Oughterard Newsletter July 2005
When the subject arose of ‘what we wanted to be when we grew up’ most of us changed our minds from year to year, but one lad who didn’t was Michael John Joyce (MJ). He was to be a singer/entertainer and no doubt about it!
For practising his entertainment skills he used his fellow pupils to the full. When the teacher would ask a question or look away for an instant MJ would pull a comical face or give a wrong/funny/ridiculous prompt to the poor unfortunate beside him. When the teacher would look again, you would be laughing and MJ would be sitting there looking quite innocent! Next you’d hear ‘Come up you fool’ what were you laughing at? Nothing Sir. Only a fool laughs at nothing…..Hold it out! Another slap of the Hazel rod to ostensibly aid the learning process.
MJ’s singing debut was in the old “Kirk Hall” at the annual concerts organised by Mick Keogh and others. Later he entered talent competitions in both the Kirk and the Hibernian Hall (Camp St.). After these performances he was dubbed “Elvis” and the name stuck.
During one of these concerts in 1964 MJ was spotted by Tom and Sheila Morley (who established the Boat Inn) and engaged him to sing in their lounge bar at weekends. This venture proved successful and after playing with the “Royal Chords” in Castlebar for about a year he emigrated to the USA in 1966 to seek his fortune. Whilst in New York he was vocalist with various bands who played in such places as; ‘The Ambassador Club’, ‘Jaeger House’ and The Red Mill’ dance venues.
Next MJ came in touch with band promoter Bill Fuller who engaged him to go on a tour of his dancehalls in Chicago, Boston and New York until St. Patrick’s Day 1967. He played rockaway beach and the Catskill mountains until November 1967 when he came home to help his parents on the family farm.
In 1969 he was asked by Bill Fuller to come out to perform in New York, which he did. Starting on St. Patrick’s Day, he played ‘The Old Sheiling Club’, ‘Danny Boy’, and the ‘Pig ‘N Whistle’ in Manhattan plus ‘Dirty Nelly’s’ in the Bronx. MJ says that people who heard him perform at one of these concerts put up the money for him to record his first album ‘Travelling Irish Lad’. Except for one summer season spilt between Hamilton, Bermuda and ‘Centenary Club’, New Hampshire, the next eight seasons were spent in Cape Cod, with the winter seasons being spent in the Brodie Mountain ski area. He also told me that on some of his Cape Cod gigs he entertained some of the Kennedy’s. In 1984 as MJ’s parents were now getting on in years he decided to come home for good and take care of them in their declining years.
When asked about the highlights of his career he says there were two, both of which he is equally proud of.
1) The recording and release of his three albums, ‘Travelling Irish Lad’, ‘Lonely’ and ‘You Don’t Love Me Anymore’.
2) His being conferred with ‘The Freedom of the City of New Britain’ in Connecticut on the 22nd April 1978 when he was presented with a scroll to that effect and ‘The Key of the City Gates’.
MJ spent his last years breeding Connemara Ponies and fishing Lough Corrib.
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I remember Mike very well, I enjoyed his jokes which sometimes were very raw but he wasn’t shy of telling them to his audience, I played music with Mike from around late 1970 to 1972, just two of us Guitar and Tenor banjo, and Mike had a long list of songs. Mike then decided that we should go to the west coast, but this wasn’t what I had planned. I also knew his aunt Ann very well, the last time I met Mike was up in the Catskill mountains about 2 years before he passed away, I had stuck to the traditional music but I did back him in a few tunes at Mc Graths Hotel. I was shocked when I heard that he had passed away. RIP Mike.
It was sad to find out that Michael Joyce had passed away. I have many found memories of Michael. One of which was his raspy tunes and his funny stories, of which were many. Spending time with him at Brodie Mountain and the many times being picked up at school by Michael in his Van. You always knew he was in town because in the early hours of the morning a knock at the door was heard. He was great friend to my parents and to me. I only wish I was able to see him before his passing. You are thought of often Galway man……..
Very nice article on Michael John Joyce aka Elvis. He was my friend as he was to many others. We had many a good laugh here in New York as he played his gigs. I miss his phone calls in the middle of the night as he would call from his home in Galway to tell me a new joke he had heard. Thanks for keeping the Oughterard sprit alive.
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