The Clancy Brothers

From Academic Kids

Missing image
The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem from left to right: Tom, Pat, Liam, and Tommy Makem

The Clancy Brothers were an Irish folk music band, most popular in the 1960s, who are often credited with popularizing Irish traditional music in the United States. The brothers were Pat, Tom, and Liam. Though born in Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary, Ireland, they did not begin playing together until they emigrated to the United States where, in 1955, they met Tommy Makem in New York City. For years the quartet performed as The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem.

The four were primarily vocalists, though Makem was an accomplished banjo and tin whistle player, and Liam played guitar. Pat would sometimes play harmonica. Nevertheless they often were accomplanied by other musicians, notably Pete Seeger on several occasions. They began playing at small clubs in Greenwich Village, but as their popularity grew so did their venues. By 1962 they played Carnegie Hall.

Their popularity is the result of several factors. There was already an American folk revival beginning in the United States, and men such as Ewan MacColl popularizing old songs on the other side of the Atlantic. But it was the Clancy's boisterous performances that set them apart, taking placid classics such as "Brennan on the Moor" and giving them a boost of energy and spirit (not that they took this approach with all their songs, they would still sing the true mournful ballads with due reverence).

In 1961 they appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, playing a double set after the last minute cancelation of another act. They were a resounding success. Two years later they performed for John F. Kennedy at the White House.

The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem recorded more than 50 albums together, starting with The Rising of the Moon (also known as Irish Songs of Rebellion) in 1956. In 1975 the band split up. Liam and Tommy Makem reformed as a duo and released several albums, while the remaining brothers were joined by their other brother Bobby, and their nephew, the accomplished musician Robbie O'Connell. However, the original lineup did reform for special concerts, notably in 1984. The original three brothers have also recorded with other artists, notably Lou Killen.

After Tom died in 1990 he was replaced by Bobby, and the Clancy Brothers and Robbie O'Connell continued to tour the world. In 1998 Pat died. Since then Liam and O'Connell have toured as Clancy, O'Connell, & Clancy, with Donal Clancy, from the next generation of the Clancys.

The group's trademark were their white Irish wool sweaters, originally knitted by their mother, which they wore on nearly all their album covers, but not necessarily their live performances.

Partial Discography

With Tommy Makem:

  • The Rising of the Moon (or Irish Songs of Rebellion)
  • Come Fill Your Glass With Us (or Irish Drinking Songs)
  • The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem
  • Hearty and Hellish
  • The Boys Won't Leave the Girls Alone
  • In Person at Carnegie Hall
  • The First Hurrah!
  • Live in Ireland
  • Isn't it Grand, Boys
  • Freedom's Sons
  • The Bold Fenian Men
  • Home, Boys, Home
  • In Concert
  • Reunion

With Lou Killen:

  • Show Me the Way
  • The Best of the Clancy Brothers

When The Clancy Brothers' albums were being released on CD, several of the above albums were never transferred to that format. Multiple "greatest hits" and other such collections currently make up the majority of their CD catalog, often with high redundancy.


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