A Short History of the International Blues Band

In the beginning…………………………a short history of the International Blues Band.

Right after last call for alcohol a gravelled voiced Blues Singer, a Jazz Guitar player and a classically trained Trombone player decide to name the band they’d just created; “Why not call it the International Blues Band”? It’s the name of the pub and blues venue they’d been sitting in since sundown, The International Bar. Not long after that, and a few gigs later at the popular Dublin Blues Venue, the insider joke went something like this……“the only bar in town named after a band”. Sometimes Simon, the head bartender, thinking the crowds of fans would come crashing through the ceiling, stopped up to give them a scowl, but even he couldn’t contain the enthusiasm for their Friday night gigs.

The original line-up included: Peter Moore whose wit and imagination wrote the words to the tunes. Owen McCauley, the lead guitar player, picked and slided out of his Gibson E335. Sean Hearns, better known as Slider, on Trombone along with young Davy Maine on Sax were all brass and no sass. The rest of the line-up included Barry O’Reilly on Drums and Jim Tate, now a member of Eleanor McEvoy’s band, on Bass.

At first gigging around Dublin was limited to only a few pubs, so on weekends the lads travelled to venues all over Ireland playing their own material mixed among the recognised standards. Pretty soon their own songs became the standards and the refrain from “The Blues are Here to Stay” was an anthem shouted back to the band on stage.

After Jim left the band, Robbie Craven joined on Bass. When he left, Philip Ryan only 18 years of age, became the newest and the youngest member of the group. This line-up of Peter, Owen, Slider, Barry, Davy and Philip were the core and around them the family grew. Peter used to say at the end of each gig that the band all lived in a one roomed flat. In a way they did, because their mutual respect for each other as musicians, their friendship and their love of the blues created the tight power packed performances as if they had indeed spent every waking hour together. Of course in real life they didn’t live in the same flat. Peter was a builder, Owen a respected solicitor in the city, Slider and Davy professional musicians, Barry a computer analyst and Philip a printer. Adding the wives and girlfriends to the list, every gig became a family outing.

Those were the early days and to the lads they thought they’d never end and perhaps they wouldn’t have, if one of the founding musicians hadn’t died. Owen McCauley aged 32 died suddenly and the family fell apart. At first no one knew what to do. Peter and Slider were devastated. Could the International Blues Band go on without him? Who could take his place? Would it be right to go on without Owen? From the depths of pain the International Blues Band went on. It had to, for Owen.

After a few changes in Bass, Drums and especially lead Guitar the line-up today reflects the energy and enthusiasm of the original vision that Peter, Owen and Slider shared sitting in the International Bar that late night years ago; “Play the blues from your heart, play it well and leave them standing.”

The family has reformed, better than ever, all successful full time musicians now. Ronnie O’Flynn on Bass Guitar, Stephen Hogan on Drums and John Reynolds on Lead Guitar play the tunes while Peter sings the songs and Slider on Trombone and Michael & Richie Buckley on Saxophone sass the brass.

Owen isn’t forgotten. Peter doesn’t dedicate “Ice-cream Chimes”, the song he wrote for Owen anymore, he says “those that know, know”. When you hear the song, take a moment, listen to the words, they are the blues.

by Caroline Ferrar

January 2023 Update – Note: The International Bar, Wicklow Street, no longer hosts blues sessions, or indeed any music sessions. Keep an eye on the Entertainment section of my site for the latest blues music venues.