The Dooleys' Story
Coming from a River Forest family of six boys, the Dooley brothers have been singing and playing together all of their lives. They are one of the longest running bands in the history of Chicago music (only surpassed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra). They have given thousands of performances throughout the midwest and elsewhere, inluding Europe and the Caribbean. Over the years they have developed a range of incredibly diverse styles of music influenced by such artists as Benny Goodman and the Mills Brothers, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Elvis Presley, the Beatles, the Coasters, the Kingston Trio, topped off with a wealth of Irish music. Their mother, Avis Mac, was a well-known Chicago portrait artist of the 20's, painting such people as Jean Harlow and Wallace Beery. Their father, Thomas, worked for the Chicago Tribune in the ben day department, where he colored the Dick Tracy and Gasoline Alley comics, among others. "As kids, we were brought up in a wonderful home where we were encouraged in the arts," says Jim. "We drew our own comics and magazines, published our own one-sheet paper, the Dooley Tribune, put on radio shows and plays on a tape recorder, sang almost every kind of music-John McCormack, Bing Crosby and The Rhythm Boys, ragtime, scat, the Silhouettes, Jimi Hendrix, Cole Porter-we didn't know any better and thought that everybody did this. I'm not saying that ours was the better or worse way; it's just the way we were."
In the mid-60s the Dooley Brothers entered the thriving folk music scene in Old Town and the North Side of Chicago, playing in the same circle of clubs as the likes of Steve Goodman and John Prine. "We played anywhere and everywhere we could, from The Earl of Old Town to Mr. Kelly's to The Bulls," relates Jim. "Then we started to travel." And travel they did-to Paris, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, England, and ending up in Ireland, where they rediscovered their roots, as well as many of the Irish songs that both of their grandfathers sang to them as kids. "Our family comes from a town called Tulla, in County Clare. It's there we met members of the famous Tulla Ceili Band, did a lot of jamming with them, and went generally nuts for the music!" said Joe. When they returned from Ireland the first time, they couldn't help but incorporate the music into their show, albeit with the "Dooley twist," combining Irish music with other styles such as swing and unusual vocal harmonies. By then, it was the late seventies. "Some people thought we were too Irish, some thought we were too American," Mike says. "We were just playing the music the way we liked to hear it and play it ourselves. Joe was playing jazz sax and hitting a cowbell on some of the reels; we also had a Brazilian conga and percussion player then. To my knowledge, nobody was doing this with Irish music, at least in Chicago, at that time."
In the 80's, the Dooleys released their first album, "A Place in My Heart", consisting of mostly original acoustic folk-jazz songs, complemented with some of the best-known sidemen in Chicago. They split their performing between rock, etc. clubs to straight-out Irish pubs and venues. In the mid-80s, they released an Irish and American folk album, "The Road to Lisdoonvarna", featuring many songs and tunes from the west of Ireland. They continued traveling, doing concerts and clubs in Europe and the British Isles, and eventually landed on a cruise ship in the Caribbean. At this point, they had pared the group down from a seven-piece band to just a trio of Joe, Mike and Jim Dooley, with occasional stints with brother Bill and other Chicago musicians, including Gerry Field on violin.
At the beginning of the 90s, the Dooleys released "Glad Magic" a collection of original songs, and also a variety of folk and calypso that they were performing in clubs. In the later 90s, brother Bill re-joined the band. "The prodigal fourth part returned to our harmony!" says Jim. " The circle was reformed!" They continued performing in concerts and clubs mostly in the Midwest. Jim also did solo performances, and also on the side some duos with Jimmy Moore, a Kilkenny, Ireland native who, along with being a fine songwriter (Chet Atkins recorded one of his songs), is one of the best and well-known whistle players in the Midwest.
Their most recent album, "Black Sunshine", features a delicious blend of traditional Irish, classic 50s rock, folk and original tunes, including the title song, written by brother Bill, paying homage to a certain dark beverage--espresso coffee. The album has been said to "be a great representation of their live act."
Today the Dooley Brothers are still singing, and working on many new projects, including several new albums-one that is Irish and folk, and one of new and old original songs, and some copy tunes, that were only recorded for their own and their friends' enjoyment. "We are one of the only bands I know of who can record a song like the 50's tune, "Get a Job" and then include an actual recording of the exact same group doing it as kids in the 1950s!" laughs Bill. And Jim adds, "Long may the circle be unbroken."Bill Dooley-guitar, vocals