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Encyclopedia > Wolfe Tones
"Ultimate Collection"

The Wolfe Tones are an Irish rebel music band deeply rooted in Irish traditional music. They are named after the Irish rebel and patriot Wolfe Tone, one of the leaders of the Irish Rebellion of 1798,with the double entendre that a wolf tone is a spurious sound that can affect instruments of the violin family. Image File history File links No higher resolution available. ... Irish rebel music is a sub genre of Irish folk music, with much the same instrumentation, but with lyrics about the fight for Irish freedom, people who were involved in liberation movements, Celtic unity, and attacks on the British invaders. ... Ireland is an island in the North Atlantic politically divided between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. ... Theobald Wolfe Tone Theobald Wolfe Tone, commonly known as Wolfe Tone (20 June 1763 - 19 November 1798) was a leading figure in the Irish independence movement. ... The Irish Rebellion of 1798 (Éirí Amach 1798 in Irish), or 1798 rebellion as it is known locally, was an uprising in 1798, lasting several months, against the British dominated Kingdom of Ireland. ... This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ... A wolf tone, or simply a wolf, is a noise that is produced when a note played on a stringed instrument matches the natural resonating frequency of the instrument, producing a tone that is loud and harsh, and basically unwelcomed by most musicians. ...

It is also of intrest to note that Wolf tone was him self a protestant of middle class stock.

The Wolfe Tones, "Across the Broad Atlantic"


Wolfe Tones Across the Broad Atlantic... I believe it to be fair use, as it is an album cover. ...

Formation and early years

Derek Warfield, Brian Warfield, Noel Nagle and Tommy Byrne today comprise the one of the world's most popular Irish folk groups, The Wolfe Tones. This article or section does not adequately cite its references or sources. ... Brian Warfield is the vocalist, banjo, harp and bodhrán player, as well as the lead songwriter with long-standing Irish band The Wolfe Tones. ... Noel Nagle is an Irish musician, playing tin whistle and uilleann pipes with Irish band The Wolfe Tones. ... Tommy Byrne was a musician with the Wolfe Tones. ...

But the quartet's story wasn't one of overnight success. In fact the bones of the group first saw the light of day as far back as 1963.

It was then that three neighbouring children from a quiet working-class Dublin suburb, Inchicore, brothers Brian and Derek and a pal Noel Nagle started playing round the fleadhs of Ireland more for fun than anything else. They used to get together at weekends playing Fleadh cheoils or music festivals, mainly as a pastime. Thoughts of fame and riches were a world apart.

Brian and Noel had taken tin whistle lessons at the Pipers Club in Thomas Street in Dublin, while Derek took up the mandolin for no better reason than his father played it.

During the summer of 1963 the four of them had hitch-hiked across Ireland, from Dublin to Kerry, for a weekend at a Fleadh Ceoil, an annual gathering of traditional Irish musicians where there's lashings of drink and non-stop music. The lads were really there for the beer although they did play and sing, but only for their own amusement.

Derek Warfield recalls what happened next: "I remember arriving in Killarney fairly late at night and looking around for somewhere to bed down. It was two o'clock in the morning as we trooped through the streets of the town and probably, because we had a few drinks in us, we started to play and sing. It was August and there were still some people on the streets. A few of them gathered around us as we sang and after a dozen tunes a fella with an American accent came up and asked us if we knew some song or other. We knew it - and played it for him."

"Afterwards he told us that he was a television producer for a Canadian service and he asked to meet us again the next day. He was shooting a documentary about Ireland and he said he wanted to include a spot with us."

"You could say that this was really our first professional engagement", says Noel Nagle, "The Producer paid us good money for the show so from then on we decided to get ourselves into the ballad game". Surprised that their music was considered good enough for a Television spot abroad, the trio were only too delighted to oblige. Their spot was recorded back in Dublin at the Old Brazen Head and they were payed the princely sum of 25 pounds - more importantly they were making progress.

Becoming The Wolfe Tones

It was later that year while they were waiting in a pub in the village of Kilrush, County Clare to catch a ferry across the estuary of the river Shannon to play in Ballybunnion, County Kerry that they named themselves "The Wolfe Tones". The group's name was in honour of the 18th Century Irish Nationalist leader, Theobald Wolfe Tone, who was condemned to death by the occupying British forces but cheated the hangman the night before he was to be executed by cutting his own throat. The name and the symbol it evokes in Irish history and republicanism, has inspired them since. Theobald Wolfe Tone - United Irish leader. ...

"The name seemed to fit into place from the start, we all nurtured a strong sense of national pride and identity", recalls Brian Warfield.

Still working by day and moonlighting around Folk clubs, The Wolfe Tones knew of the Clancy Brothers, who had a cult following in the United States, Europe and Ireland too with their revival of traditional song and music. In Dublin too a band called The Ronnie Drew Group, soon to become the Dubliners, were drawing big crowds to pubs, clubs and theatres.

At this time the Irish showband boom was all the rage. Most young people flocked to the ballrooms to see and hear the new and exciting sounds of these young muscians and singers. No longer were band members sitting down behind music stands and playing the strict-tempo ballroom music of the yesterday.Now they were wearing bright colourful clothes and moving all over the stage. The showband scene was ushering in a new sound - a new era.

Against all of this, the ballad singers who recalled Irish history or social ills were something of a sideshow - almost a curiosity. Playing in a few pubs that catered for the followers of traditional music, The Wolfe Tones kept going, always having faith in their songs and stories.

But it was at a Fleadh Cheoil in Elphin, County Roscommon where they met a young man that was to make the Wolfe Tones a foursome. They saw a singer-guitarist, Tommy Byrne, and were so impressed that they offered him a job - which he accepted. Like the Warfields and Noel Nagle, Tommy had learned his music the hard way - from muscians at open air festivals. Now, as one of the Wolfe Tones, he was in a real group even though, like the others, he still had a day job.

So the Wolfe Tones made the only decision open to them and a wise one it turned out to be. They turned professional in 1964. So following the masses, the band moved to England to work for a while. At nights and weekends, they were making quite a name for themselves in the folk clubs as Irish music was quite a novelty over there.

"Most of the singing was unaccompanied then so our guitars looked a little out of place but anyway we decided to give up our jobs and give the world of entertainment a try", says Tommy, "we went to work across the water in the English folk-clubs in London, Birmingham and Coventry where we created something of a name for ourselves".

But, as Derek recalls "there wasn't much money around, so we sang at night and got ourselves jobs during the day. I got a job in a leather factory where we used to stitch leather coats by belting in the seams with huge hammers. Brian got himself a job in an egg factory. Noel was on a building site and Tommy was in a canning plant".

Traditional Revival

By this time there was a massive revival of interest in traditional music back home in Ireland. So the Wolfe Tones decided to pack their bags and carted brown parcels of their belongings down to Liverpool boat and made their way back to Dublin.

A prior contract with their ex-Norwegian manager led to the releasing of a single and an L.P. with fontana under the Phillips label in london. The single was "The Spanish Lady" and the album entitled "The Rights of Man", subsequently renamed "The Foggy Dew" which caused a few raised eyebrows.

In 1966, they released a second album in the Eamonn Andrews studio which created an even bigger stir, called "Up The Rebels!" while two songs from this album were covered by other Irish artists , both of whom found themselves with No.1 hit records!

"It was Liam O Murchu who was instrumental in helping us to get television work through his programme, "Club Ceili", remembers Brian. "He guided us a lot - just like Donncha O Dulaing helped us to find our feet on radio"

Fame outside of Ireland

July, 1966 was to see The Wolfe Tones make the first of many trips to America. In '67 they recorded their third album and it was around then that things really started to get big. The following year they were voted the second most popular group in Ireland.

In the same year they entered into a new management agreement with Oliver Barry and recorded their first album under the Dolphin Label.

Continuing to create an impact, the Tones began spreading their wings all over Ireland - no longer did they have to rely on any one part. On New Year's Eve, 1969 they travelled to New York where they opened Bill Fuller's "Old Shieling Hotel". That was a tremendous success for the group and word of their prowess spread all over the States.

Enjoying a huge success in the United States which continues without decline, they released more albums. In 1972, "Let the People Sing" was added to their list and they playing in France and Norway.

In '73, Brians Composition, "The Helicoptor Song" became a number 1 hit, another album was released and they started diversifying to Canada and Germany.

In 1976, "Across the Broad Atlantic" came out. At this stage the Wolfe Tones were indeed a huge act attracting massive crowds and they played their first concert in the Carnegie Hall, New York.

Since then, the band restrict themselves to two months every year in the States also taking in The U.K., France, Germany, Spain, Holland, Switzerland and Ireland.

"Because of our unique position in the United States, we were given the keys to not one, but two cities, New York and Los Angeles" says Tommy, "Not bad for a bunch of lads who sang Irish folk songs for a living".

Success and subsequent fame have given the rebellious Wolfe Tones the opportunity to collect a wealth of old Irish songs and to write a few new ones. But the Wolfe Tones have never set out to please anybody but themselves. They play and sing the music they like - and they play it and sing it the way that they like. Luckily, a vast number of people throughout the world agrees with their taste.

Noel Nagle recalls on the 2004 DVD that they have spent more than 14 years of their lives in America, when adding up weeks and months of tour dates over their career.

"The Split"

Sometime around 1989, a contract was signed by Derek Warfield, signing rights to an American distributor. The contents of this contract were apparently misrepresented to the other members of the band, resulting in a clause that prevented them from recording. Unable to reverse this agreement, they continued to tour albeit without any new material.

In 1995, Derek Warfield released a studio album entitled "Legacy" as he was still eligible to record under his own name. With Derek on vocals and mandolin, the music on this album was performed by a new band, although he was still in fact touring with The Wolfe Tones. Derek's solo releases continued on bi-anually.

Then in 2001, after a gig played in Limerick, Derek departed the band under circumstances that remain unknown to this day. Brian, Noel and Tommy would later go on to release "You'll Never Beat the Irish", a departure from their usual acoustic style, now heavily laden with backing music and the use of synthesizers. This was to be their last all-original compositions, with subsequent albums being comprised of a few new songs with the bulk being made up of re-recordings and re-releases of previously heard tracks. WGS-84 (GPS) Coordinates: 52. ...


Very little light has been shed on why exactly the group split but it has been acknowledged that "The Wolfe Tones 3" have taken to slandering Derek Warfield on their website.

Derek Warfield has started to record new songs dealing with the Irish role in the American Civil War, while The Wolfe Tones have examined new aspects of The Troubles, even recording songs usually associated with unionist tradition.

This may be a slight hint as to why the group split, due to the very noticeable artistic differences the two paryies have taken. Apart from the subject matters, Derek tends to favour the more traditional acoustic style, with Brian's newer compositions and re-recordings using an apparently more modern style.

In 2004, the website administrator stated that it was to be their last full touring year. They will continue to tour, but only at select venues according their website.[1]

Notable works

The well known song, "Celtic Symphony" was written by Brian Warfield back in 1987 for the 100th anniversary of Celtic Football Club. It has been covered by countless bands around the world. Other famous songs written by the group include Joe McDonnell, a song about the life and death of the IRA Volunteer who was the 5th person to die on the 1981 Hunger Strike, which is also said to be their most popular stage song. Joe McDonnell (14 September 1951 - 8 July 1981) was a Hunger Striker who died in the 1981 Irish Hunger Strike. ... The Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) is a paramilitary group which aimed, through the use of violence, to achieve three goals: (i) British withdrawal from Ireland, (ii) the political unification of Ireland through the merger of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland , and (iii) the creation of an all... A mural in Derrys Bogside, commemorating Irish hunger strikers. ...

Their rendition of "A Nation Once Again" by Thomas Davis was voted the number one song of all time in a BBC World Service vote, beating other songs by well known artists such as Elvis, U2 and The Beatles. A Nation Once Again is a song, written sometime in the 1840s by Thomas Osbourne Davis (1814-1845). ... Elvis Aron Presley (January 8, 1935 – August 16, 1977), also known as The King of Rock and Roll, or as just simply The King, was an American singer who had an immeasurable effect on world culture. ... This article is about the Irish rock band. ... The Beatles were an English rock band from Liverpool whose members were John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr. ...


Their unabashed Irish Republican stance has sometimes caused controversy; and their music was effectively banned from the airwaves in the Republic of Ireland in the 1980's. More recently, their music was banned from Aer Lingus flights, after the Ulster Unionist politician Roy Beggs Jnr. compared their songs to the speeches of Osama bin Laden [2]. Irish Republicanism is an ideology based on the Irish nationalist belief that all of Ireland should be a united independent republic. ... Aer Lingus is the national airline of Ireland. ... Statistics Area: 24,481 km² Population (2006 estimate) 1,993,918 Ulster (Irish: Cúige Uladh, IPA: ) forms one of the four traditional provinces of Ireland. ... In the context of Irish politics, Unionists are people in Northern Ireland, who wish to see the continuation of the Act of Union 1800, as amended by the Government of Ireland Act 1920, under which Northern Ireland, created in that latter Act, remains part of the United Kingdom of Great... Roy Beggs Jnr. ... Osama bin Muhammad bin Awad bin Laden (Arabic: ‎; born March 10, 1957[1]), most often mentioned as Osama bin Laden or Usama bin Laden, is a Saudi Arabian militant Islamist and is widely believed to be one of the founders of the organization called al-Qaeda. ...


On 18 December 2006, Brian Warfield went on the official Wolfe Tones message board blasting the fans for recent criticism of "his" music as he called it. Claiming that he had given a world stage to Irish culture and historical topics, he stated that he was "saddened" and "disappointed" over the criticism. This received a huge amount of feedback from fans on the board, some of them apologising, some trying to explain their commentary and others returning with further slurs. In the Gregorian Calendar, December 18 is the 352nd day of the year (353rd in leap years), at which point there will be 13 days remaining to the end of the year. ... For the Manfred Mann album, see 2006 (album). ...

External links

  • The Wolfe Tones' Official Site

  Results from FactBites:
Theobald Wolfe Tone - LoveToKnow 1911 (1294 words)
THEOBALD WOLFE TONE (1763-1798), Irish rebel, the son of Peter Tone, a Dublin coachmaker, was born in Dublin on the 10th of June 1763.
Tone expressed in his pamphlet unqualified contempt for the constitution which Grattan had so triumphantly extorted from the English government in 1782; and, himself a Protestant, he urged co-operation between the different religious sects in Ireland as the only means of obtaining complete redress of Irish grievances.
Tone, who accompanied it as "Adjutant-general Smith," had the greatest contempt for the seamanship of the French sailors, which was amply justified by the disastrous result of the invasion.
Theobald Wolfe Tone - FREE Theobald Wolfe Tone Biography | Encyclopedia.com: Facts, Pictures, Information! (860 words)
Theobald Wolfe Tone was born in the capital in 1763 andas...
Wolfe Tone's attitude to the Pope was closer...
Wolfe Tone, one of the leaders of the country's 1798 rebellion, slit his throat...
  More results at FactBites »



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