Music ~ Bob’s first love
(The picture above [discography http://irishrock.org/irodb/bands/stepaside.html] was taken outside the Dail – Robert’s the one in the middle, rolling a, eh, cigarette… Don’t know who took the picture)
Anyone who knows Robert Bolton knows that he loves music in all its forms and expressions. It’s the one consistent thing in his life and, not only does he love to play, but his enthusiasm for high performance standards is infectious. Having had the pleasure of working with him for many years, I can truly say that we’ve never had a disagreement about music: when I married ‘Mr Right’ I kind of knew his first name was ‘Always’ – when it came to music, anyway. In our time together, we’ve sometimes been together for 48 hours at a time,: done four hour gigs, five nights a week for several weeks, and not had a cross word about how it should be done. Bob’s a professional to his core.
Getting his Masters degree in Music from Tinity College was a big achievement for Robert. Being a working musician for over 40 years before going back to school must have been strange for him, but he loved college and was determined to get a good degree. It would not have occured to him to have done any other subject.
As I’m biased I’m reluctant to praise my husband but he well deserves it. Primarily a bass player, Bob is also a singer, guitarist, harmonica player and has a repitoire of classical pieces on piano. However, it’s on bass he excels and he loves performing, being on stage. He’s a great front man and can carry a gig vocally without turning a hair.
When he decided to’semi-retire from playing live a few years ago, he began re-working and working on original songs and and favourite covers for a blues album he wanted to do. His 16-track studio is right here, waiting for him.
It’s important that his career as a musician is documented – he wouldn’t have done it himself so I’m trying to put it together on his behalf.
Please also see ‘Our California Years’ http://bit.ly/JXG7Ps
I’m in the process of researching other pictures, etc., so will add as I find them.
It started with ‘That’s Allright Mama’… Bob was taught to play guitar by his mum, Rita. She also taught him to sing harmonies and she herself played piano. Bob told me that, when he was about twelve years old he heard Elvis singing ‘That’s Alright Mama’ on the radio, and it all fell into place for him right there. ‘That’s what I want to do’, he thought, ‘I want to sound like that.; make people feel like I’m feeling now.’ And so began his love affair with rock n’roll which has never ended.
One of Bob’s first bands was The Rollintones with Fran Byrne, Harry Evans and Niall Byrne. Robert has noted: ‘The Rollintones were Ireland’s first tribute band. We soon saw the limitations of the name and changed it to ‘Some People’. That’s me straddling the horse through in that attractive manner. Pic was taken in the Phoenix Park.’ The newspaper article below, from the Evening Herald, claims that ‘the Rollintones were the centre of a near-riot in Holland. More than 3,000 yelling teenagers ‘almost tore them asunder’ but not for the love of them.’ I won’t say that this didn’t happen but I think it was a bit of a publicity stunt because, as far as I know, Bob was never in Holland until he and I went there about six years ago…
An undated newspaper clipping says: ‘… Rollin Tones manager Jackie Johnson told me he and his four-strong group were offering £100 to the person who could think of a suitable new name for the outfit… that was handed over to a woman who came up with a title which, in the boys’ opinion, was “the greatest”. And she was handed one hundred one pound notes. The winner was Mrs May Tsan of Wellington Road, Templeogue, and it was to her that Jackie and his Dublin friends (Harry Evans, Niall Byrne, Fran Byrne and Robert Bolton) gave the cash. And what of the new name? Well, the Rollin Tones now become Some People.’
I’ll attempt to list the bands Bob has played with in date order – it’s likely I’ll get it wrong somewhere but I’m taking the info from his photo/cuttings album.
Don’t know where in Bob’s career The Stellas (below) would slot in. I believe they were the resident band of the Stella Ballroom in Mount Merrion, which later became The Sportsmans Inn.
Uptown Band ~ Bob Bolton, Mojo, Pat Nash, Dick O’Leary and Brendan Bonass. An undated press cutting from ‘Larry Gogan’s Corner’ says: ‘I’ve got many queries over the last few weeks about two young bands on the scene – The Voodoos and the Uptown Band. I do know about the Uptown Band. For seven months they’ve been playing the club and society party scene here in Dublin. A couple of weeks ago this entertaining group guested at the New Spotlight Night Out – what a night out! They up-roared through a fast moving programme which opened with the Stevie Winwood hit ‘Paper Seen’. Their music was driving and danceable, with teh boys working very hard on stage, especially near the end with a great rendering of Eddie Floyd’s ‘Knock on Wood’… the shouts of ‘more! more!’ at the end of their performance can only mean that the Uptown Band can only go up, up and away. The lineup, by the way, is lead guitar and vocals Brenny; rhythm and vocals Dick; organ and vocals Mojo; bass and vocals Bobby; drums and vocals Mark’ [sic – actually it was Pat Nash]. See also http://www.irishshowbands.net/bguptown.htm
Below, the Chosen Few ~ Bob Bolton, Robbie Brennan, Brendan Bonass and Deke O’Brien ~ who later changed their name to Salty Dog after adding steel guitarist Basil Hendricks to the lineup (see newspaper clipping):
Jazz Bag ~ Bob Bolton, Dave McInaney, Brian Dunning and Robbie Brennan ~ below from the Evening Press, Tuesday January 25th 1972:
Next came Beats Workin when Bob worked with Cahir O’Doherty, Brian Harris, Bob Kelly and later, drummer Jimmy Compton (when the drummer pictured below – who’s name I don’t know – left):
Stepaside ~ The first newspaper lineup below shows, from left: Robbie Brennan (drums), Chris Meehan (piano), Bob Bolton (bass), Brendan Bonass (guitar) and Bob Kelly (guitar). The article goes on to say: ‘..the amazing drumming and bass work of Robbie Brennan and Bob Bolton… the fulcrums on which the whole band swing…‘
Irish Rock website (http://irishrock.org/irodb/bands/stepaside.html) says: “Named after a Dublin suburb, Stepaside was formed in 1971 by Bob Bolton and Bobby Kelly after the break up of the Chosen Few. Bolton had previously been with Some People, The Uptown Band and The Stellas, while Kelly had been with The Hootenannys and The Greenbeats. They recruited Basil Hendricks (steel guitar), Jimmy Faulkner (electric guitar), Chris Meehan (piano) and Ritchie McCabe (drums) for the first lineup.
This original Stepaside was a country rock band active up until c.1977. Basil Hendricks AKA Henriques was a renowned pedal steel player who’d played with showbands (e.g. The Virginians)… He left Steapside to join another showband. This was during the counry music boom in the showband world. Ritchie McCabe was replaced by Robbie Brennan, who’d played with Bolton in The Chosen Few. When Jimmy Faulkner left to form Hotfoot, Brenny Bonass (also ex-Chosen Few) joined on guitar. This lineup played boogie, blues and country rock. In a newspaper review from the period, journalist Fachtna O’Kelly mentiones many covers played during their set at Toner’s pub in Dublin, including ‘Tequila Sunrise’, ‘Drift Away’, Barmaid in the Honky-Tonk Downstairs’, ‘Great Balls of Fire’, and the Doobie Brothers ‘Country Grove’.
Chris Meehan left to become a barrister and was replaced by Dave McInaney (ex-Rootzgroop) on piano. This is the linup that toured with Kevin Johnson in 1976. By now the band was attracting record company attention and they were approached by Solomon & Peres, the Belfast music business mogols who’d signed Van Morrison’s Them. Wary of their fearsome reputation, Bob Bolton did not want to sign with them. After a live performance on BBC Northern Ireland in 1977, Solomon & Peres offered them a three-year contract. All bar Bolton were eager to sign and this led to Bolton leaving Stepaside and joining the Swarbriggs band. Solomon & Pere withdrew their offer. Bolton was replaced by Gerry O’Donovan. Bobby Kelly had left the band by this point too.”
‘The Negatives’ (below) Bob Bolton, Robbie Brennan, Mark Costigan (aka Mark Mark) and Dave McInaney [aka Dave Kodak/The Great Gonzo). The Negatives landed support for Eric Clapton’s Irish tour in 1981, and according to the press at the time: ‘Eric Clapton and his band return to Ireland at the end of this month to play four dates under the banner of the ‘Just one Night Irish Tour ’81’… tour opens January 31st at the RDS Simmonscourt followed by Leisureland Galway, City Hall Cork and Youth Centre Carlow. Tickets cost £6 for all dates except Dublin (£6.40)… support act for all the gigs are The Negatives, a new band comprising of four people all of whom have been associated with previous Stepaside incarnations. The Negatives line up reads: Bob Bolton (bass, vocals), Robbie brennan (drums), The Great Gonzo (keyboards), and Mark Mark (guitar, vocals). The band have just released a version of the Leiber and Stoller song ‘Love Potion No. 9′ as their debut single for WEA’.
Bob has played with The Swarbriggs and Johnny Logan and worked as a session bass player for lots of Irish artists, travelling the country from one end to the other. He regularly depped with John Keogh of Full Circle and numerous other well-known Irish bands and knows every musician of his generation. I felt fooish once when I commented on Foster and Allen’s ‘The Blacksmith’ (made some comment about my mother liking them) when Bob muttered something about having played the bass line… I immediately back-pedalled – as Bob says when I slag anyone: ‘they speak highly of you…’ (I get away with nothing).
At some stage in the 1980s Robert and Jimmy Compton (ex-Swarbriggs and Beats Workin) joined forces with Declan Kennedy and did a circuit of gigs in Dublin to quite an appreciative audience. However, I have to check with Declan about the band name (I only remember being roped in to do the door whenever I was available: never a popular job but I got the maximum amount of the sorely-needed cover charge from punters).
There’s a lot to be added to this history and I’ve asked some of Bob’s earliest collaborators and oldest friends Bob Kelly, Brian Harris, Brendan Bonass and Declan Kennedy to help me get my facts straight and add any detail that they think may be relevant. They have agreed to do so.