"The Bar Steward Sons of Val Doonican are one of the hardest working bands around, great entertainers, and the best pastiche outfit that I know of."
Music producer & former member of Fairport Convention & Jethro Tull
"Like The Barron Knights - on speed!"
The line-up of The Bar-Steward Sons of Val Doonican has changed significantly since the band formed in 2006. What follows, is a brief history of the rise of the phenomenon commonly known as 'Doonimania'...
Starting out as an acoustic duo in June 2006, estranged brothers Scott and Danny Doonican, had met for the first time just days before something of a revelation, when attempting to research the origins of their family tree. Danny, was working as a steel-worker at the time, but saw the potential to join forces with Scott, formerly a primary school teacher, and part-time model for Grattan's Catalogue, to conceive the World's Greatest Folk Duo in Knitwear. However, on being tipped-off by reliable sources that they may actually be related, they climbed aboard a local mobile library bus to hastily research their origins in more detail, whilst still reeling from this shock announcement.
Little did they know at the time, that their efforts at genealogy would reveal to them a very well kept secret. This revelation led them along the righteous garden path towards making their mark on the world of music and (very) light entertainment. In the same way in which they were driven together, they also felt compelled to follow in the footsteps of a legendary TV musician and entertainer, very close to their hearts. Determined to follow in these immortal footsteps, they set out on the road, to butcher other people's songs on folk instruments.
Coincidentally, on that fateful day, on-board the book bus, the duo was very soon to become a threesome (not in the biblical sense). The driver of the mobile library, Alan Doonican, also happened to share in their love for trendy knit-wear. He had also recently learned to play the piano accordion from the 'Jimmy Shand: Play With Yourself In A Day' book from the top shelf of the mobile libarary, but had struggled greatly trying to get the instrument under his duvet. It was as if fate had decided their future. Alan became an official member of the band, and Scott and Danny went on to become official members of the library.
Alan Doonican # 1
During these early days, the band predominantly butchered other people's songs, somewhat quirkily, on geetar, banjo, mandolin, ukulele and accordion, and Scott, Danny and Alan recorded and released a debut EP, two studio albums (For Those About To Rock... We Rock Gently' & 'Back To The Day Job' ) and six live recordings between 2006 and 2010, all predominantly containing straight cover-versions in a genre-swap folk-styling.
However, in the summer of 2008, the addition of a newly penned parody song about their hometown, 'Tarnlife'' (to the tune of Blur's 'Parklife'), started Scott thinking about a new direction for the band. He had visions of the brothers Doonican venturing into the realm of comedy parody. Under Scott's direction, the band then started work on a concept album about their northern mining town home, which became the album that the band now officially recognise as their comedy debut, 'Cpl. Kipper's Barnsley Trades Club Turn' , which was released in 2010. With the central theme of the album being all about 'Barnsley' as a town, and its inhabitants, the 'Cpl. Kipper' album featured some Barnsley-themed parodies of popular music, covers of northern comedy songs by Scott's heroes (Mike Harding and Tony Capstick) and even a straight acoustic cover of South Yorkshire heavy metal heroes Saxon's 'Strong Arm of The Law' (which featured the first of several guest appearances by Saxon founder-member, Graham Oliver). It was an eclectic melting-pot to say the least.
Sadly, after almost five years on the road, tragedy struck the band in March 2011, when Danny Doonican discovered a problem with the validity of his birth-certficate. Realising that the documents that were viewed on Alan Doonican's library bus were forgeries, he later found, after some detective-work that he was, in fact, only the son of a sheet-metal worker from Sheffield. He quickly departed ranks and went into exile in Marbella, in fear of reprisals from distraught fans. However, he sent his blessing to his former comrades to carry their good work on in his absence.
On Danny's departure, Scott made a conscious decision to lead the band, concentrating on writing more comedy parodies of their favourite classic rock, pop, punk and metal songs complete with lyrics from t'North, thus producing the unique style, sound and image that the band have continued to purvey to this day.
As luck would have it, further family-tree research led the remaining Doonicans to locate another wayward Bar-Steward brother, Andy Doonican, who they met for the first time, by accident in the easy-listening section of Barnsley's now-closed HMV store. Scott recognised that Andy's love of knitwear and hair products was far too much of an uncanny coincidence, and after a quick hour in Alan's Library Van, checking the family tree, it later transpired that Andy was another distant half-brother twice removed.
Andy's day job at the time, a full-time lion-tamer in the Barnum & Bailey Circus, had left him tired from wielding his stool. Despite having deeply embedded splinter-damage to his left hand from chair-wielding, he proved himself more than capable to handle the great responsibility of being a full-time Bar-Steward Son, even though chord changes could be excrutiatingly sore. Andy chose to hang-up his whip and pick up the 12-string guitar, bass and ukulele. To Scott and Alan's delight, he was a born natural.
Whilst continuing on their musical mission, Scott, Alan & Andy also vowed to search for other siblings in what has become a surprisingly extensive family tree. By 2014, five more distant musical family members had been found, and made their stage debuts during live shows. Two of them even made a guest appearance on the band's 2014 live double-album 'It'll Be Reight', in the absence of Andy Doonican, who was busy washing his hair that fateful weekend...
Extreme banjo-picker, Delmar Doonican was located in the swampy Barnsley deltas of Blacker Hill by Scott at one of his solo shows at the annual line-dancing convention in Pilley. Scott liked Delmar's playing so much he invited him to lay down tracks on 'Ace Of Spades' on The Bar-Steward's Big 7" single B-side (later to be reworked on 'Place Of Spades' in 2019) and on 'Whole Lotta Rosé' from 'Talk Of The Tarn'. Being rather shy by nature, Delmar, shunned the lime-light, and hasn't been seen for some time.
Another brother-from-another-mother, Duck Doonican was discovered, mandolin-in-hand, horizontally propping up the bar at Harefield Hall by Scott and Alan whilst they were pondering a book on Harrogate Heraldry after a festival appearance with members of The Levellers. Although bearing a striking resemblance to The Levellers' own Simon Friend, Duck claimed that he had never heard of the long-established seminal Brighton punk-folkies. Nevertheless, Duck made his stage debut the day after, before returning to the bar... allegedly for 'Just The One'!
It was very shortly after Delmar's and Duck's extremely brief time with the band, that 16-year old Björn Doonicansson, a former goat-herder from Hurdy Gurdy (a small village near Gothenburg, Sweden) joined the ranks as a part-time member of The Bar-Steward Sons in May 2014, standing in for Andy Doonican on tenor banjo. He contacted the band from his homeland after he had learned more about his questionable parentage from his mother. However, with such a wealth of talent, it wasn't long before Scott invited the Boy Wonder to become a full-time addition to the band's line-up, adding mandolin, bouzouki, fiddle and an A-Level in drinking to his areas of expertise, and expanding the trio to a quartet for the first time in the band's history.
An unexpected no-show from Andy Doonican at a festival appearance in 2014, resulted in the band recruiting the services of the mysterious Foxy Doonican. He returned later in the year to cover for a few other shows, too.
However, further personnel changes took place later in the year, as in October 2014, a shock revelation regarding IVF, heralded the arrival of Alan Doonican #2 after his brother-from-the-same-mother chose to depart for pastures new after 8 years pumping his bellows.
Also, after years of distinguished service, Andy Doonican began to wind-down his regular appearances with The Bar-Steward Sons in 2014 but continued to make appearances on special occasions into 2016. Andy went into retirement in 2016 after becoming a proud father, for the second time, with the blessing of his siblings.
The arrival of Alan #2, like Björn just months before him, had breathed new life into the line-up. He brought with him a bunch of great new song ideas, an organ that could charm the birds from the trees, and boyish good-looks to boot.
Alan Doonican # 2
As Alan #1 left, during the transition of Alan #2 joining the band, another addition to the family tree was discovered in a distant cousin, Bobby (a suspected Bar-Steward Son of lesser-known skiffle player Lenny Doonegan). Bobby has also been invited to make a few guest appearances with the band on special occasions, on his box-rockin' tea-chest bass.
(Occasional part-time Bar-Steward)
In 2015, while performing at a music festival, the band discovered their Doonican 'sister from another mister', Sarah Doonican. Sarah, a trained British Sign Language Interpreter, has since performed alongside her brothers on several occasions, "terping" their comedy lyrics to make The Bar-Steward Sons' show inclusive for deaf gig-goers.
The same festival show (ironically show #555) heralded the first hellish fiddle showdown between Björn and Prince of Darkness, Tom DeVille (a.k.a. The Devil himself). Although he is a man of wealth and taste, Tom also has quite the competitive streak, and keeps coming back for a rematch, always in vain, desperately hoping that one day he will triumph over his Scandinavian arch-nemesis.
(Occasional part-time Bar-Steward Daughter and full-time BSL Interpeter)
Tom DeVille - The Devil
On 11th August 2018, the band played their 900th show at Fairport's Cropredy Convention, in front of 20,000 people. They were joined on stage by the legendary, Maartin Allcock. Maart had previously been a member of Mike Harding's 'Brown Ale Cowboys', The Bully Wee Band, The Mission, Fairport Convention and Jethro Tull, whilst also working with a host of world class musicians such as Robert Plant, Ralph McTell, Beth Nielsen Chapman and Yusuf (Cat Stevens), to name but a small few. As both a multi-instrumentalist and producer he also became a dear friend of the family, collaborating on several band tracks as both performer and producer, including a series of annual Christmas charity singles with the brothers Doonican.
The Cropredy show was to be Maart's first and only performance with the band, and one that the Fairport audience and the band will never, ever forget. In exchange for his selflessness and friendship, Maart was awarded the coveted 'EY UP! LET'S GO!' tank-top and was made an 'Honorary Doonican'. Sadly Maart passed away a mere 36 days later, after a short and brave battle with cancer. Maart's words will always ring true: "Be happy and shower the people you love with love."
The band re-released their final collaboration with Maart (a folk-prog version of Greg Lake's 'I Believe In Father Christmas') in Maart's memory, which entered the UK's Nationwide Chart on Christmas Day 2018 at #80, having reached #33 in the UK iTunes Chart earlier that week.
Thank you for the music, Maart. We'll never forget ya, man.
5th Jan 1957 - 16th Sept 2018
In August 2019 the band were given the honour of hosting their own 'Sunday Service' show at the Big Top at The Levellers' 'Beautiful Days' Festival where they collaborated with a host of special guests. This show introduced occasional bass-playing brother from another mother, Mojo Doonican from Coolville, Ohio. Uber-cool, Mojo, sporting silvery flares, remained mute for the duration of the show, communicating only by staring at his brethren.
18th August 2019 - present
(Occasional part-time Bar-Steward)
2019 also saw the band host their own two day music festival in Barnsley in October. The aptly named 'Doonifest' sold out in 56 seconds, over a year in advance. One of the notable acts of the weekend, was a reunion of the band's founding members, Scott & Danny (and coincidentally Danny's 100th show, whilst also being the band's 996th) where the two original brothers-from-other-mothers played a set of songs from the early days of the band, including some quirky covers and songs from the band's debut album. Danny was delighted to return to finally get to say goodbye.
Since 2014, with the much settled and stable three-piece line-up of Scott, Björn and Alan #2, that you find in present day, The Bar-Steward Sons of Val Doonican's blistering and anarchic live shows have provided the band with quite the reputation on the UK's festival circuit. With each year the band continue to build on their strengths, both in the studio and in the live arena, but, whether in front of 20,000 people on a festival stage or in an intimate pub, club or theatre setting, the band have never lost track of their humble beginnings. Every night is still a party. And why the hell not!?
After 14 years, and over 1000 shows, the band continue their mission to keep their late, great spiritual father's legacy alive.
The rest, as they say, is history...
The Bar-Steward Sons of Val Doonican at their 900th show on 11th August 2018 in front of 20,000 people, along with Maartin Allcock & Tom DeVille at Fairport's Cropredy Convention.
THE BAR-STEWARD SONS OF VAL DOONICAN'S 'ROCK FAMILY TREE'
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Check out the band's entry on Wikipedia, the World's largest and most popular general reference encyclopedia