For more than half a century, this Celtic super-group has charmed and entertained audiences around the world with their exciting stage shows and live performances of their original rollicking drinking songs and beautiful ballads. Regularly touring the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, The Irish Rovers’ hits such as “The Unicorn,” “Wasn’t That a Party,” and “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” have sold millions of copies worldwide. On this final world tour, the Unicorn Tour 2018, the band hopes to bid a proper farewell to all those they have entertained for these many years.
CAPA presents The Irish Rovers at the Southern Theatre (21 E. Main St.) on Sunday, March 4, at 7 pm. Tickets are $30-$60 at the CAPA Ticket Center (39 E. State St.), all Ticketmaster outlets, and www.ticketmaster.com. To purchase tickets by phone, please call (614) 469-0939 or (800) 745-3000.
The story of the Rovers began in 1963, when 16-year-old George Millar and 23-year-old Jim Ferguson, both new emigrants from N. Ireland, met in Toronto at an Irish function. They ended up singing together until dawn; and so, The Irish Rovers were launched. They performed as a duo until George’s cousin, Joe Millar, immigrated to Canada the following year. Joe, who sang traditional ballads and played button-key was recruited as he stepped off the plane. George’s musician father, Bob Millar, who was also a button-key accordion player, became the band’s first manager. For the next several months, Bob guided the new band which started playing folk festivals, clubs, The Port o’ Call, and Toronto’s Royal Alexandra Hotel.
George, Jimmy, and Joe left Toronto for Calgary to stay with brother Will who was singing folk songs at Phil’s Pancake House. This led to a daily children’s TV show called “Just 4 Fun.” After a long stint at Calgary’s Depression Café, the four Rovers headed off to “Americay”, landing in at San Francisco’s famous folk club, The Purple Onion, headlining for an unprecedented 22 sold-out weeks. The folk clubs of California became a learning ground for the young Rovers, and they were offered a recording contract with Decca Records.
The success of their debut album, The First of The Irish Rovers, led to their second album, The Unicorn. At this time, Wilcil McDowell was added and completed the famous original lineup. In 1968, the predecessor of the Juno Awards named The Irish Rovers, “Canada’s Folk Group of the Year,” and the following year, they received a Grammy nomination for “Folk Performance of the Year.”
Through the ‘70s and early ‘80s, the Rovers brought their magic to TV, guest-starring in several programs before starring in three of their own—“The Irish Rovers Show,” “Party With The Rovers,” and “The Rovers Comedy House.”
At the start of the ‘80s, The Rovers’ magic worked on another unknown novelty song. “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” became an immediate seasonal anthem and rose to the Top 20 within a week of radio play. The Rovers also soared to the top of the pop and country charts with “Wasn’t That a Party,” which was written by friend Tom Paxton after witnessing one of the band’s famous post-show parties. It has gone on to become an international anthem of good cheer.
Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau personally asked the band to become Canadian citizens so that they could officially represent Canada throughout the world. Since then, they have represented Canada at no less than five World Expos, and in recognition for a quarter century of contributions to the International music world, The Irish Rovers won the Performing Rights Organization’s (PROCAN) Harold Moon Award.
In 1993, the band established their own record company, Rover Records.
With original members George Millar and Wilcil McDowell, the lineup for “The Unicorn Tour 2018” includes Sean O’Driscoll, Ian Millar, Fred Graham, Morris Crum, Geoffrey Kelly, and Gerry O’Connor.
Will Millar left the group in 1994, and sadly, Jimmy Ferguson passed away in 1997. In 2005, Joe Millar retired, and his son Ian took up the family ranks. All members hail from Ireland except Scottish born Geoff Kelly.
The Irish Rovers are still passionate about performing and will continue to tour and entertain. Like the Unicorn, the Rovers are legendary and magical, and a good time is guaranteed for all.
CAPA presents THE IRISH ROVERS
Sunday, March 4, 7 pm
Southern Theatre (21 E. Main St.)
For more than half a century, this Celtic super-group has charmed and entertained audiences around the world with their exciting stage shows and live performances of their original rollicking drinking songs and beautiful ballads. Tickets are $30-$60 at the CAPA Ticket Center (39 E. State St.), all Ticketmaster outlets, and www.ticketmaster.com. To purchase tickets by phone, please call (614) 469-0939 or (800) 745-3000. www.capa.com
The Ohio Arts Council helped fund this program with state tax dollars to encourage economic growth, education excellence, and cultural enrichment for all Ohioans. CAPA also appreciates the generous support of The National Endowment for the Arts, the Martha G. Staub, Roy V. and Eloise F. Thomas, and James W. Overstreet Funds of The Columbus Foundation, and the Greater Columbus Arts Council.
Owner/operator of downtown Columbus’ magnificent historic theatres (Ohio Theatre, Palace Theatre, Southern Theatre) and manager of the Riffe Center Theatre Complex, Lincoln Theatre, Drexel Theatre, Jeanne B. McCoy Community Center for the Arts (New Albany, OH), and the Shubert Theater (New Haven, CT), CAPA is a non-profit, award-winning presenter of national and international performing arts and entertainment. For more information, visit www.capa.com.