The Irish Rovers return

It has been nearly five decades since they played their first musical notes together yet there is still no stopping Canadian legends The Irish Rovers.

Sure, there might be a few more grey hairs on their heads since they formed in Toronto in 1963 but the musical flame still burns brightly for the six-piece group of Irish natives.

The Irish Rovers will return to Moncton this Saturday for a show at Casino New Brunswick. Show time is 7 p.m.

From a concert stop in Michigan, founding member George Millar says The Irish Rovers routinely perform three major tours during the course of the year, each comprised of 20 to 25 shows. George admits their schedule is perfect for the semi-retired state they currently consider themselves a part of.

“When you’re 21 years old, you can be out on the road for six months at a time and be no worse for the wear. When you’re older and have families and children, you definitely do not want to be away as much,” a jubilant, easy-going George says. “Sleeping on bad mattresses for three weeks at a time is enough; it is always nice to get home.

“The only way to look at it after all these years, is that we are blessed. We get to do the job we want to do and actually get paid money to do it. You can’t ask for much better than that really.”

Indeed, The Irish Rovers have consistently taken a great deal of pride in both their live shows and recordings over the past five decades. The group recently released its first concert DVD, Home In Ireland, which features some of the band’s tried and true hits in addition to a number of songs from Gracehill Fair, the Rovers’ newest studio effort, released early last year. Asked whether there is the possibility of a DVD release of The Irish Rovers television show, which originally aired in the early 1970s, George says it is not the first time that the question has been posed.

“There are still a few copyright clearances we need to obtain before we can release any of the old shows on DVD,” he says. “The reason for it is that the CBC owns some of the copyrights associated to the show due to the orchestra who accompanied us; we own the other part of the show though. It is very much about crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s at this point.”

Though he understands the interest from fans in seeing the Irish Rovers television shows again, George says that he doesn’t believe that the time is right for releasing the shows.

“I watch some of the shows every now and then and our hair is down to our shoulders and we are all wearing bellbottom pants,” he laughs. “I think it will be a few years yet before we think about releasing the shows on DVD.”

Asked who left the biggest impression on him of all of the guests that appeared on the show, George doesn’t hesitate in giving his answer: Bobby Darin.

“Bobby passed away approximately two months after he appeared on our show and was just such a talented man. Probably my favourite memory of him being on the show was seeing him come out for dress rehearsal in a three-piece suit. Of course, he took one look at us in our jeans and sweaters, excused himself and emerged from his dressing room 10 minutes later in jeans and a sweater,” he chuckles.

“And that is what we found: get these musicians away from their agents and their managers and they would be willing to do anything you want them to do.”

Though the Irish Rovers’ band members live in various locales around the world, getting back together for touring and making music a few times a year is anything but a chore.

George sums up the group’s motivation to continue rather simply: “It is the people who keep us going. There is no bigger reason than that as to why we should continue playing. If people weren’t coming out to see us, we wouldn’t be doing this. We love doing what we are doing, and while people are still there coming to see us, there is no reason to think about retiring.”

Article published in March 17, 2011 edition of the Times & Transcript