HIT SINGER /songwriter Mick Hanly and guitar virtuoso Arty McGlynn play The Crane next week: Be sure to catch them.
Limerick-born performer Mick Hanly is widely considered one of Ireland’s true songwriting greats having written hits such as ‘My Love Is In America’, ‘Happy As A Baby In Your Arms’ and ‘Past the Point of Rescue’. Throughout the 1970s he recorded with names such as Donal Lunny, Andy Irvine, Michael O’Domhnaill, Declan Sinnott and Dolores Keane. In the early 1980s he was chosen to replace Christy Moore as lead vocalist in Irish group Moving Hearts.
It was in the summer of 1991 that Mick’s career reached extraordinary heights when American country music star Hal Ketchum took his song ‘Past the Point of Rescue’ to the top of the US music charts. The song was subsequently recorded by The Dixie Chicks, Mary Black and a host of others. It scooped two BMI Awards and had over one million American radio plays. It was to change Mick’s life and career forever. Country music phenomenon Garth Brooks said of Hanly and his craft, “His songs are real, they mean something. He is one of the best songwriters around”
In anticipation of the release of his 10th solo studio album and his first DVD, Hanly will play The Crane Bar, Sea Road, alongside guitarist Arty McGlynn, on Thursday August 12 at 9pm.
The late Pulitzer Prize-winning author Frank McCourt drew a vivid portrait of the depression and deep poverty afflicting post-war Limerick City in his memoir Angela’s Ashes. Mick Hanly was born and raised in Limerick in the late 1940s and early 1950s. His father had a job in the local bacon factory but still money was always tight. “My childhood wasn’t as miserable as Frank’s was but still I didn’t enjoy it all that much,” Mick states. “The 1940s and 50s in Ireland was a very oppressive time and there wasn’t much hope. I found the Christian Brothers School very difficult because corporal punishment was still in place and as a result I just didn’t get on. I subsequently read Angela’s Ashes and I thought it was a masterpiece. He got it dead on in terms of what Limerick was like and the power of the clergy in the city. It was exactly like that. No doubt about that.”
Hanly channeled his memories of the brutality of his Christian Brothers education into the song ‘All I Remember’ (also the title of his 1989 Donal Lunny-produced album ) and into his autobiography ‘Wish Me Well’. Yet in general Mick has happy memories of his upbringing and in particular of the period in the 1950s when he first heard American rock ‘n’ roll music. He was also an avid cinema fan and dreamed of becoming a cowboy. “Outside of school, Limerick city was a great place to grow up,” Hanly recalls, “I used to play down by the Plassey River with my friends and that was a great experience. We used to play Cowboys and Indians and it was a very popular game with all the young people. We got all these stories from the cinema and then we acted them out. The movie people like Roy Rogers and John Wayne were a big inspiration.”
In the mid-1950s Mick cast aside his Wild West dreams and instead became obsessed with American pop/country music stars such as Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly and The Everly Brothers. Hanly was drawn to the fresh and innovative sound of Radio Luxembourg and had his eyes opened to an exciting future. He purchased a guitar for £2 and rehearsed the hits of The Shadows, Elvis and others. “Pop music was a great escape,” he says. “I was tuning into Radio Luxembourg and I listened to every hit song. When I was about 11 or 12 we got our first record player in the house. My sister was working and she bought a few singles. After that I was playing songs by Woody Guthrie and other folk artists. I hardly knew any Irish folk songs.”
Mick’s parents tolerated his love of music but ultimately they wished that he would find himself a permanent and pensionable job with a State body or with the civil service. In 1970 he started work with the ESB in Galway but when he had time off in the summer he would perform songs and recite stories at the legendary Hotel Sacre Coeur in Salthill. “I have wonderful memories of The Sac and it was a very happy time in my life,” Mick says. “A few friend and I had a residency there for four months every year and we’d play run-of-the-mill stuff like ‘Galway Bay’ and ‘I’ll Take You Home Again Kathleen’. It used to be stuffed every single night of the week.”
Michael O’Donnell of The Bothy Band encouraged Hanly to develop his songwriting craft and by the late 1970s he was a well-established Irish folk troubadour. His songs were coming more and more to the forefront and in the late 80s and early ‘90s acclaimed producer Jim Rooney brought a number of his compositions to Nashville. Rising American country singer Hal Ketchum latched on to one in particular and made it his own. “I never really heard ‘Past the Point of Rescue’ as an American country song,” Mick says. “Jim Rooney and Allen Reynolds - who were working with Hal Ketchum on his first major-label album – put the twang on it and it became a big hit. At the time I wasn’t all the interested in what was happening in Nashville. I could have followed up on it but I didn’t want to be living there writing ‘Past the Point of Rescue’ over and over again.”
Instead the hit songwriter has done things his own way and tours and records sporadically. For his upcoming Galway appearance he will be joined by his long time friend and collaborator Arty McGlynn. Arty was born in Omagh into a family steeped in Irish traditional music. He started on the accordion but swiftly moved on to guitar and was performing professionally by the age of 15. During the 1960s he served his apprenticeship with a local showband and toured Ireland and the UK. In 1979 he recorded his first solo album McGlynn’s Fancy and subsequently was one of the most sought after musicians in the country. He played and recorded with the likes of Christy Moore, Paul Brady and Liam O’Flynn and was a member of groups such as Planxty, De Dannan and the Van Morrison Band. “I met Arty just after he had left the Van Morrison Band and we recorded a couple of albums together,” Hanly says. “He brought on board experienced people like Kenny Craddock and Fran Breen and we had a very good time recording together.”
For tickets phone 091-597419 or log on to www.thecranebar.com
For more information and tickets contact The Crane on 091 - 587419 or see www.thecranebar.com