International Success For Kerry Tenor In 1950's
Connie Foley is a name that will not roll off the lips of Ireland's music fans and yet he is still a world famous artist and singing tenor, born in Tralee in 1925 and died at Leeds, England in 1975. His music lives on through the 500 songs he recorded and not too many world famous artists can lay claim to such a great achievement. His rise to fame from the obscurity of working as a waiter in a Boston hotel is not unusual for many artists but Connie Foley mainly specialised in singing Irish songs only.
In Tralee as a young boy he left school at twelve and became a messenger boy in similar fashion to another famous Tralee artist, the late Christy Hennessy. After a few years peddling around Tralee on his messenger bike, Connie set out for the bright lights of Birmingham, England, on his 21 st birthday and soon found the work available, with his limited qualifications, would not be too rewarding.
After two years toiling in the midlands of England and singing for the pleasure of pub patrons in Irish bars, Connie set out for the United States at twenty three and setlled in Boston. He found employment working as a waiter at the Sheraton Plaza Hotel and with his sweet melancholy voice, he becamd known as the singing waiter from Ireland. On occasions he was called upon to sing a few Irish numbers with the resident band and he was hugely popular with patrons.
On one notable occasion two men with strong Irish heritage strolled in to the hotel and heard Connie Foley on stage blasting out The Wild Colonial Boy, a real favourite with the Irish in Boston. Both men were steeped in the music industry, one as a promoter and the other as the owner of a recording company. These men were lamenting the early death of John McCormack and his music was financially very important to both men. The voice of Connie Foley captivated the pair of musicmen and soon after Connie Foley, the messenger boy from Tralee, would be recording the Wild Colonial Boy.
The single sold in millions to Irish Americans and also in Europe and Connie followed up with many more recordings that him a successor to John McCormack as Ireland's most popular tenor singing Irish songs. His wealth and earning capacity was great until the arrival of the 1950's pop and rock n roll era with Elvis and several more U.S. pop sensations. Unable to compete with this market Connie left America and settled in Dublin and invested heavily in the production of Irish albums.
Regretably the venture was not a success and after six years - 1968 - '74 - he once more set sail for England with his fortune crumbling away. He ventured out on a country wide tour of Irish centres across Britain but the Irish ballad scene was now firmly out of tune with most venue proprietors and the great and famous Connie Foley act was over. He lost heavily in the financial stakes and would never recover from the crushing blow dealt to him. He died alone in a rented apartment near Leeds in 1975 and was buried at a local cemetry.
Now here's a brief introduction to some of Connie's best known recorded songs:
Dingle Bay; I'll Take You Home Again Kathleen; When You & I Were Young Maggie; Hills Of Glenswilly; County Cavan; That Old Irish Mother Of Mine; Ireland's 32; Whistling Gypsy; Goodbye Johnny Dear; Doonaree; Garden Where The Praities Grow; Golden Jubilee; Boys From The County Mayo; Three Leaf Shamrock; Typical Irishman; McNamara From Mayo and many others.