Poignant last interview with Liam Clancy in Irish America magazine
The luck of the Irish
- News / Liam, last of Clancy Brothers, dies in Ireland / Click here
- Tom Deignan column / Poignant last interview with Liam Clancy / Click here
- Paul Keating column / Clancy Brothers' Liam: The last man standing / Click here
- Paul Keating column / Tommy Makem's legend will live on / Click here
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- Photos / Vintage photos from Irish America archive / Click here
As Liam Clancy remembers it, being asked to perform on The Ed Sullivan Show did not seem like a big deal.
“We just did not understand the significance,” he told Irish America in a recent interview, during a publicity tour to promote a brilliant re-release of The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem performing live at New York City’s Carnegie Hall in 1963.
Two years before that historic performance, as Clancy recalls, they were a group of slightly shady characters best known in that bohemian redoubt, Greenwich Village.
“Irish-Americans weren’t really interested in us,” said Liam, the youngest of the Clancy brothers. “Pete Seeger played with us. A lot of people said: ‘They’ve got a Communist up there.’ So most of our audience were folkies and liberal Jews.”
That all changed in March of 1961. The Clancys and Makem had already moved uptown to the Blue Angel on East 55th Street, a more respectable establishment frequented by TV talent scouts.
Sure enough, the Irish musicians impressed one of Ed Sullivan’s scouts. The quartet later showed up at the Sullivan show studio for a Sunday rehearsal, only to be told that the evening’s scheduled headliner, Pearl Bailey, had bowed out.
Could the Irish men perhaps substitute?
That night, 80 million Americans from Boston to L.A. heard the revolutionary sounds of The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem – the performance lasted a record-breaking 16 minutes.
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