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Geraldine McKeever in 1975
As the news came through that Gerladine was chosen to sing for Luxembourg in
this year's Eurovision Song Contest, it occurred to us that perhaps we'd heard
that particular name somewhere before. We all know that she's only dropping the
Branagan bit temporarily, but in fairness there's already a young lassie from
Derry trading under that particular handle.
Female singer from Derry who seemed set to follow in the footsteps of Dana but
whose career took an entirely different path.
Geraldine McKeever (b.1954) began singing and
playing guitar while still at school, initially influenced by people like Joan Baez, Tom Paxtron and Roger Whittaker.
At the age of 16 she approached Tony Johnston to manage her career.
Johnston was a school headmaster and part-time promoter. He'd discovered Dana and become her
manager, landing her a contract with Rex Records in Dublin. Dana ended her management agreement
with Johnston in 1970 which is when Geraldine came along.
Once under management, Geraldine began performing professionally and within a year or so had
recorded her debut LP for Beltona Records. Beltona, a Decca subsiduary, is strongly
associated with Scottish folk music but the label also released some Irish folk titles. Even so, it
was hardly the best choice of label for Geraldine's debut.
The album itself is a pleasant if minor mixture of folk and contemporary singer-songwriter material.
Most of the songs are covers: Gordon Lightfoot, Elton John, Joni Mitchell, etc., plus
a couple by manager Johnston (whose songs had also been recorded by Dana).
Geraldine's voice is light and pleasant and the arrangements are simple and uncluttered, featuring
harpsichord, sitar, flute, electric bass, hand percussion (no drums!) and some
The album has been somewhat
over-hyped in recent times. The copy reviewed in the pages of Galactic Ramble is
described as "one of 3 known copies" which is ludicrous (there are more than 3 copies out there Richard!!).
As a result, the asking price for second-hand copies has risen substantially [Since writing this,
the LP has also been featured in Record Collector magazine].
Acid-folk seekers should be aware that there is certainly no suggestion of psychedelia about this record.
A followup LP was recorded during her period under Tony Johnston's management but this was shelved when
their relationship ended. She has had no further contact with Johnston and the current whereabouts of the
tapes of this unreleased LP are not known.
A second LP didn't emerge until 3 years later, by which time Geraldine's career had taken a
different path from that suggested by the debut. The second LP was a collaboration with
civil rights campaigner Tony Kearney. "Hang My Country" was released in 1974 on the Derry-based
Cuchulainn label, which was owned by Tony Johnston.
Geraldine also recorded solo material for Cuchulainn and it's subsiduary Flame Records.
The track listing for her second solo LP proper "Sing My Country Vol.1", a set of
depressingly over-familiar ballads, suggests her career was in the doldrums.
She continued to perform regularly though 1975, playing the folk circuit but not
adverse to cabaret work. She'd also completed a solo UK tour by 1975.
In 1975 another Northern singer named Geraldine Branagan [who'd sung with her
brothers in The Branagans earlier in the decade]
represented Luxembourg at the Eurovision song contest under the name Geraldine.
This must have led to some confusion and can't have been helped either singer's career.
Geraldine Branagan was married to Phil Coulter and recorded well into the 1980s.
Her recordings are largely forgettable. Meanwhile, Geraldine McKeever seemed to disappear.
The following article appeared in Spotlight magazine in February 1975, which is
the last trace of Geraldine I can find:
Derry's Geraldine is aged 20 and this week, she starts work
on her fourth album. She's been singing and playing professionally since she was
16 and is managed by the man who discovered Dana, Tony Johnston.
'I got my first guitar when I was about 15,' Geraldine McKeever told New
Spotlight, 'and at that time I was greatly influenced by people like Joan Baez.
I was still at school when I decided to visit Mr.Johnston to ask him to manage
me. He agreed straight away and he's been very good to me ever since. Almost
immediately, I recorded an album for Decca and then I signed with the Cu
Chulainn label, for which I made two albums. At the moment, I'm recording for
Flame Records - a subsiduary of Cuchulainn.'
Geraldine sees heself more a concert artiste than anything else but concedes
that since the Irish folk scene isn't as great as it might be, she must also be
prepared to do cabaret work . . . 'I don't mind doing cabaret,' she said, 'in
fact I quite enjoy it. Of course it means I've got to include some of the more
well-known songs of the day in my programme but I suppose we've all got to make
compromises some time. It's just that people don't seem to want to hear straight
Already Geraldine has completed her first solo British tour, which took in quite
a few prestige gigs around London, and she hopes to return there soon . . . 'I
have a lot of ambition,; she said confidently. 'I'd like eventually to try my
luck in America and a lot of other places. I'd like also to get around to
recording some of my own original material on future albums.'
How did her parents feel about their daughter's aspirations? . . . 'They've been
very good about everything, ' Geraldine said. 'They'd never advise me to either
do something or not do something. They leave it up to me. Which is great. Of
course, they know that I'm well able to take care of myself.'
Does she have much time for social life? ... 'Not very much, but then getting up
onstage and singing is all I want to do. That's my whole life. I've never had a
job before--the thought of working behind a desk five days a week doesn't appeal
to me at all. I suppose, though, if I wasn't in music, I'd like to be a
Final word from her manager . . . 'I'd hate if there was any aggro between the
other Geraldine and ourselves. The Branagans are really nice people and I like
to regard them as friends of ours. But I can't help thinking that there might be
some confusion sooner or later.' -- Article from Spotlight magazine, Feb 1975.
In fact, the story didn't end here. Geraldine studied music in Belfast and began to
perform live with local rock band Dirty Work.
She appears on their 1976 single.
Geraldine married keyboard player Ronan O'Callaghan in 1978 and both moved to Dublin
where the group became the Tony Kenny Band (see the Dirty Work
entry for more details).
While in Dublin Geraldine did some solo gigs (including Butlins) under the name Kate Austen.
They moved to Derry in 1983 to raise a family and are still there.
Geraldine teaches singing and music theory in North West Regional College.
Their eldest son Eoin is AKA singer-songwriter Best Boy Grip.
LP - Beltona Records - SBE 128 - UK - 1971
Wherefore And Why (Lightfoot)
Skyline Pigeon (John, Taupin)
Where Did The Time Go (Johnston)
If You Could Read My Mind (Lightfoot)
Columba To Derry (Johnston)
So Many Ways (Kaye, Porter)
I Think It's Going To Rain Today (Newman)
Turn On The Sun (Mitch Murray, Peter Calendar)
Michael From Mountains (Mitchell)
Cactus Tree (Mitchell)
Long Long Time (White)
Journey's End (Johnston)
From the Liner Notes:
"When sixteen year old schoolgirl GERALDINE came to ireland's Eurovision-winning
star-maker Tony Johnston, she little expected the success that has come her way. From
all sides she has been acclaimed as a singer with a great voice and a great future, a
singer of great songs, who will carry on gher native city's passion as an ambasasador
of songs to all the nations.
Her performance on this fine selection of international and new native material is a sure
portent of that."
(c) 1971 The Decca Record Company Limited, London.
Producer: Tony Johnston
Arrangements: Mike Geoghegan
Engineer: John D'Ardis
Recorded at Trend Studios, Dublin
The book Geraldine is reading in the front cover photograph is the Childrens Brittanica.
• She Wept for the Fighting of Orange and Green / Danny Boy
7" - Flame Records - FLM 004 - IRL - 1972?
• Tony Kearney & Geraldine - Hang My Country: The Story Of A Tragedy
LP - Cuchulainn Records - CCHS 1001 - IRL - 1973?
Produced by Blan Mac a' Bhaird.
The Tragedy of Partition (Four Green Fields)
The Tragedy of The Gun (100,000 Guns)
The Tragedy of Derry (Speak, My Beloved City)
The Tragedy of Repression (The Men Behind The Wire)
The Tragedy Written In Blood (Bloody Sunday)
The Tragedy of Hate (She Wept For The Fighting Of Orange And Green)
Clan of the Brave
The Croppy Boy
Pearse To Ireland
• Sing My Country Vol. 1
LP - Cuchulainn Records - CCHS 1002 - IRL - 1973?
Flan Mac A'Bhaird
The Spanish Lady
The Ballad of Brendan (By The Shores Of Tralee)
The Banks of Claudy
Do They Still Remember Me?
Come ALong Murphy
Connemara Cradle Song
Old Maid In A Garret
The Curragh of Kildare
Patrick O'Donnell (and his Wee Brown Mare)
• Sing My Country Vol. 2
LP - Cuchulainn Records - CCHS 1007 - IRL - 1973?
• The Ballad Of Drogheda / The Curragh Of Kildare
7" - Cuchulainn Records - CCH 009 - IRL - 1974
• Rain / Someday Soon
7" - Flame Records - FLM010 - IRL - 1975
Help!: We need your help to complete this entry.
If you can tell us more about this band then please do! We welcome
any corrections, missing details, connections to other bands, where are they now, etc.
We also need photos,
scans, copies of releases or live or demo recordings, and any other memorabilia
gathering dust in the attic. If you can help,
then please get in touch.
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