Quiet stalwart of the show band scene


Doc Carroll: The death after a lengthy illness of Doc Carroll (65) removes a link with the golden era of showband music in Ireland in the 1960s and 1970s.

 Doc Carroll and the Royal Blues were the first west of Ireland act to top the Irish charts with the song Old Man Trouble, and at their peak they played six nights a week to crowds often in excess of 3,000 people.

Doc Carroll was born Martin O'Carroll in Tourmakeady, Co Mayo, on November 19th, 1939, but from a young age became known as Doc Carroll. His father Frank was a GP and his mother was an American, Catherine Collins. The family moved across Lough Mask to Ballinrobe when Doc Carroll was young.

He received his primary school education at Ballinrobe CBS, from where he progressed to St Nathy's College, Ballaghaderreen. From a young age, he displayed a love of music. He was an accomplished singer and played piano, guitar, banjo and accordion.

Carroll studied to be a radio officer at Atlantic College, Dublin. But the lure of music proved irresistible, and he enjoyed stints with the Pete Brown Showband and The Cleffonaires.

In 1962 Mayo promoter Andy Creighton put together Doc Carroll and The Royal Blues. The other band members were Shay O'Hara, Brendan Arnold, Vincent and Frank Gill, Don Flanagan, Bobby Smith and Brian Carr. Curiously, a young Louis Walsh took his first steps in the music industry by helping Creighton at that time.

In later years Carroll admitted he felt for his parents who were shocked by his decision to go full-time into music. "I could not blame them. I was throwing away everything for what must have been to them a big gamble," he said.

By 1963 Doc Carroll and the Royal Blues had become one of the big acts on the Irish showband scene and embarked on their first major tour of America.

Over the next 40 years Doc Carroll would spend long periods touring England and America.

"People who didn't live through the showband era in Ireland find it hard to comprehend how big it was. When Doc Carroll and the Royal Blues came to town, everyone danced," said a close friend and showband veteran.

At the end of 1965 Doc Carroll and the Royal Blues released the Fats Domino number Old Man Trouble as their debut single. Carroll was at the wedding of a family friend in Galway on the night the disc went to No 1. He was carried round the dance-floor.

Old Man Trouble spent two weeks in the No 1 slot before being displaced by Nancy Sinatra singing These Boots Are Made For Walkin'.

Doc Carroll and the Royal Blues enjoyed glorious years on the showband circuit until 1972, when they broke up. He continued to make a living from the music industry through the entire 1970s, 1980s and 1990s in a variety of bands - Doc Carroll and the Night Runners, Doc Carroll and the All-Stars - and also as a solo artist.

The Royal Blues reunited on a number of occasions, most notably in 1983 when they played before 2,000 people in Claremorris Town Hall, and again in 2001 when they played a weeklong series of dates around Ireland.

Carroll introduced some well-known stars to the music industry, including Tony Allen of Foster & Allen, and Donna McCaul, who will represent Ireland in the Eurovision later this month. He spent much of the 1990s touring England.

Yet Carroll never had his head turned by the music scene. He enjoyed huge popularity and respect. He was a willing, but quiet, worker for charity. Friends and family say his priorities in life were religion, family, music and sport. "He lived by the Ten Commandments, and was a great adviser and mentor to many people, including all of us in his family," said a family member.

Carroll was a keen angler, golfer, and snooker player. He followed the Gaelic football fortunes of his native Mayo and was an avid rugby fan.

Through the final days of his illness in St Vincent's Private Hospital, Dublin, his family gathered around him. "He tried to protect us to the end. He didn't want us to be sad at all," said a family member. The family sang to him as he slipped away, including his favourite song Blueberry Hill.

Carroll is the first of the Royal Blues to die, though charismatic manager Andy Creighton passed away in recent years.

Many of the band, and countless other figures from the Irish music scene, attended the funeral ceremonies in Athlone and Coosan on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Carroll married Mary Moran, from Athlone, on January 30th, 1967. He is survived by Mary, daughters Claudine and Nicola, sons Franklin and Conor, brothers and sisters John, Kieran, Bernadette, Isobel and Kathleen.

Martin "Doc" Carroll: born November 19th, 1939; died May 1st, 2005