recent visit to the home of Louise Morrissey in Bansha, Co. Tipperary, I can fully
understand why she has no desire to leave this beautiful and scenic area.
Nestling in the foothills of the Galtee Mountains, the village of Bansha has been home to
generations of the Morrissey family, and is still home to Louise and her mother, and her
brothers Norman and Billy.
Born in nearby Tipp town, Louise has spent all of her adult life in Bansha, where she was
introduced to music at an early age in both her local primary school and later in
secondary school in Tipp Town. There was always music and singing in Primary School
and we also had access to music in Secondary school, she told me.
I grew up with music all around me. My parents were both very musical people. My
dad played the fiddle and saxophone and in his younger days he played in a local band,
which featured his brother, my Uncle Billy, as the lead vocalist.
My mum was also a great influence on me, as she sang a lot, and also played piano.
When you consider the environment I grew up in, its easy to understand why I chose a
career in the music business, and why I am so happy to be still doing it.
There were six of us in the family, and each of us was encouraged to play some sort of
musical instrument. Whenever we had visitors to the house, we would always do our best to
How did The Morrisseys Folk Group come about then, I asked her.
Well, my brothers Norman and Billy and I seemed to be the three who developed a
flair for the music and we would regularly practice together. This eventually lead to us
forming a group and we started playing the local pub scene. I was only 13 when we first
started out, but Im not going to tell you how long ago that was she said, with
a hearty chuckle. When it came to picking a name for the group it seemed logical enough to
call ourselves The Morrisseys, because thats what we were always known as anyway, so
the name stuck, and we were happy with it.
Folk music was really big in Ireland at the time, so that was the type of music we
concentrated on. As for my own favourites at that time, well I was big into Donny Osmond
and The Bay City Rollers, just like a lot of my friends were. As a matter of fact I think
I may still have some of Donnys posters somewhere in my bedroom, as I was madly in
love with him at that time.
It wasnt that we made a conscious decision to play folk music though. It was
popular throughout Ireland and Britain at that time and it just happened that the three of
us were interested in that type of music, and of course we had been performing it locally
at first, and later it took us all over the world. We had a very successful career as The
Morrisseys and we released four albums, which sold very well.
Switch To Country.
At what stage did
you decide to switch and concentrate on country music?
There was certainly a bit of a decline in the folk scene, but that wasnt the
primary reason for the switch. I must admit I was always a country music fan and I always
loved that kind of music. I suppose when you start out as young as I did, you are not
quite certain what type of music you want to pursue, but as you get a little older you
begin to develop preferences for different types of music. I found myself being drawn more
and more towards country music, having been influenced by Emmylou Harris and a lot of
Irish artists who were emerging on the country scene at that time. I was also a big fan of
Judith Durham of The Seekers. My current favourite is Wynonna Judd. I love her singing and
I think she is a fantastic entertainer. There are lots of outstanding singers on the Irish
scene right now and I sometimes get the chance to perform with them at various venues
throughout Ireland and overseas.
My brothers Billy and Norman also shared my love for country music, so when we decided to
change over to country, both of them stayed on in the band with me, and Billy also became
my manager. It was quite a big change for me really, as I went from being a member of the
Morrisseys to the featured vocalist with my own band.
Did you lose some of your folk following when you switched?
Well, some people did say at the time that I was mad to make the change, but it was
something I wanted to do, and I was determined to give it a go. As things turned out, we
were very successful and the whole country music business has been very good to me. The
fans literally accepted me overnight, and that was really great.
Also, we were lucky that we were in at the beginning of a boom time for country in
Ireland, with a lot of new bands and a lot of new singers coming on the scene. I was just
one of a whole crop of new singers who emerged on the scene at the time, and thankfully
there was room for us all.
First Country Record.
My first recording as a country artist was a song called The Night Daniel
ODonnell Came to Town. This was a huge success and really helped to launch me
as a country music singer. I then followed up on this with an album called
Louise, which included the hit single and a mixture of country and Irish
numbers. Of course Daniel ODonnell was already established as a major star at that
time, and paved the way for lots of us who came on the scene after him.
We started playing the dancing circuit and I can remember a time when we played five
nights a week and all at a different venue. Nowadays the scene has changed quite a bit. A
lot of the venues have closed down and while some of them have been replaced, the scene
has now developed into a weekend business. Its sad in a way that the venues have
closed because we still have a large number of bands, and but for regular tours to England
and America, I dont think we could survive on the Irish market alone. Also, with the
emergence of so many young male artists, its getting harder for us girls to
To the music lovers who faithfully follow the bands every week, the music scene appears to
be a very glamorous business, but it has its drawbacks and its pitfalls. One of the
biggest hazards that an artist faces is the travelling. This is how Louise explained it
travelling is one of the hazards of the job really. Youre out there travelling
on the road at all hours of the night, and of course youre travelling a lot more
than the average motorist does. She then told me about a serious accident that she
had one night.
I was on my way to a gig and I was due to play in Longford Town that night. I was
just in the outskirts of the town when I had the accident. That really turned everything
upside down for me, and in a split second my whole life was changed. I had a lot of broken
bones, and I was in hospital for a few weeks. I was off the road for several months and
when I look back on it now, I am thankful that at least nobody was killed. Time is a great
healer, and I did bounce back, but the time I spent off the road, certainly damaged my
career at the time. I was on a rollercoaster at that time and things were going really
well for me. I had an album out that was being heavily promoted on the radio and T.V., for
two weeks prior to the accident. Following the accident, there was no guarantee that I
would ever again get back on the road, so the whole campaign was pulled.
Did you ever think during that period that your career as a performer had come to an end?
I was very mixed up really. In the beginning I didnt know what was after
happening. I was thinking about Tony Stevens, who had a very serious accident about six
months prior to mine, and wondering if he would ever perform again. All those things kept
going through my mind and I kept wondering would he ever be able to walk again, never mind
perform on stage again. It certainly erodes your confidence, and it takes a long time to
get over that. But time heals everything, and thankfully I made a full recovery and was
glad to get back on the road again. Its nice to know that Tony has also made a full
recovery and is now back on the road again with his new band The Rusty
Would you say that you are a religious person and that your faith in god would have
sustained you and helped in your recovery?
I have my own little way of talking to the Man above and I believe firmly in God. My
constant travelling at weekends would sometimes preclude me from attending Sunday Mass,
but several times during the week I would visit the local Church and light candles and say
my own little prayers. I have my own way of staying in touch with the Lord.
Romance on the Road.
Romance on the road?
At this she laughed out loud and repeated my question, romance on the road? Why did
you ask me that? Well now, an attractive girl on stage, touring around the country
every week, you must have had more than your share of offers from the boys. How did you
cope with this?
Well you do have your admirers on the road. You meet all sorts of people really.
Some that are very nice and the odd few that are not so nice. You deal with it as best you
can. Its very difficult to have a relationship with someone, because you are out
there and away so often. But this is it, thats what I do for a living. It can be
very difficult to sustain a relationship especially when you cant be home at the
weekends to go out and socialise.
We got around to talking about Radio and T.V. and Louise said, Its very
difficult to get any exposure on T.V. here, more so now than a few years ago. It was great
years ago when we were all on T.V. programmes such as Live At 3, Bibi Baskin, Open House
and such were very good to Irish artists generally but in the last few years, the Irish
artists have been forgotten about. Our Irish T.V. station TG4 has been very good to Irish
talent and has regularly featured them in their programmes.
Radio, I suppose youre relying mainly on the local stations for airplay nowadays?
Oh yes, all the regional stations are very, very good as far as Irish artists are
concerned, and without them we just wouldnt get airplay at all. Most of them have
regular country shows and always play the Irish artists. Again, sadly it has become very
difficult to get airplay on our National station R.T.E., which I feel should not be the
case, because its a very big industry, employing a lot of people, and should be
supported by our National station. Its a big business now.
Do you have a favourite venue?
I dont know if I have a favourite venue, because I enjoy every venue I play
in. But as far as my favourite gig, the best gig I ever did was singing in Croke Park at
half time during an All-Ireland Hurling Final in which Tipp was playing even though
we did lose on the day.
Another great gig was when I was in Switzerland representing Ireland at the Gold
Star Awards. I felt very proud to be representing my country.
More recently I performed with Kris Kristofferson in Canada. I was his opening act for two
sell out shows in Halifax Nova Scotia and St.John's Newfoundland.
Each venue held 5,500 people. It was a great experience for me to work with Kris, he is
such a gentleman.
Your worst gig?
There would be a certain venue in a certain country which shall remain nameless that
I would nominate as my worst gig, but thankfully there werent too many of
A recent trend in the music business is the weekend festivals at hotels and performing on
cruise ships. Louise has featured on all of these and has also accompanied a group to
Nashville, where she performed at the famous Tootsies Orchid Lounge and Legends
Corner. We had 100 people on the tour to Nashville, and as well as myself we had
John Hogan and his band, and Trudi Lalor and her band. While we were in Nashville we did
four gigs and we plan to go there again.
In May were heading off to Salou in Spain for a week, with a group of people
again. We will be providing all the entertainment at our hotel for the week, so that
should be really good. Other artists on the trip are John Hogan, Trudi Lalor, Tom Healy,
Larry Cunningham, Sean Loughrey, and Nicky Kealy and country DJ TOMMYs Roadshow. It
should be a fabulous week and I am really looking forward to it. Well all be staying
at the same hotel, and well have six days and nights of singing and dancing. Later
in the year well be heading back to the Algarve for more fun in the sun. Irish
Festival have now become very popular also and we will heading off to the Gleneagle Hotel
in Killarney for a weekend of shows from June 22nd to 24th.
Are you happy to be back full time again in the music business?
Oh yes, I am enjoying myself now more that I ever did, and thankfully things are
going very well for me. Over the years I have built up a very strong and loyal fan base. I
am quite happy to working in Ireland and living in Bansha, and I have no great ambitions
to crack the American market. I like the odd trip to Britain and Canada and after that the
Irish circuit keeps me as busy as I want to be. No matter where I travel to I always like
to come back home to Bansha.
And my final question, is there anything or anybody that could tempt you to leave Bansha?
Louise looked at me with that mischievous twinkle in her eye and replied Now you
dont really expect me to answer that one, do you?
|When she steps out on stage to sing,
You know that shes got class.
She was born in Tipperary Town,
And they call her The Bansha Lass.
She has represented Ireland,
In the Golden Star Awards,
And even played in Croke Park,
On the GAAs golden sward.
She started singing folk tunes,
With brothers, Norm and Bill,
They sang their songs, all day long,
And gave their fans a thrill.
When she turned to country,
She created quite a stir,
And pretty soon her horde of fans,
All fell in love with her.
Shes played all over Ireland,
And countries near and far.
She even survived a nasty crash,
While travelling in her car.
Of all the places that shes been,
And more that she may roam,
Shes happiest in Bansha,
The place that she calls home.