Doc Carroll, Singer & Musician at Paddy Moran's pub at Cornmarket

Doc Carroll RIP 1939-2005
Personal Collection
Doc Carroll and the Royal Blues
Connacht Telegraph Newspaper

In the recent image kindly shared by Paddy Moran’s daughter Anne Marie of Myles (Mylie) Burke, Paddy Moran, (pub owner), Tony Molloy & Bob Fox you might notice the photo of Doc Carroll on the front cover of Spotlight magazine in the cabinet behind the bar.

Paddy owner of P. Moran’s pub, often called 42nd Street, recalled Doc Carroll being a regular visitor and Anne Marie remembers him playing piano in their sitting room at Christmas when she accompanied him. She hopes that photo will bring back lots of memories for people.

Doc Carroll, well-known Ballinrobe man. 

Doc Carroll (Martin O’Carroll 1939–2005), was born on the 19th November 1939 in Tourmakeady, Co. Mayo, the third youngest of eight children of Frank O’Carroll, G. P. and his wife, Catherine (née Collins) who was American. When he was about three years old the family moved across Lough Mask to Ballinrobe, Co. Mayo, and lived on Bridge Street where his father practised medicine.

Doc attended the local Ballinrobe CBS and then St Nathy’s College in Ballaghaderreen, Co. Roscommon. It is said that a teacher nicknamed him ‘Doc’, in primary school because of his father’s occupation. In those days nick-names were very common. Having been born in the Gaeltacht he was fluent in Irish. Along with his father he enjoyed fishing and Gaelic footballer. He had a great aptitude for music and was a good singer as well as being able to play the piano, banjo, guitar and accordion.

Following secondary school he studied electrical engineering at the Atlantic College in Dublin for some years while hoping to become a radio officer on ships. However the show band era had arrived in Ireland at this time and he loved to sit and listen to the music at various venues rather than spend the night dancing. Deciding he loved this scene he joined the Pete Brown showband from Kiltimagh, Co. Mayo, for a short period and then the Sligo showband the Clefonaires on a brief tour of Britain.

These experiences confirmed his interest in the music world and he quit college to follow his dream joining Frank (sax) and Vincent Gill (trombone) and Brian Carr (bass) from Pete Brown’s band; they formed the Royal Blues in 1962.

Andy Creighton, businessman and promoter became their manager with Shay O’Hara, Brendan Arnold, Don Flanagan and Bobby Smith joining them. Doc became their lead guitarist and supporting vocalist; he was influenced by Jerry Lee Lewis and Charlie Walker and the group decided O’Hara would sing the ballads and country songs, while Doc would play the faster numbers and they soon established themselves as a big draw in Mayo with a loyal following, which later proved useful as they had a ready-made audience among the large community of Mayo emigrants in Britain and the USA.

In summer 1963 they toured the USA and returned every year for the next nine years during the Lenten period when there was no dancing allowed in Ireland. One of their records ‘Old Man Trouble‘, featuring Carroll on vocals, was quietly released in December 1965. It entered the Irish Top Ten at number 9 in January 1966, before suddenly leaping to number 2 and then number 1, where it stayed for two weeks. They were the first band from the West of Ireland to have a number 1.

At this point Carroll gained top billing in the group, and the band adopted the new title Doc Carroll and the Royal Blues. They were nowthe premier showband in Ireland. They were so popular that about 2,000 fans were locked out of their concert at the Seapoint in Galway in February 1966. At their peak, the band played six nights a week to crowds often in excess of 3,000 people.

In 1966–7, they had a further three top-ten records, two of which featured Carroll on lead vocals: ‘Far Away from You’, and ‘There Goes my Heart Again’. For the remainder of the decade they appeared regularly on RTÉ and BBC programmes such as Pick of the PopsThe Showband Show and The Go2 show.

In 1967 Doc Carroll & the Royal Blues played at Carnegie Hall in New York, and also appeared on a number of local television channels. However, the showband scene was declining and by early 1972 Doc Carroll left the Royal Blues and formed a country-and-western band, Doc Carroll and the Nightrunners which featured Tom Allen (later T. R. Dallas) and Tony Allen (later of Foster and Allen) who would go on to worldwide fame as half of Foster and Allen. Both of them praised him as a mentor, as did Louis Walsh, who ran the Royal Blues fan club as a teenager in the late 1960s.

In February 1972, Doc Carroll followed the lead of peers like Brendan Bowyer and Dickie Rock and left the Royal Blues after 10 years to form his own band, The Nightrunners. By then the advent of the discotheque was undermining the showband scene and Carroll had less success with the Nightrunners. In 1975 he formed another band, the All Stars, who were more disco-oriented. He retired in 1979

In 1983 Doc Carroll and the Royal Blues returned for what was ostensibly a once-off reunion concert, skilfully promoted as an exercise in nostalgia and widely publicised on RTÉ radio. Over 2,300 fans converged on Claremorris, Co. Mayo, for the event, which re-launched the Royal Blues, and Carroll in particular. They immediately commenced a tour of Ireland and in 1984 toured America for the first time in over a decade. This comeback was well timed, as the development of music lounges in hotels and pubs enabled showband stars to make a living on the cabaret circuit. Thereafter, Carroll continued as a solo attraction, periodically reuniting with the Royal Blues for further comeback shows, most notably at the Galteemore in Cricklewood, London, where they played in front of 4,000 people in 1987.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Carroll was busy on occasional tours of Ireland and England and experimented with a one-man show. In 1993 he committed himself to the English circuit, assembling a backing band of English musicians, and spending the next ten years performing at Irish clubs there. He completed fifteen tours of England per year, working four nights a week for thirty-three weeks of the year. In 2003 he refocused on Ireland and formed the Showband Stars with Big Chief, formerly of the Indians. He also recruited Donna McCaul, who went on to represent Ireland in the 2005 Eurovision Song Contest. Throughout he never deviated from sets composed mainly of 1950s and 1960s numbers, with those of Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Fats Domino all featuring prominently.

He released original material throughout the 1980s and 1990s, much of which had a Mayo theme, including ‘The Boys in Red and Green‘, which celebrated Mayo reaching the 1989 All-Ireland final. In 2003 he released a compilation album of singles, The best of Doc Carroll.

Towards the end of his career, he acted as an unofficial advocate for the showband era and was critical of RTÉ for ignoring country-and-western and showband music, which became the preserve of local radio.

A keen sportsman, he enjoyed fishing, golf and horse riding. In 1967 he married Mary Moran of Athlone, Co. Westmeath; they lived in Athlone, latterly at Retreat Heights, and had two sons and two daughters. After a long illness he died 1 May 2005 at St Vincent’s hospital, Dublin, aged 63 and was buried in Athlone.


Dictionary of Irish Biography

Connacht Telegraph, 25 Feb., 29 July 1965;

28 Apr. 1966; 19 June, 21 Aug. 1969; 6 July 1983; 13 Sept. 2006

Spotlight, 10, 18, 25 Aug. 1967; 20, 27 Apr.

Irish Farmers’ Journal, 18 Aug. 1990

Athlone Voice, 23, 30 Sept. 2003; 3 May 2005;

Western People, 18 May 2005; 70;



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