Sixtyplusurfers Interview

Foster & Allen

By Jenny Itzcovitz

Foster & Allen will be touring in the Autumn. They are also bringing out Putting On The Style, a 2 CD/DVD set. We caught up with Mick Foster and Tony Allen to find out more about their music, the early days of their career, and forthcoming tour.

Can you tell us a bit about yourselves and where you are from?

Mick:  “I am originally from Ballymore Eustace, County Kildare. I was born in Ardenode Stud where my father was a horsebox driver but we moved to Milltown, Rathconrath, County Westmeath when I was 12 years old.”

Tony: “I was born the youngest of a family of nine children in a small village in the heart of Ireland called Mount Temple, Co. Westmeath. I now live with my wife Trionagh in Armagh, Northern Ireland.”

What musical instruments do you each play? Do you have any favourites? And who taught you to play them?

Mick:  “I play the piano accordion, a bit of guitar, tin whistle and mandolin. I was taught the piano accordion firstly by Sister Agnes when I attended Ballymahon Secondary School and I learnt all my traditional accordion music  from the former All Ireland  Accordion Champion, Frank Gavigan, Rathconrath.”

Tony: “I started playing the accordion when I was a young boy after one of my brothers brought one home from England for me. I then moved on to play guitar and keyboards and sing. I taught myself how to play all of the instruments.”

Can you tell us about the early days of Foster & Allen and how you got together?

Mick:  “Foster and Allen was formed in the Prince of Wales Pub, Kilburn Park, London in 1975.”

Tony: “We met when playing in a small local band around the Midlands of Ireland back in 1967. The story of Foster & Allen started in 1975 when we were on a short tour of the UK working in Irish Music venues.

“Mick and I had, at this stage, the idea of working together as a duo, playing easy listening music with a touch of traditional Irish instruments. When the tour ended Mick and I stayed behind to try out the Duo on the public. We played several venues in the London area and the reaction was very favourable so we decided to remain as Foster & Allen.”

How would you describe your music?

Mick:  “Our music is a mix of middle of the road, traditional, folk and easy listening.”

Tony: “Easy listening, middle of the road with a bit of traditional Irish music and song.”

How were you discovered and how did you make your first record?

Mick: “We had a number 1 hit with A Bunch of Thyme in Ireland in 1979 and it got into the British top 20 in March 1982.”

Tony: “It was difficult at the beginning and after a time working on the Irish and UK circuit we released our first single The Rambles Of Spring with CMR Records and we are still with CMR.”

You appeared on Top of the Pops in 1982 with your hit single ‘A Bunch of Thyme’ dressed in fabulous green silk traditional clothes. Can you tell us what it was like to appear on the show, and who designed your outfits?

Mick: “To me it was just another gig because I had never even seen Top of the pops until we appeared on it and Mick O’Riordan who was involved in the record industry in Ireland, suggested that we wear outfits from the Barry Lyndon film which had just been released.”

Tony: “Top of the pops was unreal. I was a big fan of the show so I really enjoyed it. The Green clothes were made by Jas Fagen menswear in Thomas Street, Dublin who also made the white suits for Joe Dolan.”

I love your hit song, ‘Maggie’. Can you tell us about it?

Mick: “It was a song written in the late 1800s and it was a hit for Count John McCormack in 1919.”

Tony: “The song Maggie is a very old song. It was recorded by the famous Irish Tenor Count John McCormack from Athlone near where I was born and it is a song we have to include at all our concerts. It is still a winner.”

You will be doing an extensive UK tour in the autumn. Can you tell us what fans can look forward to and some of the songs you will be singing?

Mick: “We will be doing all our hit songs from over the years, a selection from our new CD and a cross section of our songs over the past 43 years.”

Tony: “The programme for the tour will be made up from tracks from our new 2 CD/DVD release Putting On The Style which was released on the 28th September in the UK and Ireland, as well as all of our hit songs.”

How do you prepare for a tour like this and keep your voices in good shape and stay in good health?

Mick:  “It’s getting harder each tour as we are getting older each year! I play handball twice a week and have horses at home, which I work with every day, which keeps me quite fit.”

Tony: “I try to look after both my health and the voice. It’s not easy, especially when you are on the road touring, but I try.”

What do you enjoy most about performing live and interacting with the audience?

Mick:  “We started playing music because we love being on stage and have done that since primary school, and I love the comedy songs and monologues that get the audience laughing.”

Tony: “I think everybody who plays music likes to do it live in front of a live audience. It’s much better when you have people listening, and you get the feedback from the audience, and it’s good to meet them after the show.”

Do you have any favourite songs you particularly like to sing and the audience joins in with?

Mick:  “I don’t really a favourite out of all our repertoire, I like them all.”

Tony: “I like to sing some of the great old ballads and love songs from the twentieth century.”

You are releasing ‘Putting on the Style’ a 2 CD / DVD Set. Can you tell us about it, the theme, and some of the songs included?

Mick:  “We took 50 videos, some from our numerous TV series here in Ireland and some promo videos, then we picked out 50 songs to go with them, so people have 50 songs plus 50 matching videos.”

Tony: “This new release features 100 tracks, as a 50 track 2CD/50 track DVD set and includes our most recent single and video Burning Bridges with Country & Irish Superstar, Nathan Carter. The DVD features on location videos, TV studio recordings and promotional videos recorded over the years.”

How did you record and compile it? And what did you enjoy most about the process?

Mick:  “We leave all the recording side to the record company.”

Tony: “We have recorded nearly a 1,000 songs during our career, so we really enjoyed picking out some that were not on any recent releases and also some of the DVD’s were only on video and not DVD.”

Over the years you’ve toured around the world, bringing traditional Irish music to the people. What have been your favourite venues, and do you have any special memories you can share?

Mick:  “My favourite city to play in is Glasgow and the most unusual country we toured in was South Africa.

Tony: We don’t just play Irish traditional music. We’re more easy listening/middle of the road, and I have to say I enjoy all the places we play. When people come to a venue and listen to us it’s very, very enjoyable for me.”

What is your favourite aspect of Irish culture? And how does it reflect in your music?

Mick:  “Traditional Irish dance music.”

Tony: “There is a great Irish culture of songwriting and some great songwriters come from Ireland, and we have been fortunate to record original songs from so many of them. Included in these would be P.J.Murrihy, who wrote some of our recent singles, ‘We Owe It All To You’ and ‘Mrs. Brown’s Boys’.”

How do you tend to relax when you are not singing and performing?

Mick: “I play at traditional Irish music sessions and festivals, and I enjoy going to horse race meetings and hurling matches.”

Tony: “I live in Lurgan with my wife Trionagh, and when she is not on tour with Daniel O’Donnell we just take it easy or go to visit our grandkids.”

How will you be spending Christmas?

Mick:  “I will be spending Christmas quietly here, at home in Ireland with the family.”

Tony: “Nice and peaceful. I will enjoy the run up to Christmas but then we are back on the road touring Ireland from the 27th December running up to the end of January.”

Do you have a special message for readers of Sixtyplusurfers?

Mick:  “Age is only a number!”

Tony: “Enjoy yourselves.”

Watch Foster & Allen sing ‘Burning Bridges’ with Nathan Carter

Click on arrow to watch the video

Foster & Allen are touring in the Autumn.

For details click on www.fosterandallen.ie/live-dates

Order Foster & Allen Putting on the Style from www.amazon.co.uk

For more information visit www.fosterandallen.ie

Watch it on Television

Strictly Come Dancing

Watch it in the Autumn on BBC ONE

Dust off your sequins and put on your dancing shoes as Strictly Come Dancing returns for a sparkling new series in the Autumn on BBC ONE.

This year’s show includes a star studded line-up with Susannah Constantine, Charles Venn, Lauren Steadmand, Lee Ryan, Kate Silverton, Ashley Roberts, Seann Walsh, Stacey Dooley, Dr Ranj Singh, Graeme Swann, Vick Hope, Joe Sugg, Faye Tozer, Danny John-Jules and Katie Piper. 

Here’s a taster of what you can expect on this year’s fabulous Strictly Come Dancing.

Susannah Constantine

Susannah Constantine, fashion writer and presenter says, “I imagine the process to be like witnessing seamstresses in a Paris couture house. The costumes are all so beautifully made and I will want to take them all home. To have all those dresses made to measure is a dream come true!”

Charles Venn

Charles Venn, star of Casualty and other top TV shows including Footballer’s Wives and Eastenders says, “Some of the costumes certainly do not leave much to the imagination, but they mostly look good I feel. I’ll definitely have to do more sit ups though, just to fit in them!”

Lauren Steadman

Paralympic pro Lauren Steadman sprints into Strictly, she says, “I’m a little bit star struck that I’m actually going to be learning and dancing surrounded by such amazing and inspiring people! I’ve always wanted to take part in the show, but now it’s a reality I’m a little nervous!”

Lee Ryan

Lee Ryan is the second member of band, ‘Blue’ member to appear on the show, and is looking to Simon Webbe for inspiration. He says, “Four years later the man is still doing his ballroom moves on stage. It changed his life.”

Kate Silverton

Kate Silverton, newsreader says, “I love dancing and I love the joyfulness of the programme itself, so I am really looking forward to doing something I have never done before, which is to learn how to dance, take part in an entertainment show and generally immerse myself in a very different world to one I am used to!”

Ashley Roberts

Ashley Roberts, Pussycat Dolls star says, “After hearing great stories from her famous friends, she’s decided to give Strictly a spin. “Daisy Lowe loved it, Flacky [Caroline Flack] said it was one of her favourite projects. Pixie [Lott] and Laura [Whitmore] loved it! So I’m excited to dive into my own experience.”

Seann Walsh

Seann Walsh, comedian says, “It’s just something that I and no one I know would expect me to do. Everyone looks like they’re having so much fun on it. It makes me laugh every time I imagine doing it.”

Stacey Dooley

Stacey Dooley, documentary maker says, “I’m looking forward to throwing myself completely into it all. I wanna get super fit, nail the routines, and live my best life in all the fancy outfits!”

Dr Ranj Singh

Dr Ranj Singh, NHS Doctor, says, “I’ve been a massive fan for so long, and I can’t quite believe this is happening, but I’m going to give it my best shot. Anyone that knows me knows that I love a bit of sparkle… so bring on the glitter! I can’t wait!!”

Graeme Swann

Graeme Swann, cricketer says, “I spent my career enjoying the excitement of performing in front of crowds and cameras. It’s a bizarre pressure that makes you sink or swim and I’ve missed it since having to retire from cricket.”

Vick Hope 

Vick Hope, Radio DJ says, “I’m so nervous about doing something outside of my comfort zone in front of so many people on live TV, which I could easily screw up. I’ve started genuinely having nightmares about going out in the first week!”

Joe Sugg

Joe Sugg, social media star says, “My knowledge of dance isn’t the best, so I’m just going to go into it completely open minded.” And as for his Strictly makeover he adds, “I do feel pretty nervous about it. I just hope they have child sizes as I’m tiny!”

Faye Tozer

Faye Tozer from band, Steps says “I can’t wait to get in the costumes. The swishy skirts and fabulous fringing encrusted with crystals… It’s a big yes from me!”

Danny John-Jules

Danny John-Jule, well loved actor who appeared in Red Dwarf and Death in Paradise says, “Having spent the last few months on two wheels motorcycling around South America in pink leathers, I’m absolutely delighted to be getting back on two feet and into something more comfortable like glittery spandex.”

Katie Piper

Katie Piper, well known for her charity work, having founded The Katie Piper Foundation in 2009 following a horrific acid attack says, “I feel so privileged and excited to be part of my favourite show on TV. I already know how much of an amazing experience it will be for me and I can’t wait to show my girls some of my new dance moves!”

Watch Strictly Come Dancing BBC ONE on Saturday and Sunday nights. And don’t forget to cast your votes and join in the dancing too.

Find out more about Strictly Come Dancing by clicking on www.bbc.co.uk

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