The Clancy Brothers are a family of singing Irish expatriates who have been important figures in re-popularizing their native music in North America and are still among the most internationally renowned Irish folk bands. Some even credit the band as important figures in starting the folk revival of the '50s and '60s.
The Clancys, Tom, Pat and Liam were born in Carrick-on-Suir, County Tiperrary, Ireland to a family of nine, all of whom were musically inclined. Tom and Pat emigrated to New York around the early '50s to become actors. Liam and his friend Tommy Makem, born in Keady, County Armagh the son of noted balladeer Sarah Makem, came to the U.S. in 1956. Before Liam emigrated, he had founded a dramatic society and had put on a play taking over the direction, producing and set design himself. He had also acted at the famed Gaiety Theatre in Dublin. Both he and Makem also hoped to have acting careers in New York. The Clancy Brothers with Tommy Makem (as they were first billed) came together to sing fund-raising concerts for the Cherry Lane Theater and at the Guthrie benefits. Forgoing the stereotypical maudlin Irish ballads in favor of lusty party songs, traditional American and Irish folk songs and even protest tunes sung in close harmony and performed most theatrically, the Clancys soon became popular folk performers around Greenwich Village. In the mid-'50s, Pat founded Tradition Records so the Clancys and Makem could begin recording. Early recordings include "The Rising of the Moon" and "Come Fill Your Glass with Me."
By recording and touring often, the Clancys continued to become more and more popular in Eastern and Midwestern clubs, but it was their debut on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1961 that brought them national exposure. Originally scheduled to only play three minutes, they ended up playing for 16 minutes and became an instant national sensation and soon signed a major contract with Columbia Records. The Clancys continued recording and performing together through 1969. That year Makem left to pursue his solo career. In 1975, Liam departed; he and Makem were replaced by brother Bobby Clancy and their nephew Robbie O'Connell. Since then, the original members have occasionally regrouped for reunion concerts. Tom Clancy died in 1990 but the band continued on. ~ Sandra Brennan