Ireland's first female country star Maisie McDaniel - mother of Lisa Stanley
Maisie McDaniel Born Mary Anne McDaniel, "Maisie" was one of the earliest female superstars of the Irish entertainment industry. At the height of her fame, Maisie was a regular guest on Irish TV, had hit records and was one of the most recognizable faces in Ireland. Sligo began her career winning prizes at singing competitions around Ireland. She became a celebrity when she won a major ballad competition in Swinford, Co. Mayo and turned professional under the watchful eye of manager, George O'Reilly. By 1963 Maisie was playing the ballroom circuit with her own group, The Fendermen. Maisie's earliest recordings were typical girl pop vocals on the UK Fontana label, but it was George who suggested Maisie move to country and western music and she never looked back. However, even though she was a major star, appearing on (RTE's Jamboree programme and Maureen Potter radio show, the Fendermen were dwarfed by the powerhouse lineups of showbands like Brendan Bowyer and the Royal, Butch Moore and The Capitol, and Dickie Rock and the Miami. In late 1964, her manager, George O'Reilly, decided it was time for Maisie to hit the showband circuit. She was to front the new Nevada showband, who had achieved only moderate success with Brian O'Brien as their lead singer, but Maisie's role in their success was to be short lived. On January 21, 1965, tragedy struck when she was seriously injured (breaking her hip) in an accident as a passenger in a car driven by showband entrepreneur, Oliver Barry. She was off the road, out of the Nevada and hospitalized for several months after the accident. And because of the accident, Maisie missed her chance to represent Ireland at Eurovision and was replaced by Dickie Rock in the National Song Contest. After recuperating on her farm in Tullyhill, outside Sligo, Maisie decided to take a break from show business and in May, 1965 she married ace accordion player Fintan Stanley. Fintan and Maisie went to England for several years, playing the cabaret scene there, but were enticed back to Ireland in 1969 when she was offered the chance to be part of a new Telefis Eireann show, Hoot-nanny, which was hosted by Shay Healy (who would later write Johnny Logan's Eurovision smash in 1980, What's Another Year). The show was a huge success and as a result, she and Fintan formed a five piece group called the Ramblers which originally included Des Moore (brother of Butch) on guitar. The re-launch of Maisie also included a unique "package" which manager George O'Reilly put together which also included the Paragon Showband, along with Maisie and the Ramblers. In the March 6th, 1970 issue of Spotlight it was reported that the five piece group was expanding to six with the addition of the Cadets former front man, Gregory Donaghy with his first appearance set for at Easter Sunday. With the move, the band was renamed the Nashville Ramblers and they released a duet single, Okie From Muskogee which featured both Maisie and Gregory. Although there seemed to be a glut of country bands hitting the road around this time, The Nashville Ramblers were being touted as one of the up and coming bands on the scene, mostly because of Maisie's earlier successes. The band toured England and also appeared on the BBC Show, Country Meets Folk, as well as recording a spot for Larry Cunningham's Show on RTE. Eventually Fintan and Maisie split up and Fintan emigrated to the United States where he still lives today in Massachusetts. However, in 1985, Maisie came out of her semi retirement and went into Greenfields Studios in County Galway to record an album of her former hits. Sadly, Maisie passed away at her home in Sligo on June 28, 2008. She had retired from performing for many years, although her legacy as one of Ireland's premier female vocalists of the early 1960's lives on in her daughter, Lisa who released a CD of Maisie's hits in late 2009.
Fintan Stanley - legendary five-row button accordionist - Father of Lisa Stanley
Fintan Stanley Fintan Stanley, from Clogherhead, Co. Louth was the middle son of three children. His father worked in the printing trade (as did his grandfather and Fintan's brother, Joe. Fintan, however, was destined for a totally different lifestyle. He received his first instrument, a single row button accordion from his Father when he was twelve years old. He took to the instrument quickly and soon upgraded to a double row "box." He soon was gaining a reputation for himself and appeared on the Radio Eireann series "Children at the Microphone." He entered the All Ireland National Accordion Championships and came in second. A year later, at the tender age of 14, he walked away with the top price and was crowned All Ireland Champion. Soon after, Fintan was offered a spot with the Gallowglass Ceili Band when he was only 15. Based in County Kildare, the band was one of the top dance bands in the country just prior to the Showband explosion which would sweep the country in the late fifties. Around the same time, he started playing with another Country Louth musician, Dermot O'Brien, in his Ceili Band and with his contemporary group, The Clubmen. As was the norm in those days, most musicians were only part time and by day they worked at various trades. However, Fintan was not interested in the family printing business and left music to take to life on the sea. For the next few years, he signed on with ocean liners and cargo ships, giving him the opportunity to see the world. He spent 18 months working the fishing trade in Australia and spent time in Jamaica and South Africa. Fintan returned to Ireland in the late fifties and rejoined the Gallowglass band, but by this time, the showband craze had overtaken the Ceili bands, so the Gallowglass journeyed to Britain and America. They played in New York's Carnegie Hall. As the sixties progressed, Fintan returned to Ireland and met and married Ireland's top female country vocalist of the era, Maisie McDaniel. 1965 was to be a key year for Fintan as in January, his fiancé, Maisie was seriously injured in a car accident which cut short her intended showband career with the Nevada Showband. Then in May, 1965 the couple were married and went to England for several years, playing the cabaret scene there, but were enticed back to Ireland in 1969 when Maisie was offered the chance to be part of a new Telefis Eireann show, Hoot-nanny, which was hosted by Shay Healy (who would later write Johnny Logan's Eurovision smash in 1980, What's Another Year). Fintan and Maisie returned to Sligo and after the success of the show, they put together a band called the Nashville Ramblers and hit the ballroom circuit. Country music was big at the time with bands like the Smokey Mountain Ramblers, Big Tom and the Mainliners and others starting a new trend. Fintan and Maisie were set to climb to the top of the entertainment scene again, but it was not to be. Maisie left the band after a few months and within six months, Fintan followed suit.The couple "retired" to Maisie's family farm in Tully Hill, outside Sligo and started playing the cabaret scene around the Northwest. For several years, Fintan and Maisie did very well on the local scene, but eventually, after the birth of their only daughter, Lisa, they split up and Fintan emigrated to the United States alone. He settled in Queens, New York, as did many Irish and found a new audience for his accordion playing and his unique style of Irish ballad singing. However, big city life did not agree with Fintan and he was quoted in an article in Seanchai Newsletter in 1991 that "many a night I had one hand on the phone to Aer Lingus and a one way ticket home." Fintan stuck it out and eventually moved away from New York to Boston and a much quieter lifestyle. He continued to play his accordion and thrill audiences up and down the Eastern seaboard of the United States, with occasional trips home to visit family and friends in Ireland.