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Country Ireland

Style Hard Rock

Mama’s Boys were a 1980s hard rock/heavy metal group from County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland featuring the three McManus brothers Pat, a.k.a. “The Professor”, (guitar.occasionally fiddle), John (bass;vocal), Tommy (drums). Later in their career they became a four-piece adding Rick Chase on vocals in 1986 who was later replaced by Keith Murrell in 1987 due to Rick’s ill-health. Keith was later replaced with Connor McKeon in 1989 who was in turn replaced with Mike Wilson in 1990.

The McManus brothers, who grew up on a farm near the village of Derrylin, Co. Fermanagh, started off their musical career as award-winning traditional Irish musicians, but were inspired by the Irish celtic rock band, Horslips, as well as younger brother Tommy’s passion for the drums to form a rock band. In the late 70s the brothers had become big fans of Horslips and attended their gigs at every possible opportunity. They eventually got to know and became friends with the band members. It was around that time that they started their own band which was originally called Pulse before they changed it to Mama’s Boys. Barry Devlin of Horslips heard about their band and went to see them rehearse at their home. He was suitably impressed and offered them a support slot for Horslips’ 1979 tour.

Although their heroes Horslips mixed traditional music with hard rock and the McManus brothers were top notch traditional musicians, Mama’s Boys didn’t really go for the Celtic fusion sound, apart from the occasional fiddle solo by Pat, but went for a harder edged more heavy metal sound.

They recorded their first self-funded album “Official Album” (re-released in 1981 as “Official Bootleg”) in 1980 in only 4 hours. In 1981 they were invited to support Hawkwind on their UK tour. They recorded and self-financed their second album, a raw blast of rock power entitled Plug It In in 1982 and achieved a hit single in Ireland with the most pop-oriented song on the album, “Needle in the Groove”.

The third album Turn It Up was released in 1983. T he same year they toured with Thin Lizzy on that band’s farewell tour, played at the Reading Rock Festival and signed a worldwide record deal with Jive Records. The first album released on Jive contained some songs previously released on early albums but completely re-recorded with a few new songs. One of the new songs, a cover of Slade’s “Mama Weer All Crazee Now” was released as a single and reached number 54 in the American charts. The video for the song got a lot of airplay on MTV and helped the band to become known in the US which they toured in 1984. Coincidentally, the American heavy metal band Quiet Riot also released their cover version of the song at the same time as Mama’s Boys, but Quiet Riot’s version gained more airplay.

1985’s Power and Passion album broke into the Billboard top 100 in the US and the band toured in the US, Europe and Japan. During the European leg of the tour Tommy had a relapse of leukemia which he had been treated for as a child and a replacement drummer Jimmy DeGrasso was brought in to complete the tour. The recovering Tommy rejoined the tour in Ireland but had to be rushed back to hospital after another relapse.

In 1987, former Airrace vocalist Keith Murrell was brought in after Rick Chase started having trouble with his vocal cords and they recorded the album Growing Up The Hard Way”. The new wave of British heavy metal, as played by established bands such as Iron Maiden and Saxon, was quickly giving way to the softer and more melodic “hair metal” sound, typified by the emergence of Bon Jovi and other American metal bands, who were scoring big hit singles. Therefore, it was obvious that the route to breaking the band into the big time was now to follow suit. The resulting album, which had a very positive review from Kerrang magazine, was a far more commercial and radio friendly sound than their previous work, and had gorgeous sound quality. The most obvious choice for a lead single was perhaps the track “Waiting for a Miracle” which was duly released (along with the superb funk rock cover of the Stevie Wonder song “Higher Ground”) With a video and suitably coiffed lead singer, it seemed that Waiting For A Miracle, with its catchy chorus and suitably colourful 80s bright blue sleeve, (albeit with a “dead body” child’s doll on the front) would be the bands “Livin On A Prayer” and launch them into the spotlight at last.

Inexplicably, this wasn’t the case. Neither single from the album charted in the UK, and the album was regarded by fans as too commercial sounding compared to their previous work. As with Saxons attempt to ride the new hair metal trend with singles like the chart orientated “I Can’t Wait Anymore” Mamas Boys failed to please both their current fanbase nor capture a new audience. The reasons for this unexpected failure are debatable, but it certainly wasn’t the quality of the music, as “Growing Up The Hard Way” not only sounded state of the art, but the songs on the album were catchy, well crafted and with an excellent vocal performance from Keith Murrell. Perhaps it’s fair to say that more TV appearances in the UK at that time would have found the audience they needed. The album was produced by Phil Begley who had produced the hugely successful single “Pop music” by “M” so the albums failure to break the band into the big time is even more of a mystery. The Jive contract, which ended that year, was not renewed and Murrell left in 1988 to join Cliff Richard as a backing singer. Connor Mc Keon replaced Keith on 1989 but this was short lived and he was replaced by Mike Wilson.

In 1990 with new vocalist, Mike Wilson, and under new management they moved their base to the UK. The live album Live Tonite was released in 1991 and the band toured extensively in Europe. They released the album Relativity in 1992. While on tour in Italy in 1993, Tommy became ill again and the tour had to be cancelled. The following year Tommy underwent a bone marrow transplant but tragically he did not survive. His brothers were devastated and Mama’s Boys did not continue after this blow. On the first anniversary of Tommy’s death John composed a traditional lament on the low whistle for his brother and this led to himself and Pat revisiting their traditional Irish music roots and forming a celtic/new age group called Celtus.

In 2003, Pat McManus joined with Irish rock band ‘Indian’ for 2 albums and live shows.After this he joined the painkillers for a short while then formed Pat Mc Manus and high voltage which in 2007 became the Pat McManus Band. Pat McManus has his own band with Gordon Sheridan on bass and Paul Faloon on drums. They have just released a new live CD and DVD called Live and in time. The live recording features songs from Pat’s previous CD In My Own Time and Mama’s Boys songs. John McManus is currently playing with Eddie Clarke in the re-united Fastway.

– Official Bootleg [1980]
– Plug It In [1982]
– Turn It Up [1983]
– Mama’s Boys [1984]
– Power And Passion [1985]
– Growing Up The Hard Way [1987]
– Relativity [1992]

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