After a long absense of from attending The Wolfe Tones concerts
I decided to attend one of their shows
on the 30th of December
in Dublin. I didn't quiet know what to expect as I hadn't seen
The Wolfe Tones live since the
departure of Derek Warfield from
the group, as most of you already know that Derek left the band
many years ago for
what he called ''Artistic Differences'', and
now tours with his own new band.
Tickets cost 20 euro for all seats, some shows that are held in
hotels have a meal included in the
price but you can just pay for
the show which is what I done. The doors opened at 9-30 and anybody
that bought tickets
that included a meal were already in the venue
so all the front seats were already full when the doors opened.
this was a little unfair to the fans who simply didn't
want to eat and only wanted to see The Wolfe Tones as the only
tables were at the back.
I didn't let this put me off one bit,we took our seats and as usual
headed for the bar where we ordered
several drinks each. Ordering
several drinks saves you the hassell of returing to the bar and standing
to be searved by Part-Time bar staff who are usually
The Wolfe Tones came on stage shortly after 10 pm and played a solid
two hours without a break. There
wasn't any band on beforehand as a
warm up act. The lads started with the song ''In Belfast'' followed by
I'm Nearly 40 and then played a medely of oldies including
The Merry Ploughboy and Slievenamon. They played a good mix
and new songs that included standards such as The Streets Of New York
and Joe McDonnald and from the new album
they played Swing A Banker.
During the whole show there's a large video screen showing photos. of
the the person they are singing
about that tell the story of the song.
This is an intresting addition to the show. All the music is not live,
are some backing tracks used in several of the songs which include
strings, bass and drums. I'm a bit of a purest when
it comes to using
backing tracks and was disappointed to see The Wolfe Tones using them.
They arn't used in every song,
but after a while I forgot about them
and really started to enjoy each song.
The athomphere was what I'd discribe as ''Laid Back'' . The lads put
on a show that you could bring
the whole family to see. There were no
drunks to be seen anywhere, just people of all ages enjoying a bunch of
telling stories of our troubled past with some comical songs thrown
in by Brian Warfield. Tommy Byrne, Noel Nagle and
Brian were in good
form and gave one hundred percent. Brian intriduces most of the songs
and gives a bit of background
information on them all.
After the show was over all of The Wolfe Tones came off stage and stayed
around signing autographs,
chatting to the fans and getting photographs
taken. Nobody was left out as the lads stayed put until everybody was
for. All in all it was the best spent twenty euro in many's the year.
The only gripe I would have being a musician myself
would be for
The Wolfe Tones to get another musician to join them and never to use
backing tracks again, perhaps a mandolin
player. If the ticket price was
incresed to 22 euro this would cover the cost of the other musician.
If ever you thought
about going to hear the lads play, I say go and listen,
you won't be disapointed, they are as fresh and energitic as the
I seen them in The Wexford way back in days of yore.
The Beginning. In the 50's and 60's Irish music was a part of the popular song culture of the time and the Wolfe Tones
were exposed to it as young boys on the radio, at school, in Theatre's and by family members. "There was always music in our
house", said Brian, "both my father and Mother played piano and we had a wind up record player that was constantly in use
scratching out both classical and Irish records". "Irish song and dance was seen and heard at every family occasion it was
an important form of entertainment in those pre Television days". "My father formed the Eire Og girls pipe and drum band",
said Noel, [Tin Whistle Player With The Wolfe Tones
] "and of course every one had their party piece
at the regular family get together, in fact they never needed an occasion to have drinks and a sing song it happened every
weekend after the pub closed".
Brian Warfield and friend Noel Nagle were the founding pillars of the Wolfe Tones
and first took an interest in playing and singing Irish folk music as young teenagers back in 1961. They were introduced to
recordings by a boyfriend of Noels sister Marie, Tony, who had a great collection of records by such groups as the Clancy
Brothers, various Ceili bands and solo players, Pete Seegar, The Weavers, and they enjoyed many a winters night listening
to these records. Tony played the accordion and sang some very fine songs. We both went to whistle lessons in Church Street
where we were taught by Paddy Bawn 0' Brinn and learned many great tunes from him. In time Brian, encouraged his brother Derek,
who took up the mandolin which their father Harry played in a band when in his teens. They traveled to all the Fleadhs to
listen and learn and indeed enjoyed the experience as City boys discovering the countryside. From these humble beginnings
was to grow one of the best and most unique folk bands ever to grace the stages of the world. Here are some of the milestones
of their recordings and development.
- August 1963 they form a band with many of their friends they play at concerts and pubs. Oct 1963 Noel and Brian leave
for England and become the resident band at 4 different folk and one was run by Paul Simon, they got front page of the Essex
Herald. They called themselves Wolfe Tones after the great Irish hero. Jan 1964 Derek and Philip have a group
in Ireland known as circle group, they came to London and rejoin the group.
Easter 64 they go home and they meet Tommy Byrne in Mc Dermot's Pub, Elfin, Co Roscommon. Derek goes back to England.
Noel and Brian join forces with Liam Courtney and are known as the WolfeTone Group. They have many guest performances on Radio
and some Television.
August 64 Derek come back and joins the Wolfe Tones. They get regular spots on Ballad Session
a poplar ballad TV show as a foursome. They meet their first manager Kaare Jonson a Norwegian who has great hopes for the
Sept 64 They are winners at the Rose ofTralee Ballad group and Pub Competition Oct 64 They are watched by Scout from
Fontana records Leslie Mann.
Nov 1964 Tommy Byrne joins the group and replaces Liam Courtney. Tommy had kept in touch with the others since their
first meeting and had played with them on occasions
Nov 64 contract signed with Fontana
Jan 1965 They record their first album at Phillips Studios, Marble Arch, London. Where groups like Wayne Fontana,
Pretty Things and Dave Dee Dozy Becky, Mitch and Titch have all recorded.
March 1965 they get many TV and Radio gigs as they become favourites with RTE and the Irish audience.
- June 1965 they move to the four courts hotel Dublin on Friday's Saturday's and Sunday nighs, it becomes the most sucessiful
show in town and everybody wants to play at it.
1965 They open the Old Shelling Hotel on Mondays for Bill Fuller
1966 Their second release on Fontana "Up The Rebels" was recorded at Eamonn Andrews Studio, Henry Street, Dublin.
1966 The Wolfe Tones open The Embankment in Tallaght on Thursdays for Mick McCarthy August 1966
Sees their first tour of America
- 1967 They meet their new manager Oliver Barry and their partnership lasted until Oliver's departure for his venture with
Century Radio in 1988.
1967 Their radio and television career blossoms and blooms as they have many hit records and chart
1967 The "Rights of Man" released and becomes huge hit, and they have continued success on radio and television
1967 "Teddy Bears Head" is released and there are regular tours of UK and US.
1968 new record deal with Dolphin Records. "The Rifles of the IRA" is released and recorded at Eamonn Andrews Studios. "Uncle Nobby's Steamboat" heralded as a landmark of Irish Music arrangement
that was to be copied by many groups that came later like Planxty.
1969 The Wolfe Tones win the rights to their songs from their record company after 10 years
Dec 1971 "Let The People Sing" becomes a huge seller and publishes photo's smuggled out of Long Kesh on the cover.
1972 continued success on TV a handful of songs are released
- 1973 Their first number one "The Helicopter Song" about an escape from Mountjoy Jail Dublin
1974 Disappointment with the deal made by Dolphin for their old recordings, the Wolfe Tones
form their own record company Triskel and their first release is "Across the Broad Atlantic". "Irish to the Core" followed
- 1975 "Till Ireland a Nation" then 1976 "Belt of the Celts"
1978 "Alive Alive Oh" is recorded live at The National in London.
- 1979 "As Gaeilge" their only Irish speaking album is released.
- 1981 Sees their second No. 1 "Streets of New York" followed by the LP "Spirit of a Nation".
- 1983 "The Sense of Freedom". The Late Late Show which tried to demonize the Tones for singing "Joe Mc Donnell" and supporting the people of the 6 counties.
- 1985 The WolfeTones LP "Profile" was released and the cover was soon to become their logo.
1987 "Sing out for Ireland".
- 1988 The "Greatest Hits" was released on Harmac. Oliver Barry resigns as manager to devote his time to Century Radio.
The "25TH. Anniversary" is released.
1990 From this point on they did not record owing to a dispute over US release of their product with Shanachie Records.
They have continued their recording career since Derek left the group and have had many hit CD's like "Never Beat the Irish"
2000 "Rebels and Heroes" 2001 WolfeTones Live
2002 "The WolfeTones 40th Live" on CD and DVD 2003.
"Celtic Symphony" CD and DVD
This video is an interview with Derek Warfield who was a founder member of The Wolfe Tones. Here Derek explains the reason
why The Wolfe Tones broke up.
2004. "The Troubles"
2005.2006 "1916 Remembered" and The WolfeTones Platinum Collection on EMI. This anthology is
a selection of tracks taken from their many recordings old and new. Up Close with the WolfeTones
Noel Brian and Tommy have
gone from strength to strength since Derek left in Dec 2000 and are still one of the biggest sellers of CD's and the most
popular Irish acts at their time. They continue to make and break records and long may it continue.
So much has been said about the "Tones", as they are affectionately called,a fresh look at this group which has now become
an Irish institution and intrinsic part of Ireland's rich ballad music history. They are now a grand 44 years on the road.
Within this timeframe, they have achieved almost every award and accolade which an Irish folk ballad group can hope to aspire
to. As a band they function on multi-levels; creative, brilliant, humorous, mind-provoking, controversial, heroic, traditional
and contemporary, but at all times they remain entertaining and guarantee to bring a smile to your face.
They are regarded by many as the last in a great line of bards and folk story tellers who have enriched Ireland for the
past thousand years.
Their mission has been to keep the tradition of the Irish ballad alive and flourishing. They have
been similar to the old bards of old in their telling of the story and history of Ireland to the Irish and its' Diaspora.
Their love of performing is evident throughout the past five decades as they carried their music to the four corners of the
world. When they couldn't tour or visit, their CD'S and DVD's spread the music and the heritage throughout the jukeboxes and
iPods of the world. Their music has reached the remotest regions, from the Artic to the Antarctic, from the lowlands of Holland
to the highlands of the Himalayas. Irish group on their many missions and sojourns of discovery.
I Was aware of The Wolfe Tones music from an early age,
I'd say it was around
1977 I bought my first tape, it was
The Rifles Of The I.R.A and from that moment on I was hooked on ballads and in particular
The Wolfe Tones.
This was the 1970's and money was tight, if you had three or four tapes or L.Ps you were made.
I would listen to the same songs over and over and know every word of every song of by heart.
Eventually I collected all
The Wolfe Tones to date and would wait in anticipation for new releases.
I was not content with having all the tapes that
I would buy any singles the record shop had in stock just to listen to the B side of the single.
It was around 1978/79 that I first went to see The Wolfe Tones preform, the gig
was in The Wexford Inn Dublin, the lads played there every Tuesday nights for a couple of years from what I remember.
was one of the top spots in Dublin at the time for ballad groups, a great venue with lots of atmosphere, I'd say it held around
300 and that figure doesn't include the people standing on the tables who were mad drunk with excitement and drink.
The Wolfe Tones surly know how to get the crowd going, they would start of with
a few fast rebel songs, then slow it down with a couple of slow ballads like Slievenamon.
I would be thinking, these fellows
must have been practising this stuff for weeks, but they were already veterans by this stage.
The 'tones were as good live
as recorded, the thing that has always struck me about the band is the harmonies.
The four of them would come in on the
chorus, Derek and Noel would stop playing just for the chorus and then go back to the whistle and mandolin.
The harmonies with The Wolfe Tones was not there with most of the other ballad groups, and there
were plenty around during the 60s and 70s, the exception would by The Johnstons and The Ludlows. But it wasn't just their
style of singing that attracted me to The Wolfe Tones.
Listening to folk songs and ballads has thought me a great deal about the history of Ireland, more
than the education system ever did. Listening to ballads like Kelly Of Killane or Bold Robert Emmett will give an insight
into Irish life at that period in history. Of all The Wolfe Tones songs I've listened to I have found the facts portrayed
in the lyrics to accurately describe events of the time they were written about.
Brian Warfield, the songwriter from The Wolfe Tones has written about most aspects
of Irish life, including it's social and political history. From the powerful ballads of Joe McDonnell and Celtic Symphony,
to humorous songs like Quare Things In Dublin and Uncle Nobby's Steamboat.
In the tradition of folk songwriting he has
very few rivals, the closest would by Shane MacGowan.
Without such a fine songwriter I doubt if the group would still be around today, Brian is constantly
writing new songs and stories. The show is as fresh today as it was 30 years ago. Derek Warfield left the group 2001 to go
solo, he continues o tour Ireland and America mostly. Derek also brought the group to No1 in the Irish charts with Admiral
It's now over 30 years ago since I first bought that Wolf Tones tape and I'm still listening to them, the tapes have
long gone but the music lives on.
I now not only listen, but play their songs on guitar and do my bit to promote Irish music whenever I can. This is just
my own memories from watching the lads play, if you want write your own review and want it published here then send it on
to me. also if you have any sheet music notes for banjo/mandolin or tin whistle notes, please send them to me.
2008 is the 45Th anniversary of the coming together of the Wolfe Tones, very few bands in the history of music have stayed
together so long and with the same line up, except for the departure of Derek the line up has been the same since 1963 when
they formed the band at a fleadh cheol in Elphin County Roscommon. Some music journalist only see the band as 'Rebel Rousing'
balladeers but if that was the case they wouldn't have lasted for this long.
Sure the rebel songs are an important part of Irish folk music..
Take their first album for example, you have songs like Dicey Reilly, The Zoological Gardens, Down In The Mines and Glenswilly,
from The Wolfe Tones first album to their latest they have recorded a mixture of Irish folk and an equal amount of the rebel
I started listening to an old song by the 'tones that someone had posted on Youtube, ''Farewell To
Dublin'' , I had almost forgotten about this wonderful song by Brian with Tommy on vocals. It's truly one of the all time
greatest Dublin songs. Brian should get a lifetime achievement award just for writing this song, but that I'll hardly happen
now will it ? in fact The Wolfe Tones should all get lifetime achievement award for the hugh contribution they have made to
the preservation of Irish folk music.
Ticket prices for all the shows have been kept low and represent great value, normally around £20
or €25, compared to other acts on the folk circuit who charge up to €50, when you decide to go and see The Wolfe
Tones remember you can book your tickets online at the offical site.
Here's a piece of writing from Brian Warfield about Ruth Dudley Edwards who says The Wolfe
Tones should be thrown out of Ireland
Well I cant believe it but she is at it again that is Ruth Dudley Edwards still trying to destroy
and bring down the Tones. In an article published in the Sunday Independent she mentioned The Wolfe Tones as some of the people
she would like to get rid and banish from Ireland, mind you we were not alone, Sinn Fein and Eamonn Dunphy were among her
unlikely chosen few. Now it's not the first time that England or their agents tried to rid Ireland of Irish people, their
bards or those who openly opposed their rule here.
First let me explain something about this horrific woman. My first encounter with her was in 1979
when we were playing in the National in Kilburn London. We were riding high in the Irish top ten with our song tribute
to Padraic Pearse reaching number one in the Irish charts. Gerry Smithers was the manager of the venue and came to me after
the show and told me that there was some oul-wan wanted to see me. She has three names can’t remember them he said will
I let her in. Well OK let her in I said, I didn’t know who she was at this stage. I received her in the green room reserved
for artistes and V.I.P.'s She was ushered in by Gerry and she immediately introduced herself to me. I bought her a drink
and she then proceeded to attack me verbally. You should be ashamed of yourself she said your Brian Warfield
that wrote the song Padraic Pearse, its disgraceful there were over 2000 young people all jumping around and riled up to your
song Padraic Pearse clapping and screaming ready to join the IRA, take up arms and use violence to obtain a united Ireland.
Well I got an opportunity to speak and reply when there was a gap between her ranting and raving as she gulfed her beverage
I interrupted and retorted to her ravings. Ruth, said I, I can’t believe what your saying, these young Irish
people are proud of their Hero and are celebrating his memory and why not, they are enjoying their Irish ballads and heritage
as they are entitled to do, just as much as any other race of people are. Come to think of it, I believe it’s you should
be ashamed not me, your book on Padraic Pearse was an attempt at character assasination. If I was him I would
come back and haunt you for the way you tried to undermine his good name and character, his hero status and the esteem in
which he is held among the Irish people around the world. We went on arguing for awhile on the issue, she knew she had a fight
on her hands. I knew my history and had read her book on Padraic so she left with her tail between her legs.
I came to the conclusion that she believes that the revisionists like her have ownership of Ireland's
history and historic figures and that they can play with it how they will and rubbish those who disagree. I believed it was
wonderful to see so many young people joyously celebrating the anniversary of one of Ireland’s great leaders and enjoying
the music of Irelands greatest ballad groups. After all it was fantastic that a song in tribute to a great hero was bought
in such numbers and with such popularity that it reached no1 in the pop charts.
Now about Ruth Dudley Edwards. Her own brother said she was a looper, a mad woman and that her credentials
were dubious. She has very little understanding of Ireland or the Irish, she is intolerant of Irish nationalism and is arrogant
in attitude so now she wants to banish The Wolfe Tones from Ireland, well is this a good one. All I can say is that she emanates
many historic figures of the past who harboured her ideas from Elizabeth 1 who laid waste to Munster and drove many good Irish
people abroad. Philip and Mary who massacred the Chieftains of Laois and Offaly and disposed the people of those counties.
James 1 who dispossessed Ulster and confiscated their lands driving them from Ireland. Charles, father and son, cheated the
Irish when they offered support to them. Cromwell who killed murdered, plundered confiscated lands and drove many into slavery
in the southern States of America or to the West Indies. William dispossessed the Irish from their lands broke the treaty
of Limerick and banished the soldiers of Erin to the armies of France and Spain. Queen Ann imposed the Penal Laws that drove
our Priests and School teachers abroad, the former to the Continent and the latter to the USA. The policies of the Georges
once again drove the good people of Ireland abroad. In 1798, the good people of Ireland united to rid the country from the
tyrannical Government. It ended in defeat and many were driven from Ireland either as convicts or people escaping the
despotism of English rule in Ireland, The Famine policies of the Victorian regime murdered millions by starvation and further
millions into exile. The history speaks for itself, I could go on and on until the cows come home with further examples but
I think that’s enough to demonstrate what I mean. Isn’t it amazing the hang over of imperialism remains and has
a strong voice and these ideas still exist in Ireland today in the form of people like Ruth Dudley Edwards. Maybe
just like Cromwell, she would like to banish the Tones to hell or to where ever. However she is like all these characters
who all had one thing in common, they all outlawed the Bards and balladeers of Ireland and tried to drive out the Irish who
opposed them from Ireland