Center for the Arts to Present International Ambassadors of Irish Music, The Irish Rovers

By Karin Abu-Middain

Release Date: February 6, 2008 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The Center for the Arts at the University at Buffalo will present The Irish Rovers at 8 p.m. on March 6 in the Mainstage Theatre in the Center for the Arts on the UB North (Amherst) Campus. The performance is sponsored by Monaco's Violin Shop and Music Center.

For more than four decades, The Irish Rovers have charmed and entertained audiences around the world with their exciting stage shows. Throughout the years, these international ambassadors of Irish music have maintained their timeless ability to deliver a rollicking, rousing performance of good cheer. Their songs have become anthems of revelry and joy among generations of fans.

The story of the Irish Rovers starts in Canada, where the 16-year old George Millar and 23-year old Jim Ferguson, both new immigrants from Northern 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 played button-key accordion and harmonica, and also sang traditional ballads, was recruited as he stepped off the plane. After several months of engagements around Ontario, the trio made their way to Calgary, Alberta, where they joined forces with George's brother, Will Millar.

The four Rovers then headed off to America -- landing in at the famous folk club "The Purple Onion" in San Francisco, where they ended up headlining for an unprecedented 22 sold-out weeks. The folk clubs of California became the learning grounds for the young Rovers, and they were offered a recording contract with Decca Records.

In 1966, "The First Of The Irish Rovers," a live album recorded at "The Icehouse" in Pasadena, was released. It generated enough excitement to warrant another album, and from this release came the million-selling single "The Unicorn," the band's signature song to this day. Wilcil McDowell, an old friend from Ireland, joined the band at this time, enhancing their sound and rounding out the group.

Through the 1970s and early 1980s, the Rovers brought their magic to television with a weekly series for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and later, a series on the Global Network in conjunction with Ulster Television in Ireland. In 1980-81, The Rovers once again soared to the top of the pop and country charts with "Wasn't That A Party." This real-life celebration was written by their friend, U.S. folk singer Tom Paxton, after he witnessed one of the band's famous post-show parties. It has gone on to become an international anthem of good cheer. Hot on the heels of that success, the band recorded "Grandma Got Run-Over By A Reindeer" in 1982, which became an immediate seasonal anthem.

The Irish Rovers continue to perform in theatres around the world, with original members George Millar, Joe Millar and Wilcil McDowell. Will Millar retired from the band in 1995; and sadly, Jimmy Ferguson passed away in 1997. Completing the Irish Rover line-up today are John Reynolds and Wallace Hood, who both joined in 1995. Sean O'Driscoll, a multi-instrumentalist, accompanies the band on many of their tours, and plays on new Rover recordings. The Irish Rovers are still passionate about performing and will continue to tour and entertain their legions of fans.

Tickets for The Irish Rovers are $25 general admission and $15 for students. Tickets are available from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday in the Center for the Arts Box Office and all Ticketmaster locations, including To charge tickets, call 852-5000; in Canada, call 1-416-870-8000. For group sales, call 645-6771. For more information, call 645-ARTS. Students (of any school) must present valid student ID at the Center Box Office to receive discount.