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The High Kings: Irish Balladeers In Studio 4A

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The High Kings: Irish Balladeers In Studio 4A

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The High Kings: Irish Balladeers In Studio 4A

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

Recently a group of four talented Irish musicians joined me in NPR's performance studio 4A.

Unidentified Man #1: Let us know when we're ready.

Unidentified Man #2: Yeah, I'll just introduced it with this.

(Singing) By lonely prison walls...

HANSEN: This all male quartet called themselves the High Kings. Their name comes from the rulers of Ireland in centuries past, but these guys definitely live in the present.

Unidentified Man #1: We are bass of brothers.

Unidentified Man #2: We swap shirts are (unintelligible) talk to my belly. My Guinness belly.

HANSEN: The High Kings range in size from tall and stocky to small and thin, and they all have a mischievous look in their eyes, even getting sound levels at their microphones turned into a bit of malarkey. Peter piper picked up a peck of pretzel pizzas.

Unidentified man #1: Brian has a dorky version of that, Brian. You're definitely not going to say that one.

HANSEN: Yeah, all mics are open. The High Kings are on their first tour of the United States. Their fan base worldwide spans generations, grandparents, parents, and children can always be found at their concerts. They have flown in specially to perform for us in Studio 4A. I'll let them introduced themselves.

Mr. MARTIN FUREY (Band Member, High Kings): My name is Martin Furey. Hello.

Mr. BRIAN DUNPHY (Band Member, High Kings): I am Brian Dunphy from Dublin.

Mr. DARREN HOLDEN (Band Member, High Kings): I am Darren Holden from Kilkenny.

Mr. FINBARR CLANCY (Band Member, High Kings): And I am Finbarr Clancy from Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary.

HANSEN: Now who'd like to take the role of spokesperson?

Mr. CLANCY: Everyone.

HANSEN: Everyone. All right. How did this group originate? Where the idea come from?

Mr. FUREY: You know, the High Kings disbanded, for want of a better word, so long ago in history that nobody really knows where the royal blood lies in Ireland, you know, who's the royal families. So we just thought everyone in Ireland can claim to be royalty, you know, High Kings. We thought we'd choose that name.

HANSEN: And how did the group get formed, Martin? Or Darren?

Mr. HOLDEN: We all were aware of each other for many, many years performing different venues and concerts around Ireland. Every time we would cross paths, we would always say that we should, you know, get together and form a group. We just all agreed that it was definitely something we needed to pursue, and we are very thankful that we did.

HANSEN: Now, you are going to do a song called "Jimmy Murphy." Will someone want to tell me about the song before you sing it.

Mr. HOLDEN: Yes, the song is set in Kilkenny and it's a fun little story about a man called Jimmy Murphy. Martin is going to start us up there, give it a (unintelligible).

Mr. FUREY: Thank you.

(Soundbite of song "Jimmy Murphy")

HIGH KINGS: (Singing) It was in Kilkenny the great row was making, when poor little Jimmy Murphy was the last to be taken. We're far from the last rout from the east to Downpatrick, where lies poor little Jimmy Murphy on the sweet green mossy banks skinnymalink killymajoe whisky frisky tooraloo rank a diddle dido ding dural i doe.

We marched through the town, and we marched through the city with our hands tied behind us, and the ladies cried pity. We're far from the last rout from the east to Downpatrick, where lies poor little Jimmy Murphy on the sweet green mossy banks skinnymalink killymajoe whisky frisky tooraloo deedledumdi arrahnapogue uisce fuisce sheedanabo rank a diddle dido ding dural i doe.

Now, Jimmy Murphy wasn't hanged for sheepstealing, but for courting a pretty maid and her name was Kate Whelan. We're far from the last rout from the east to Downpatrick, where lies poor little Jimmy Murphy on the sweet green mossy banks skinnymalink killymajoe whisky frisky Tooraloo deedledumdi arrahnapogue uisce fuisce sheedanabo rank a diddle dido ding dural i doh!

HANSEN: "Jimmy Murphy" performed by the High Kings here in NPR Studio 4A. Those harmonies are so tight, really, really tight. Beautiful, beautiful stuff. Finbarr Clancy...

Mr. CLANCY: Yes?

HANSEN: What would your career be, do you think, if you weren't singing?

Mr. CLANCY: I probably would be a plumber. Watering pipes. No, I am actually, I am an electrician by trade myself. And my mother was very practical. She said, you know, if you don't become an international superstar in music, it's good to have a little background at something.

HANSEN: But I want us to go to Martin here. I mean, I understand that your background goes back 200 years in music.

Mr. FUREY: Yeah. It's basically, my family is an Irish gypsy family, traveling family. And we've always made our living playing music and just traveling around the highways and byways of Europe and Ireland over the centuries and always with fiddle and mayhem in tow. But my father wanted me to be a airline pilot and a barrister, in case you'd gotten into a fight when there is a drunk on a airplane. I can do it, maybe fly him home, and I should represent him.

HANSEN: The next one you're going to do for us is fairly contemporary. I don't think it's something people expect, it's called "From Galway to Graceland." Now, I have to assume that Elvis has something to do with this song.

Mr. HOLDEN: It certainly does. It's all about a woman in Ireland who really wants to go and meet Elvis Presley. So she just decides one night that she's just going to leave her husband and kids, and she is going to make it happen, no matter what. Frankly, it's a true story, yes.

HANSEN: Yeah. Well let's hear it. "Galway to Graceland."

(Soundbite of song "From Galway to Graceland")

HIGH KINGS: (Singing) Oh, she dressed in the dark, and she whispered amen. She was pretty in pink like a young girl again. 20 years married, and she never thought twice. She slipped out of the door and into the night. And silver wings carried her over the sea. From the west coast of Ireland to West Tennessee to be with her sweetheart, she'd left everything. She went from Galway to Graceland to be with the king. She was humming "Suspicion," that's the song she liked best. She had Elvis, I Love You tattooed on her breast. When they landed in Memphis, her heart beat so fast. She had dreamed for so long, now, she'd see him at last.

And she knelt by his graveside day after day. Come closing time, they would pull her away. To be with her sweetheart, she'd left everything. She went from Galway to Graceland to be with the king. In there thousands they came, from the whole human race, just to pay their respects at his last resting place. But blindly she knelt there, and she told him her dreams. And she thought that he answered, or that's how it seemed, when they dragged her away it was handcuffs this time. She said, my good man, are you out of your mind. Don't you know that we're married? See, I'm wearing his ring.

I've come from Galway to Graceland to be with the king. I've come from Galway to Graceland to be with the king. I've come from Galway to Graceland to be with the king. I've come from Galway to Graceland to be with the king.

HANSEN: "Galway to Graceland" performed by the High Kings in studio 4A. Any of you ever been to Graceland? All right, Darren, you have.

Mr. HOLDEN: I've been there seven times, you know.

(Soundbite of laughter)

HANSEN: Seven times?

Mr. HOLDEN: Yeah, and I'd go again in a heartbeat. Absolutely.

HANSEN: What's the attraction for you?

Mr. HOLDEN: I don't know. It's just...

Mr. FUREY: Elvis.

Mr. HOLDEN: A sense of calm and peace whenever I go there. I just go there and lean over the wall and just look in and kind of, you know, wonder about all the stuff that went on back there. And I always get sort of a little sad that he's not still around to enjoy it now, you know.

HANSEN: What are your live shows like? I've seen the DVD, and it seems like you shouldn't plan on attending a High Kings concert without being ready to sing along, clap, or dance.

Mr. HOLDEN: Sing, yeah.

Mr. FUREY: That's exactly that.

Mr. DUNPHY: All three I guess. Just come along and bring a lot of energy with you. There's a lot of audience participation in this show, and we want to remember every single show in this tour. We want the audience to go home and, you know, have it live long in their memory, too.

Mr. CLANCY: There's a great spirit to these songs, and it's a great rhythm, and it's full of life. And it's just very enjoyable for all generations.

Mr. DUNPHY: It's a rousing night, and it's just four guys up there doing their thing. We've also got a six-piece (unintelligible) as well. It's going to be a great night.

HANSEN: Mm hmm. You're going to leave us with a song that I think a lot of people know, and I'd like to invite the radio audience to just, you know, join right in. We can't hear you, but we know you're there. And this is a song called "Wild Rover."

Mr. CLANCY: OK.

(Soundbite of song "Wild Rover")

HIGH KINGS: (Singing) And it's no, nay, never. No, nay, never, no more. Will I play the wild rover. No, never, no more. I've been a wild rover for many's a year. And I've spent all me money on whiskey and beer. And now, I'm returning with gold in great store. And I never will play the wild rover no more. And it's no, nay, never. No, nay, never, no more. Will I play the wild rover. No, never, no more. I went into an alehouse I used to frequent. And I told the landlady my money was spent. I asked her for credit, she answered me nay. Such a custom as yours I could have any day. And it's no, nay, never. No, nay, never, no more. Will I play the wild rover. No, never, no more. Then out of my pocket I took sovereigns bright...

HANSEN: That's the High Kings, Martin Furey, Brian Dunphy, Darren Holden, and Finbarr Clancy singing in NPR's studio 4A. They're currently on a U.S. tour, and their CD, "The High Kings" is on the EMI label. The quartet recorded a fourth song exclusively for Weekend Edition, and you can hear it online. Go to the music page at npr.org. This is Weekend Edition from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen.

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