James Band Stories

Band members of the  Carlton Swingtette in Portrush, 1948. Included are Willie Lindsey, Tony Black, Barney Coyle, James & Mick McWilliams

Willie Lindsay remembered well his first night playing with the Carlton. He was blinded with tears with the sheer effort involved in playing so many numbers one after another and trying to read the parts as well. When Willie later moved on to play with other outfits his place was taken by Brutz Gonella, brother of the famous Nat. While Brutz may have been technically better, the crowds always preferred Willie’s bright tone and style of playing. Funnily enough, the flat behind Willie on the stage in the Corinthian had to be repainted frequently because he used to rest his head against it while he played.

Peter was one the most highly sought after drummers in the town because he could keep any outfit moving on with his driving rhythms. Having put serious study into his music he was an accomplished player and was one of the few drummers in these parts who could read any piece of music.

Jim Gallagher, like many reed players, could be very particular about his tone. James often saw him buy a box of reeds and start to pare them one by one and try them out, only to throw away every one of them because he wasn’t pleased with the sound they produced.

Barney Coyle had a reputation for being  very street - wise and could turn most situations to a profit. The story goes that when the band was playing in Portrush he somehow got his hands on an old broken one - armed bandit which he placed on a wall  on the way from the train station. When he went back in the evening he had a nice little pot of cash.

He took this business acumen to new heights when he managed to get hold of a mirror ball which he rented on a weekly basis to the proprietor of the Corinthian Ballroom.

Tony Black was in James’s words “a straight player.” That is to say he wasn’t a natural dance band or swing player, but he was a first class reader and musician. Tony, like so many of James’s contemporaries, worked a lot with him down through the years, including accompanying the Irish dancing competitions at the Derry Feis

Although he was not what he might have termed an “altar - rail basher” he attended the annual retreat in St. Eugene’s, both early morning mass and evening devotions. Hell fire and damnation orders such as The Redemptorists were regular visitors to the week - long mission. Their sermons frequently focussed on sins of the flesh. They had forays into other occasions of sin but they dwelt a lot on sins that were mostly committed, for some reason, out lonely roads on dark nights. Anyway James decided to go to confessions. While he was seated another bandsman well - known for his skirt-chasing activities tapped him on the shoulder and confided how, on seeing James, he had decided to go as well. When it came to James’s turn the missionary, having ascertained that he was a married man, enquired if he ever looked admiringly at other women. James replied honestly whereupon the priest tore into him about having committed adultery in his thoughts. Well, he gave James a right doing and a matching penance. As James was coming out of the confessional he tried to catch the attention of the other poor devil who was too busy examining his conscience to notice. So God alone knows how he fared.