Interview with Tony Allen by D.J. Jerry Byrne
I'm Jerry Byrne and assistant pandemic and all the rest of them speaking to many of the great and the good talents of music in Ireland and my next guest is a gentleman who needs no introduction to the world of music in fact not alone in Ireland this man has quite literally toured the world as one half of the most successful duo ever to come out of Ireland I'm delighted to say hello to the one and only Tony Allen of Foster And Allen. Tony how are you ? I'm very good how are you not bad, Tony listen you've you've spent an absolute lifetime of incredible achievements in music but you you come originally from the the back in the in the short band days I do yeah well I started actually the first one of the first groups I ever worked in Mick Foster was in it was a very local band where I come from in Mount Temple which is outside, near Athlone in the Midlands.
And there was a parish our club was G.A.A. club was called colorie and the parish next to us was called Maryland and they were running a series of fundraisers in the in the local school and the boys down there formed a three-piece band and then Mick Foster joined the band and then I joined the band and we played together for a couple years doing all the the local halls around home you know every school and all around the villages and that and then we went our separate ways and I went working with Kieran Kelly's band for a while replaced Brendan Shine as Kieran singer and after that then I joined the great doctor and the night runners for a few years and I was in it was with the night runners that when doc left again then formed another band we we toured Mick joined the band again then make and we can auntie or Tom was two saxophones.
Believe it or not in the band and we were in in London on tour with the night runners and we met a man called Paddy Callahan who had the lock for a hotel in Brixton and Paddy was taking over a pub in up near Kilburn called the Prince of Wales, which was down at Kilburn station down there and he asked us would we when we step in liquid we do a weak him open the pub. I was just keyboards and accordion and that basically was very fast from now and started in cape kilburn at kilburn tube station we did a weekend we had a great weekend we said when we went home let's, let's have a go at the pubs and clubs around Ireland with this two-piece and that's where it started back in 1980 74 early 75. truly incredible it was a it was all kind of a you know an accidental situation but it for some reason it really really clicked well mic A Bunch Of Thyme lyrics and chords had the idea they could see Mick Foster had seen the Alexander brothers and he thought he was amazed with them.
Because they're just a keyboard and an accordion you know and that's how we started out and we walked all over Ireland from up to 70 up to 80 81 or 82 to read the top of the pops and it was after that then we decided to add to the group and we were doing the clubs and around all the every village in Ireland had a good pub like a good cabaret lounge you know and we were very lucky because we worked all over Ireland and you know we worked during the summertime we'd worked seven nights a week and then of course we signed up with cmr records Donnie Cassidy and we'd we'd recorded an album, let's see any ammo was an album at the time an LP and then we signed up with cma records and then only had his own radio show and already radio and that kind of lifted the whole thing you know to another level and then when the Bunch Of Thyme was released in the U.K.
Of course that changed everything, because then we were on top of the pops and that gives us a whole new lease of life in the U.K. and we started doing the from doing the Irish centers in England to doing the concerts and we've been doing them ever since and the fred stuckwood was over there from then of course Maggie was released in Australia and went to number one in in Australia and New Zealand and that again then listed the whole thing out out there for us and I love you all my life the charlie runsville song that was released in South Africa and Canada and that became a hit in those two places so we finished up tour the world on on those songs you know and then in in 82 after top of the pops we we we dropped the green suits the leprechaun shoots we dropped them and started wearing dress suits and we were joined on stage then by Ali Kennedy and Desi Hines also to the four pieces till the end of the eighties.
And then we added Basil Hendricks to the group that I meant to lay it Frank Summersley charges on drums and then of course later on then Myra came on the keyboards and then Brian who is our president guitar Ryan joined us sometime later so it you know we've been very very lucky to have to have toured the world and we're still touring the world which is good that is absolutely superb I mean it's been an astounding it's been an absolute roller coaster because you've mentioned some of the songs there but I mean some of these songs I mean have been absolutely phenomenal. Is it like you mentioned there I would love you all my life a bunch of time another one after all these years you mentioned they're Maggie, Old Flames huge success, yeah I mean you also had a you know a lot of success with the the Old Rustic Bridge By The Mill the sweet forget me not also a Mick on lead vocal with The Blacksmith which was absolutely huge was a great sound back we still got requests on stage for the blacksmith and the blacksmith there were two songs that that big recorded and they were hugely successful they didn't well the blacksmith was the b side of the bunch of time in Ireland and and it was a hugely popular song.
We just got requests for both The Blacksmith and the black sheep and we we go on stage and then later on like later on we've recorded about I'd say over 900 songs over the years and later on then pg Murray we were 40 years of the road which is six six years ago now I think yeah and please emerge wrote we all view which was called the you know sort of a reply to the people saying that you know that that's what was all about was because of them we lasted so long and then he wrote Mrs Brown's voice first as well and those two songs have been huge you know really really huge and then of course we did the the song with with with method which which really works very very well as well you know so and always a lot of different things you know we did the carver girl with Shane Ward which of course was a huge hit for us not a huge hit record sales wise but radio players and all that like in the U.K.
It got a massive amount of airplay indeed the interesting thing I spoke to make back a few months ago and he, he was telling me the story of the black sheep and how he didn't really want to record it and did not think it would work well. I actually was driving home, than and local it was still pirate radio in Ireland at the time and I must have been well mulling I think radio 3 was coming from Mullingar that time in midlands radio and Johnny luckily was on the radio singing it and Johnny did a lovely version of it was a very slow version the late great Johnny luckily who was and and I helped this song I said she's that'd be a great song for me you know and she was very slow and I tend to forget he didn't really like it that much but we were doing a a week in the brain rooms in Dublin and we went back that long Chad Nicholson had a studio and at home it was long before we opened the wrong studio and we went back late one night after the brim rooms and spent the whole night in the studio and we changed it to an all-time boss and recorded and it was at that time it was all cassettes.
Because I remember well we brought out a four-track cassette with the black sheep and it sold like mad in Ireland. It was really good you know and that was a huge success we have some but he's a great sound you know hank snow stuff you know it's a really good song indeed indeed fantastic you know I just found it you know I found a quite a you know unbelievable like you know that you know that he didn't actually sort of think that you know this will work and he really was not into it at all he told me the story of that you know how you got the song was incredible it really was I mean but of all those I mean like that's a you know you would other songs I mean which yeah which are also what you haven't mentioned they are I mean there's just so many as you said it's probably but you know but we're talking 900 or so but there were other songs which were very successful for you .
I've got a lot of radio airplay I mean you recorded with Gloria honey for the old classic true love true love yeah yeah true love yeah you know that oh that was one of the first tourettes I ever did was it was and we didn't do one after that for a long time that was back in the days when we were with with mcclurkin's record company in London and he there with Gloria had an album with them at the time as well and they suggested we do the songs really in lovely sound smooth very very well and did it you know other songs I mean 1988 you had a lot of success with some called the golden years that's right yeah that was recorded as a it was a company in Dublin where we're doing an ad for the bank of Ireland or something like that but they had introduced this this thing in the bank where they were were doing something for senior citizens in the bank you know and there's somebody who wrote this song called the golden years for them and yeah that came out it was it never wasn't would say hit record but it was a got a huge radio play.
it was a very very very popular song at the time indeed indeed it's one it's but astounding so it all came the same as everybody else Tony it all came to a to a crushing stop back in in in in March your your last concert I believe was in January of 2020. oh well last concert I think was in kenya where every Christmas we do a tour of Ireland we start the night after boxing night and we we sort of run right through to the end of January book and not every night but you know we do about maybe 18 or 20 years and the last night was in I think it was in Kenny last year and then we came home and Derek Ryan had asked me to do a few shows with him as a guest and I did, I did a few with him I think just to show us what I know Olivia Douglas was on the show as well and we did Wexford , Killarney and Limerick written and had finished those shows and the next thing then virus broke out and we were all off the road and we've been out abroad ever since which is it's supposed to it's a year and a couple of months now and it doesn't look like we're going to be back well we won't be,
Foster and Allen won't be back definitely about Christmas time this year you know indeed yes I know magic was I mean all of you are oh you know all of your workers you're saying there is it's all concerts I mean it's all sort of theaters and others. Yeah it is all here yeah in hotels which is very very easy to work in and they're great but then when it comes to getting people into pavers from here on it could be a bit of a a problem you know we have to convince them all that it's safe to come back up but we're already working on a well we have an album finished we haven't finished now for for all over uni finished for last Christmas and it didn't come out it's ready to rock and roll as the villa says okay and this year hope to have I made 46 years with Foster now and I've never recorded Mick has recorded a few albums and he's all of traditional music and stuff like that and I've never done an album of my own so I'm hoping to get into the studio in the next couple of months to to do an album just a Tony Allen random and see how that goes just for for something different you know.
indeed, why not why not it's the appointment yeah is the new album tony is it, it's kind of typical Foster and Allen are there any new tracks on it is actually it no it's actually more of the all-time fast now there's a lot of sort of older Irish type songs lively songs you know and there's a few new sounds there's a great new song that that's written by Derek Ryan and Ray Mclaughlin his keyboard player it's a song called the good old days when times are bad and they've just finished it when I was on to that to Derek you've been writing a song and I went up to to cook sound to see them one day and we're on stage walking on something and I said what do you use that boy she said Derek says we're right we're finishing that song for you here he says I said that's great he says it'll be great when you go we were just going to Australia he said be great when you go to Australia.
I said yeah go to Australia for good old days I said you know and he says that's the name of the sun that's the song we were writing that's gone so I was talking to him then one night when when I was touring I said he said how's the sound coming out I said it's really really cheap and I'm good but I said you know what, I really put the finishing touches with and he says well I said if you came in and did did you advertise honestly he says no problem so he came down to the studio and we did we did the duet and we have a video done for so it's ready to go whenever whenever things left a bit you know but yes the album will be quite good I think we're doing a few standards like we'll meet again and songs like that you know to to and in fact that could end up that what could be the name of the album because when we come back on the road you know come out and see us or wheeling again that type of thing you know so we could even end up calling the tour down at Christmas.
Yeah a lot of old standards and stuff like that but it'll be a very fast and elegant type album right that's excellent you know it's a Derek Ryan I'll have to say is a phenomenal songwriter ah he's unbelievable, he's his credit you know and he's as good as songwriters as we've ever had in this country you know you know we've had some great ones like Liam Riley and Phillip Coulter or Kevin Sheeran but he's he's up there with him you know he can write anything once he's a he's a born songwriter you know it's a natural indeed very very much a natural yeah indeed I mean he's written so many songs you know which other which he has never recorded himself oh yeah so so so many of them you know it's nice to it's it's great to know that just you know that you've still got your you know material coming out and you recordings I mean in in all of that in all of that over the years you actually recorded and released two Christmas albums as well well we we did this over an hour and a half and and it came out originally we're back in the what kind of chat was actually the first album we ever did in our own studio and was in the late 80s was a Christmas album and it came out and released it years later.
And we added some more songs too you know but we haven't done trouble with Christmas albums is there so many Christmas standards and that's it you know now in fairness to Derek he has he did a very good Christmas album himself last Christmas and I think you wrote a few new songs for it but yeah well we we might do something like that again you know later on maybe when we get back on the road again indeed indeed so is it still as enjoyable as there always was doing the touring. Well I absolutely love it and I'm not too sure that Mick is that mad about being on the road motion at this stage he keeps saying he'd like to slow down a bit you know and that's well that's another reason why I wanted to do an album .I started to do something a little bit different from Foster And Allen.
So maybe at some stage I could go out on the road and do a different type of concert you know but at the moment in Christmas and on the new year pretty much Foster and Allen might say you know let's see what happens I don't know I really love what I do I love I know I love being on the road I love to travel and I love to the life concerts there's nothing like you like concert indeed indeed and it's also another thing which is it's also magic and so many singers say they miss it is meeting the people oh absolutely yeah that means that'll be the big thing now when we come back because you probably won't get to go out and meet people after the show to be probably too dangerous for a while anyway you know but because we'll we'll see how it goes you know but it would be it's a terrible yeah it'd be terrible not to be able to go and sell other people you know, because you know they're the ones that make it all worthwhile.
Whether we like it or not that's the way it goes you know we make the music fellas like yourself play it and then the people come in and listen to it and that's that's how it works indeed indeed so did you've done I know a little in the past but do you do you do much work with your your wife Trina Allen who's also a fantastic vocalist and I will train the works with Daniel O'Donnell of course and I'd love a lot no she did another one I did a few I did a few tracks down in fact when I do the admin I'll definitely bring her along to sing a few songs but people saying no we don't we don't do any work together she she works with Daniel all the time and I think because I can wear on the road Daniel is down the other road as well so it's it's it works fine for us you know we don't we don't want to be to well if she came with me then she'd have to turn down the answers for Daniel that wouldn't be what he's right here well indeed yes she said you know Trina has been with Daniel for many many years she's also done a lot of oh I think she's she's the longest servant member you know collaborations and recordings with others as she's done a couple of fantastic recordings of billy Mcfarland she did they were great songs actually yeah absolutely brilliant trooper you know he's great he's a lovely man billiard and man the wife are absolutely lovely people indeed and I don't know if you know Billy thirsty but he's the funniest man you could meet on the road really yes yes indeed great character yeah indeed great character no doubt about it and it's it's you know I must say it's it's strange times.
Tony you're you're no doubt you you're sort of itching to get going whenever it's safe to do so again but you're still keeping you're still keeping the interest in in music oh absolutely still yeah yeah we did I did a few things here now on the 15th of may I've got to record the James with guaranty and through the voice of the I think it's called on the couch or something like that music from the couch and that goes out on on online should they stream that show and I think Gary gamble does it with him one day that's I've until a few songs in that and I don't know when it's going out it's been recorded on the 15th of May but Joe dawning and a few things like that you know and then before the lockdown I did a lot of bits and pieces up here with people like Sean Wllace and people like that you know over on the course I did a few tracks with them Owen Mac as well they did a song with on Farside Banks of Jordan which worked very very well for us.
Indeed so it did yes I've you know played it many many times it's taken from the Owen's Gospel album and I'll have to say it is a song which has proved it very very popular yeah we we got around with that book I did a couple of stream shows with him as well he did one of the gospel album and he did he was doing a Christmas stream show as well so yeah he's going to be very very big in the music business indeed so indeed so huge huge huge reaction I think he's going to be he's going to be the biggest thing in the next five or six years he's just being that yes yes very very very talented very talented gentleman indeed and you know he's only your genius which is a huge help indeed definitely is it Tony this has been fascinating catching up with you I'm you know I'm delighted to, you know to see that you're still as enthusiastic as you were all those years ago well absolutely yeah yeah yeah I'm looking forward to our own album and I'm looking forward to starting to work on on my own album as well you know I'd love to take that on the road for for on on tour as well you know sometimes just put a slightly different head shoulder or just for a once-off clip or something like that you know indeed that's you know that definitely sounds good tony listen fantastic to to chat to you fantastic job with you listen to to yourself and your lady wife Trina stay safe and stay well. I'm looking forward to catching you on stage as soon as it's safe to do so yes absolutely you look after yourself and take it easy and and send all your listeners you know thank you all for for being there you're all you're a listener which is a good thing you know.
Interview done in 2015
I'm delighted that at one half of the famous duo Foster And Allen we now know for those of you who like some facts and figures make and as performing and recording partner Tony Allen are celebrating in incredible 40 years in the music business together. Now in the U.K. the popularity is enduring, they've had 30 chart bursting albums and sales of about 20 million. They're about to embark on a tour called celebration with the album of the same name make a very good afternoon.how are you doing, not too bad at all, a real pleasure to have you on the program. You got off to a cracking start with new album celebration riding high in the U.K. charts. Yeah came straight in at number 30 which was created said that several and top 30 cd's or LP'S or whatever you want to call them that that we've had over the years and sure look at was were delayed and I suppose semi surprise for want of a better way.
You're not really supposed to last 40 years in this game you know. Indeed a very very few acts out there I'm particularly, yeah it may be you know two people will say or a group of people who ever actually remain together what he put down today the longevity, you are you very close friends yourself under it's only know we're not close friends, we have this unique records that in you know we started playing together in 1967 and that was the first time we ever played together and we didn't start fast, we actually started in London in 1975 but in that time we never even had an argument rose and I suppose a lot of it is down to the fact that both of us think the same way about music and the business and whatever and pop of all that then would be never any friction or competition with us because I mean, what I do Tony can't doing what he does they can't do so the be never any danger of the truth was wanting to record or whatever you know.
Yes you certainly both of your voices from the point of view singing or a big credibly different you did to Elena a word do able do all you know I of all the instrumentals, obviously and they would stick to the Irish ballads and comedy songs and stuff like that, where he would do the as we decided that the classy stuff you know indeed, yes he true he really is an incredible voice a lot to say 25 days on integrating of service my lady singer yes and you the mount of course with the for anybody who does know you're the man with the accordion that big old accordion which you merge to master all over the years in true style.
I mean there's many people actually found of yourself for purchase your accordion playing. Oh yeah, over the years you know you did you get an awful lot of traditional Irish music fans that would be only just interested in jigs and horn beeps and then you get other people that would be just love accordion music whether the walls or the poor care or whatever and just love accordion music. So you know, we do five or six instrumentals and in the course of the show and the rest of the damages and we would always do five or six off whatever was on CD at the time and then we would pick a variety of stuff you know over the last 40 years that we would have gone a lot of requests for.
Now you're actually embarking on a 22 date U.K. tour and your it's sort of what you start off al fast really and then you move over to to England on the twenty-fourth of October and you go right through the 22nd of November in Dunstable that's right and so far this year we've we've started in South Africa then we did Scotland then we'd in New Zealand then we did Canada and no word only you care and we do three weeks in Ireland after Christmas and then will hibernate for a while. That's a pretty that's a fairly hectic work schedule even after 40 years, it's a fairly heavy work shell is set up for 20 women like the normal church will we give head down and keep going. I think your two guys that sort of really never aged, I mean like that the easily you see the circle recognizable from you first appeared 40 years ago.
I don't know, when you look at some of that and he covers, then and now. This is a lot of like a hair anyway and on his beard has stored and white and stuff like that but I suppose in general, we haven't you worn you've worn well the hard work has work now I'll be playing some tracks from the the album celebration between now and Christmas was 20 tracks and not I would make a great present for the Christmas or at any stage now your ability to actually keep material fresh sort of never wanes in addition to standard favorites you some interesting collaborations with other artists, you've a tract with the Chieftains on that album and also with the late Jimmy him and I was a hero of yours yeah well Jimmy was you know he grew up listen from it was four or five was this until they all 70 years and my grandmother had a Jimi shined and over the years we got to meet him and become great friends with him and he passed away in two thousand, and both his son Jimmy jr. gave us one of the master tapes of his died on the band and we brought into the Stewart and we went in and cleared along with him so that's how that's psyche emotion or how we manage to do that even though the manager says nearly 15 years dead and then we had him alone.
Ian and myself and sat down and we decided was that we do this Courtin' in the kitchen song with the chieftain son and Kevin Connor fat thingiverse and and we'd finish up with it with a real at the end of it and that's how I came about and rest of it was dented yes from the so great sauce I noticed that the sort of the leading track of the song was released as a single is that we overhaul to you some with my P.J. Mora he yeah well P.J. has written several songs that we recorded over the years as his music partner shimmer Shannon boat and this one he said butyrate a song for the 40th anniversary and it's it was it's a song now really a Buddhist more so than that is given thanks to you know people like you and our audience and all that the people that have made a career possible to the last 40 years
Cause, there's no point in making records if you have no one to play them or if you have no one to buy them or if you have no one home to the concert so it's really saying thanks to to all the people from promo audience to as a theatre at your presenters and TV presenters that has eros dolphin helped us out over the 40 year that's by the dateless ''we owe it all to you'' right cleverly cleverly a puzzle have to say now you you can see foster a load on tour from the 24th of October and to tea at the back tears or haze 31st the leisure an art center Stevenage second under them but the Grove theatre Datsun on twenty-second of the Weber and we've the full list of values at our website Irish radio org at the album celebration is out at the moment.
Mick listen here's to the next 40 years as a real pleasure to speak with you all together thanks very much torrents or local we go down fighting to retire and they that we we're trying yet to 50 years old if we can anywhere maybe we won't make another 40 but with Ranger 10 big big list is a real pleasure continued success know about the thanks Jerry, thank you very much. straddle over in 1975 the journey ended digging which sums about the blacksmith under animals of spring later came in the bunch of You made our dreams come true when we topped the Pops in England back in nineteen eighty two forty years upon the sea all the time is for but all the friends around us you've always been I'm Foster and I'm Allen I love you all my life song with your two hours. New Zealand on Australia call when Maggie topped the charts they loved our songs in Canada and in the USA South Africa owes memories which are each to this day 40 years upon the stage with all the friends around you always be okay we do I'm Foster and a mother I'm we owe it all to you we often wonder to ourselves to swear the time has gone but the old flame is still burning and the show goes on and on so we keep on playing the older box the songs you love to hear our glad you oldest in your hearts after all these years for with all the friends around us we never walk alone you always we do I'm Foster and I'm Allen Oh to you faster and I'm alone absolutely cry he does a little sigil of Detroit take it from the album celebration as they celebrate 40 years together that's Foster and Allen.
Irish folk song lyrics, chords and a whole lot more