Makem and Clancy

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Makem and Clancy
Also known as Tommy Makem & Liam Clancy
Origin County Tipperary and County Armagh, Ireland
Genres Traditional Irish, Folk, Celtic
Years active 1975–1988
Labels Blackbird Records, Shanachie Records
Associated acts The Clancy Brothers
Past members Tommy Makem
Liam Clancy

Makem and Clancy was an Irish folk duo popular in the 1970s and 1980s. The group consisted of Tommy Makem and Liam Clancy, who had originally achieved fame as a part of the trailblazing folk group The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem in the 1960s. Makem and Clancy sang a combination of traditional Irish music, folks songs from a variety of countries, and newly written pieces, including compositions that Tommy Makem himself wrote. One reporter described their music as "more polished and varied than that used by the Clancy Brothers."[1]

Although best known for their albums, concerts, and television programs, Makem and Clancy had three top ten singles in Ireland, including the number one hit, "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda."[2] Upon Liam Clancy's death in 2009, Irish broadcaster and writer Shay Healy noted about the group: "America had Elvis, Britain had The Beatles—Ireland had Makem and Clancy."[3]


After initially achieving fame with The Clancy Brothers, Tommy Makem began a solo career in 1969. Liam Clancy also left The Clancy Brothers group by the mid-1970s. Suffering financial setbacks because of unreported taxes, Clancy filed for bankruptcy and moved his family to live with his in-laws in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.[4] His solo gigs in Calgary caught the attention of a television producer, who signed him for thirteen episodes of his own music and talk show. The show was a hit and Liam was signed for twenty-six more episodes. At the same time, Makem was also achieving success in concerts and television appearances, including a Canadian television series of his own.[5]

Makem and Clancy both performed as solo acts at the Cleveland Irish Festival in July 1975. According to interviews, the two of them had to keep meeting with each other to make sure the other did not sing the same songs at each other's separate gigs. They decided to team up for a one-time performance together at the festival. Their pairing was successful, and they received an enthusiastic standing ovation from the audience.[5] Soon after, Clancy invited Makem onto his Canadian television series, "The Liam Clancy Show." On the final show of the season, Makem appeared as a guest. This hit episode, which won a Canadian Emmy Award for 'best half-hour entertainment in a variety show,' led to the two of them being signed together for twenty-six additional episodes on television.[1] Their show was called "The Makem & Clancy Show."

Recordings and appearances[edit]

On the last episode of their television show, Scottish folk singer Archie Fisher appeared as a guest performer. Fisher told Makem and Clancy he wanted to produce a record with them. Fisher produced their debut self-titled album, Tommy Makem & Liam Clancy in 1976. The album included all new songs they had not recorded before, including Makem's own compositions "Windmills" and Gordon Bok's "Hills of Isle Au Haut." The last minute addition of the anti-war song, "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda," added to the album's success. The song quickly became Clancy's signature piece and reached the number one spot on the Irish music charts.[2][6] With Maurice Cassidy as their international manager and Tommy's wife Mary Makem as their manager in the United States, the duo began their first tour in February 1976.

Makem and Clancy followed their debut studio album with a live record recorded at the Gaiety Theater in Dublin in July 1977, the double LP The Makem & Clancy Concert. They continued performing successfully in Ireland, England, Australia, Canada and the United States with several television specials and successful follow-up albums. They brought their old show from Canada to PBS in America and filmed thirteen new episodes for New Hampshire PBS.

In 1978, they hired a total of ten backup musicians to help record their next effort, a studio album called Two for the Early Dew. The album featured mostly calmer ballads such as the now classic "Red is the Rose," "Dawning of the Day," "Grey October Clouds," another Gordon Bok number "Clear Away in the Morning," and "Journey's End." The latter became their standard closing song. Fast, up-tempo songs included the Irish language "Cruiscan Lan," previously recorded by the Clancy Brothers mostly in English. The opening song "Day of the Clipper" came from the group Schooner Fare, whom Makem and Clancy had recently seen in concert. When Schooner Fare saw Makem and Clancy in the audience they immediately changed their entire repertoire into Clancy songs, except for one song, "Day of the Clipper." After the show, Tommy and Liam told the fledging group they were a bit disappointed they sang stuff they knew, but they asked, "What was that other song?" They loved it so much, it was used as their opening number.

Two songs from the album, "Red is the Rose" and "Morning Glory," became top ten hits in Ireland in 1979. The former song, for which Clancy sang the lead, rose to the third spot on the singles chart. Later in the year, "Morning Glory" reached the seventh position on the same chart.[2] The title of the album was taken from a line in this song: "One for the morning glory, two for the early dew, three for the man who will stand his ground, and four for the love of you."

During the rest of the 1970s and early 1980s, they recorded several singles, some of which made it onto their compilation album, Makem & Clancy Collection in 1980. TV specials such as an on location show called "The Music Makers" followed.

In 1983, Makem and Clancy recorded their fifth album, Makem & Clancy Live at the National Concert Hall. The album was recorded on 6 February 1983 at Dublin's National Concert Hall and included an acclaimed rendition of Tommy's Four Green Fields. The concert was also filmed for Irish television and PBS in America and included several songs not included on the album, such as Pete Seeger's Rainbow Race. "Little Beggarman" from this album features a wooden dancing marionette man manipulated by Liam to dance to the beat of the song. This version of the song reportedly received lots of airtime on radio and has become a favourite of many fans.


After a hiatus when they rejoined The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem for a reunion tour in 1984–1985, Makem and Clancy returned to the recording studio in 1986 to produce their final album together, We've Come a Long Way. Not wishing to overstay their welcome or to let their material begin to go stale, the duo amicably broke up after thirteen years in 1988. Makem noted at the time that this was a "mutual decision" and that the two men remained friends. Both Clancy and Makem resumed the solo careers they had begun before reuniting in 1975.[1][7][8]

Tommy Makem died in August 2007. Liam Clancy died in December 2009.


  • Tommy Makem and Liam Clancy (1976)
  • The Makem & Clancy Concert (1977)
  • Two for the Early Dew (1978)
  • The Makem and Clancy Collection (1980) – contains previously released material and singles
  • Live at the National Concert Hall (1983)
  • We've Come A Long Way (1986)


  1. ^ a b c Corr, John (13 March 1988). "Irish Duo Makem And Clancy Planning A Friendly Parting". Inquirer (Philadelphia). Retrieved 18 April 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c "Search the Charts". The Irish Charts. Retrieved 15 June 2014. 
  3. ^ Carson, Niall (8 December 2009). "Music and laughter as Clancy is laid to rest". Belfast Telegraph. 
  4. ^ Alan Gilsenan (director) (2009). The Yellow Bittern: The Life and Times of Liam Clancy (Documentary/DVD). RTÉ. 
  5. ^ a b "A little bit of Irish humor reunited Clancy, Makem". Vancouver Sun. 4 May 1987. p. C6. 
  6. ^ Irwin, Colin (29 October 1977). "Folk: When Irish eyes are glaring...". Melody Maker 52 (44): 64. 
  7. ^ Clinton, Audrey (4 March 1988). "Makem and Clancy to Go Their Separate Ways". Newsday. p. 17. 
  8. ^ "Obituary of Tommy Makem Bard of Armagh who found fame as a folk singer with the Clancy Brothers". Daily Telegraph (London). 3 August 2007. p. 27.