A founding member of the Dubliners, Ronnie Drew served as lead vocalist and guitar player during two stints with the traditional Irish band (1962 to 1974, and 1979 to 1995). Since leaving the group to resume a solo career, Drew has continued to garner acclaim for his gutsy delivery and raw-edged vocals that have been described as "the sound of coke being crushed under a door."
Drew has been involved with a wide range of artists. While his 1995 solo album, Dirty Rotten Shame, featured a duet, "Drinkin' in the Day," with Bono of U2, he served as a guest vocalist on Jah Wobble's 1998 album, The Celtic Poets. In addition to touring with De Danaan during a 1996 tour of Europe, Drew performed in Italy with pianist Antonio Breschi in April 1997 and Australia and New Zealand with Donal Lunny in May 1997. In 1996, Drew performed with Niall Toibin in a musical production, The Bells of Hell. He toured in 1998 in a one-man cabaret show, Ronnie, I Hardly Knew Ye. Many of Drew's recent solo concerts have been collaborations with guitarist Mike Hanrahan.
Born in Glasthule, a small village about eight miles from Dublin, Drew attended school in Dun Laghaire. Leaving school at the age of 17, he spent seven years worked in a series of jobs including as an electrical apprentice, an assistant in a drapery shop, an electric equipment and vacuum cleaner salesman, a kitchen porter, a hotel elevator operator, and a telephonist for the Dublin Telephone Exchange.
In the early '60s, Drew accompanied several fellow telephone exchange workers who were traveling to Spain to become English teachers. He remained in Spain for a brief period before returning to Dublin. Upon his return, he joined a group of singers and musicians who congregated regularly at O'Donoghue's Pub. Drew's interests in Irish folk music was sparked by listening to radio shows Ceolta Fire and Ballad Makers Saturday Night. By his early twenties, he had taught himself to play guitar and had built a growing repertoire of songs. Agreeing to pool their resources, the musicians began performing as the Ronnie Drew Folk Group in 1962. Later changing their name to the Dubliners, the group went on to become a world-renowned folk band. Although he left the group in 1975 and recorded two solo albums -- Ronnie Drew and Guaranteed -- Drew returned four years later. He remained an essential part of the Dubliners until 1995. In 1998, he appeared, with his son, Phelim, in a BBC production of The Ambassador. The following year, he released his fourth solo album, The Humour Is on Me. ~ Craig Harris