For 50 years, the Irish Rovers have been cherished as international ambassadors of Irish music with three television series and 15 albums behind them, and just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, the Rovers are on the road with their Farewell to Rovin’ tour. They’ll be stopping one last time at the Keswick Theatre in Glenside on March 11 at 7:30 p.m.
“When we first started the group, we never gave any thought to fame or fortune,” says George Millar, the group’s co-founder, who was born in Northern Ireland. “When I met Jimmy (Ferguson), who had also emigrated from Northern Ireland, I was just 16 and we’d play together on the weekends just for fun. But one weekend we made $25 and I thought we had it made.”
But then, says Millar, 67, the pay got better and there were more and more jobs. “But we never had any great or long-range plans. We just liked hanging out and having fun, which is why we’re probably still doing it. All the band members enjoy each other and the music that we’re playing.”
Today, the present lineup of George Millar, John Reynolds, Wileil McDowell, Ian Millar, Sean O’Driscoll and Fred Graham continues to tour Canada, the United States, Australia and New Zealand.
Still captivating audiences since 1964, even touching three generations of music lovers, is probably due to several things, says Millar. “First of all, it’s the music itself. Irish music is so upbeat that people love to clap their hand, sing along and tap their toes. I also think Riverdance made great inroads for Irish music in general.”
Getting back to Ireland as often as possible, Millar says the band’s Irish folk music is not too popular over there where country music and the music of the Beatles are heard more often.
“We play traditional music, some of which is over 300 years old. We spruce them up a bit for American audiences, and Irish purists might not think we’re very pure at all. But I would disagree,” he said.
Another thing Millar disagrees with is making political statements from the stage. He says, “We’ve never been a political band. We don’t get into the troubled stuff a lot. In fact, my idea has always been that the stage is not for political platforms. You are there to entertain people, and that’s just what we do.”
And they obviously do it well. With scores of hit records to their credit, the magic musical journey continues with the release of The Irish Rovers 50 Years, a triple CD with more than 70 songs, including their greatest hits spanning their illustrious career, photos from long ago, the history of the band, and 13 new recordings available at all their shows this year.
And today, Millar, a prolific songwriter, says, “We still have a wonderful time being together. I think the comradeship we feel for each other is one of the main things that keeps us together. It’s like a good marriage. You learn to get along and like each, and you also learn when to back off if someone is not in a good mood.
“And last but certainly not least is our fan base,” he concludes. “They have been wonderful to us all these years, and performing live in front of them is a big part of our success and our joy. I’ll miss that but I know we’ll still be around somewhere. So keep an eye out.”
For ticket information, call 215-572-7650. ••