.1558/pomh.v9i3.31855

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