Five decades down the road and Frank McCaffrey is still enjoying the music trail. The passing of the years rests easy on the shoulders of this proud son of Mayo who has seen it all at home and overseas.

With Croagh Patrick (known locally to many as the Reek) towering behind the family home outside Westport, Frank has always been proud to call this enchanting region overlooking Clew Bay the place where his heart is anchored in such a special way.

Last week at the TF Royal Theatre in Castlebar during the Transatlantic Journey Home concert, organised by Mayo County Council in association with Home to Mayo, Frank was the recipient of a major presentation to honour his superb contribution to his home county over the last 50 years.

His first venture into the showbiz scene was when he joined a band led by the late Basil Morahan from Louisburgh (better known as Dan the Street Singer) and later with Pat Friel and The Frielmen.

It was his time with Margo and The Country Folk that saw his profile spread countrywide. He played guitar and got the chance to sing many songs at shows all over Ireland and especially on their many trips to England where the young man from Mayo went down a treat.

Around 30 years ago, Mick Clerkin signed Frank, then a solo artist, to Ritz Records, the same company behind Daniel O’Donnell. It was a measure of the respect in which Frank was held at the highest level in Irish country music.

Frank was one of the first Irish artists to see the demand for country music and Irish songs in the small theatres dotted around England. He moved away from the dancing circuit and quickly established a considerable following across the Irish Sea.

“Many of the people who came to my shows were English with a fondness for good country music and Irish ballads. They just wanted a homely and intimate night at concert shows and had little or no interest in the dancing scene. I absolutely loved the concert scene and the rapport with the audiences.

“It did involve a lot of travelling in the early years but the advent of Knock Airport in 1985 was a blessing for me. It could out all the long haul journeys from Mayo to Dublin and across the Irish Sea down to London. I think we should never forget Msgr James Horan and his vision and foresight here in the west of Ireland,” says Frank.

Country music has always held a special place in Frank’s repertoire and among his main influences on the American scene were Merle Haggard and George Jones.

“I often think how lucky I have been to have featured on the same shows as George Jones and Tom Jones. I performed with George on his shows in Castlebar and Letterkenny some years ago. I also had the honour of meeting Tom Jones when we both featured on Gerry Kelly’s Show on UTV in Belfast. I sang More Than Yesterday on that show and Tom was such a gentleman to all us guests that night. Sharing stages with Stonewall Jackson and Jim Ed Brown from America are also special memories.

“None of us who had the absolute privilege of being on the same stage as Big Tom and calling him a close friend can ever forget that unique honour. He will always command a special place in the folklore of country music,” says Frank.

His legion of friends join with us in extending warmest good wishes to Frank on this milestone anniversary.

Susan’s back on track

Susan McCann.

Armagh native, Susan McCann, has returned to the recording scene after an absence of some years. The 15 track collection, After All This Time, was launched at a gala afternoon in Stewart’s Music Shop in Dungannon.

She was joined by a host of singers including Philomena Begley, Hugo Duncan, Derek Ryan and Malachi Cush for the celebrations in the shop which is owned by Raymond Stewart, a brother of the late great Gene, one of Ireland’s most iconic country singers.

The title track was written by Derek Ryan and Eoin Glacken and the album includes a number of popular medleys as well as such standards as The Rose of Mooncoin, Isle of Innisfree, and Pick Me Up On Your Way Down. Her granddaughters, Sinéad and Laura, also feature on the album.

Susan’s major break on the circuit came back in 1978 when she recorded Big Tom Is Still The King, a song that spent two weeks at number 1 in the Irish Top 20.

Last year, Susan underwent major treatment for bowel cancer which came as a huge shock to herself, her husband Dennis and the family. Luckily, things have progressed well for her and she received the all-clear some months ago.

Susan McCann’s brand new album can be ordered direct from

Jo keeps it country

It is country music all the way every Monday night from 9pm to 11pm on Raidio na Gaeltachta. Jo Ní Chéide has established a major following for her weekly show, An Bóthar go Nashville, which features a fine selection of country singers from Ireland and America. Go n-éirí an t-adh leat, Jo.

Read more

Country sound: Margo on the move around

Country Sound: Shawn Cuddy honoured in Donegal