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The Furey Brothers Band History

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The Furey Brothers. A history of the band as told by Finbar.


Me father said, never die and just leave a skull behind
you in the ground. Do something with you're life.
Get out there and make something of yourself.
It's not hard, just use you're imagination, everybody
has one.
 

My father always said the music was a spirit you can't see
If it's a wedding you want music, if it's a funeral you want
music. If you're happy or sad you want music. It's more
important than eating. I grew up around pipes and Sean Nos
singing. When I went to bed I couldn't get the ringing
out of my ears. When I was a kid I played music, I just loved
it.
 

Finbar would wake up in the middle of the night with a tune
in his head, the wife would say, for God's sake  don't
get the pipes out this hour of the morning. I have a tune
in me head and I must play it, he would say.
When I played for me father he's love it and give me the odd
squeese now and again and say well done Finbar. But if you were
messing, well you didn't want to be there. Ted Furey had wisdom,
great intelligence. He used to say to me use your head. You're a
very intelligent young man.
 

My father instilled feeling into my playing. He came into my
room one night after a few pints. I used to play music in the dark.
He turned the light on and said, play me a tune. So I played
him The Blackbird, it's a hornpipe. He said let me see the pipes.
He took all the reeds out. He took the pipes apart and left them
in the corner of the room. He then said, put them back together.
I'm going to time you. Well I put the pipes back together in ten mins. He said I can't teach you anymore, you have it now.
I think I was about 13 years old.
 

Finbar Furey played the pipes in O'Donoughs pub at the age of ten.
His father used to bring him into town. Ronnie Drew would be there
playing guitar. Ted and Finbar were paid for playing. This
form of playing session music was new to Ireland, playing the
music in the pubs.
 

When Finbar was 19 he was asked to tour the folk clubs
of Egland with his brother Eddey. Sean Nos singer Joe
Heany gave them the invitation. Eddey played the 12 string guitar
and with Finbar on the pipes this combination was regarded
as a new sound. The English folkies never heard anything
like this before and they waen mad for the new sound.
It didn't matter what we played, they couldn't get enough
of our songs and tunes.
 

In 1969 Finbar Furey got an offer to join what was one of the biggest bands in the world at that time, The Clancy Brothers.
The Clancys said that Tommy Makem had left and we'd like you
to join because you played the whistle and the banjo.
Finbar said yes as it was a great opportunity to see
America. But The Clancy Brothers only wanted Finbar and
not Eddey. But he wouldn't go without his brother, so
an offer of half the money along with what they offered just
for Finbar was put forward and was accepted.
 

We learned a lot from The Clancys, each of them could hold
the stage on their own. We played mostly and joined in on the
chorus when ever we felt like it. After 3 years on the road
together Finbar began to miss the music he had grown up with.
As he says ''There only so many times you can sing I'll Tell
Me Ma'' and I had a pain in my ass because I wasn't playing my pipes, and I was loosing my piping because of lack of practising.
I missed the traditional music.
After playing 2 songs one night Finbar picked up the pipes and
walked off the stage. He had left The Clancy Brothers and returned
home to Ireland the same night. If he had of stayed in America
he would have died inside. He wasn't playing the music he loved.
 

After recording Her Father Didn't Like Me Anyway the lads won
the John Peel single of the year in 1972. That's the song that broke the whole thing. They didn't realise how big the song was going to get. That song took The Beetles out of the top song
of the year. It was written by Jerry Rafferty. Ted Furey was
very proud of his sons, especially as the boys had used the pipes
on several singles on their new L.P. This was the song that
opened many doors for Eddey and brother.
 

With the troubles just starting in Northern Ireland, England wasn't
a comfortable place for Irish musicians so they headed off to tour Germany.
By 1978 Finbar and Eddey Furey had pushed their music to the limits as a two piece and began looking for a new sound.
So when Finbar heard George Paul and Eddey singing together he thought
it was brilliant. So with them all being brothers they decided to form
a band. So they got all their stuff together to see what they had
to for a group. The group now had an accordion, mandolin banjo and guitar
and whistles. Soon after they started to write their own music.
So along with all the trad. songs and tunes they started to play
the stuff they wrote themselves. Finbar made a promise to the lads
that one day they would play Carnegie Hall. And they did.
 

Our mother was so proud of us. When we made our first album she
opened all the windows of our house in Ballyfermot and played
it for the whole street to hear.
The Lonesome Boatman . - I couldn't get this image out of my
head. It's this boat man that comes to take you from this life to the next.
This boatman is their for millions of years. Don't ask me how I know.
When I get into my head I can actually see him. I have no fear of him.
He's to be pitied. That's the way I see tunes. It's like making
a picture with music. My father would have been ver proud of me
for the boatman because I wrote it myself.


When the Furey Brothers recorded Eric Bogle's song The Green Fields Of France
in 1979 it was Finbar's first time to front the band as lead singer.
He had sang with The Clancy's and along side Eddey. Eddey was supposed
to sing this one but was up all night drinking with Luke Kelly
in The Embankment in Tallagh. He arrived into the recording studio
next morning at 11am and couldn't sing a not.
The group had already paid the recording fee so rather than let
it go to waste Finbar decided to sing it himself.
It went straight to No1 in the charts and remains one of the best
anti war songs ever written. This song now opened up a world wide
audience for their music. The band went on tour to promote the
new single, it was during this tour that their father Ted died.
He was 65 years old. As Finbar says, ''The Hardest Thing I Had To Do Was
Play ''The Coolin'' by his grave as he loved that tune.
 

After the funeral Fibar's mother asked him to go up to the attic
and clean out his father's stuff. This is when he found his fathers
book that contained all his father's tunes he had written. It was in this book that Finbar found the song ''When You Were Sweet Sixteen.
Ted used to sing it, I started to hum the tune, he didn't know
the words, there was only two verses. It was his mother that said
to him ''You Should Sing That Song'' , it comes from Tipperary.
 
So the boys recorded Sweet 16, it went into the British charts.
When the group went to London they were told they would have to
record it again before going on Top Of The Pops. So the got an
orchestra to record the string parts. This was about unions.
Anyway they got the English recording and headed off for the B.B.C.
Before the show Finbar got the tape they recorded in London and threw it away and gave the B.B.C. the recording that was made in Ireland.
 

At this time HE was living in Dunmore East in Waterford
with his wife and kids along with his mother.
The Fureys And Davie Arthur went on tour to Australia. Their
first concert was in Perth in front of 4.500 people.
All the tour was sold out. The second concert was in Adelade
and this is when news come from home that his mother Nora had died.
The boys went straight home and arrived in Dublin on the Sunday.
They buried their mother on the Monday. They went back to Australia
on Tuesday for to finish the tour. [1986]
 

With the mother gone the boys started to do their own stuff.
Finbar Furey would always tell the brothers to write,write, write.
George and Eddey were great songwriters but for years they weren't
writing anything. The last album was the Steal Away album.
But the lads wanted to continue doing the same songs like,
Sweet 16, The Green Fields Of France and Red Rose Cafe.
Finbar was now getting restless for new material to play.
As he says , there's only so many times you can sing the
Red Rose Cafe. You get a pain in your neck singing it.
 

It was easy for me and Eddey to leave The Clancys, but now I was
leaving my family for the first time. I was guilty as I was lead
singer and front man for the whole band so I said I'd hang in there
for a few more years, and I did. When our you son was born I went
to see him in the Coome Hospital and flew out to Australia to play
with the band for the last time. I'll never forget it.
I played the next 9 weeks with the band. Paul was really
the only one to fully understand the reason for Finbar's departure.
As Paul said at the time, ''I Know Sham You Have To Go''.
It took me 9 years to leave the band. It wasn't any disrespect
to the boys, it was just the direction the group were taking. [1994]
 

Finbar spent the next 10 years riddled with guilt that consumed him.
He always watched the band from a distance, he was worried about them.
Paul died in 2002 and Finbar still felt guilt.
Paul was his right hand man on stage, after the split Paul
used to put a chair out on stage for his brother  in
case he ever wanted to come back and join the group again.

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