Joseph Francis Robert Dolan (17 October 1939 – 26 December 2007) was an Irish entertainer, recording artist, and pop singer. Chiefly known in Ireland for his association with showbands and for his innovative style and high pitched singing voice, he had a wide appeal with many international fans. His energetic and charismatic stage performances influenced his long standing advertising slogan: “There’s no show like a Joe show”.
The only Irish singer to reach number one in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, Dolan was a persistent presence in the music charts in Ireland and overseas.
In 1958, as well as securing his first (and last) “real” job as a compositor in the local Westmeath Examiner newspaper, Dolan got his first guitar. After learning some skills on the instrument, he and his saxophone-playing brother Ben started to play in local bands. They soon formed a band of their own – The Drifters. Not long afterward, the band was renamed Joe Dolan and the Drifters and finally Joe Dolan and His Drifters to avoid legal action from the American band of the same name
The Irish musical landscape in the 1960s was dominated by the showbands. The first single “The Answer to Everything”, (previously released as a B side by Del Shannon) was released in September 1964, reaching number 4 in the Irish charts. Dolan and his band were managed by Seamus Casey. In the summer of 1968, however, some of the band left, with Dolan and Casey citing “musical differences” as the reason, although in the official biography by Ronan Casey (Seamus Casey’s son) further elaboration includes references to unhappiness about financial issues.
Dolan’s first US tour was in 1965 and followed an offer, which he refused, to play in Las Vegas. Instead, he decided to play a whistle-stop tour of Irish-American venues in places such as Chicago, New York and Boston. An added benefit to this string of engagements was the opportunity to hear American music which hadn’t yet been played in the UK and Ireland. The first song gleaned in this fashion was the Jim Reeves song, (That’s When I see the Blue in Your) Pretty Brown Eyes which Dolan released on the Pye label in 1966.
A second US tour in 1967 led an offer to appear in Las Vegas, but he turned it down. Eventually in 1980 he accepted $10,000 a week plus board and lodgings to perform for six weeks over September and October at the Continental Lounge of the Silverbird Casino on the Strip in Las Vegas. Eventually playing 64 shows and selling out most of them, he and his band returned to Ireland to be immediately rebooked for Vegas in January 1981. Although he turned down subsequent offers to return to Vegas, other venues approached him with increased offers, thinking he was merely hunting around for the best deal, but Dolan refused them all. Several other attempts were made through the years to entice him back but he never returned – except on holiday.