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old swing cole Showband legend Paddy Cole's life is remembered in new autobiography


Singer Paddy Cole

Singer Paddy Cole

Photo: Peter Houlihan

Singer Paddy Cole

At the age of 40, 'King of the Swingers' Paddy Cole was sacked from his own band because he was deemed to be "too old."

Like everything in his remarkable life, jovial Paddy took it all in his stride and went on to notch up another successful 40 years as one of Ireland's best-loved showband entertainers and jazz players.

Now, at the age of 80, the legendary singer and saxophonist takes us on a rollercoaster ride through his showbiz career and private life in a revealing new autobiography.

Gentle giant Paddy, who came from humble origins in Castleblayney, Co Monaghan, started out as a teenager in the showbands.


Paddy with Twink on her wedding day

Paddy with Twink on her wedding day

Paddy with Twink on her wedding day

The gifted performer would go on to rub shoulders with some of the world's biggest stars, including 'The King' Elvis Presley, as a resident musician in Las Vegas.

Back in Ireland, Cole hosted his own successful TV series and is still a major star attraction.

Along the way, Paddy also found love with Helen, his stunning wife of 55 years, and the father-of-three says that family life has been his greatest blessing of all.

His career started in the Maurice Lynch Band as a teenager in the mid-'50s, playing a sax that his mother had bought him for a fiver.

Paddy recalls going on tour to Glasgow for the first time where the band performed in a rough area called The Gorbals.

Fortunately for Cole and the group, Celtic and Manchester United football legend Paddy Crerand was a fan of the band, which gave them protection because he was a revered figure in the district.


Paddy Cole Feature for Eddie

Paddy Cole Feature for Eddie

Paddy Cole Feature for Eddie

He says: "Everybody respected Paddy Crerand and because The Gorbals was Celtic country he was a hero there. Paddy would walk through the streets with us after the gig to the end of The Gorbals, where we would get a taxi back to our band wagon."


Cole's father was in the band with him at the time, but turned a blind eye to his handsome son attracting female admirers.

"He didn't take much notice of that, and it was all innocent stuff anyway, just us chatting to girls after dances. Like many other young musicians then, I probably thought that I was a Casanova. They would get some shock if they saw me now,' he laughs.

Later, Paddy hit the big time when he was head hunted by one of Ireland's most successful showbands, The Capitol, and moved to Dublin.

As the money rolled in, the showband star, whose signature tune is King of the Swingers, splashed out on every guy's first love… a car.

Paddy's new pride and joy was a VW Beetle that set him back £300. When his mother heard that he got a bank loan to buy it, she was shocked.

He says: "My mother was of the old school. She was a firm believer in pay as you go, and if you can't pay for it, then don't go," he says. "I remember that she called all the family together to go on our knees and say the Rosary."

It was being offered that evening seeking divine intervention to help Paddy pay off the money he had borrowed to buy the car!

After a dance in Newcastlewest, Co Limerick, in 1963, Paddy encountered a gang of people that included his future wife Helen.

He recalls: "Afterwards, I remarked to our drummer, Johnny Kelly, that there was 'one fabulous-looking girl in that group.' I also said that I was sorry I didn't stay talking to her for longer."

Paddy thought he'd missed his chance of getting to know her better. But as fate would have it, they were to meet on a Dublin street about a week later.

"I was with Johnny Kelly again, as a passenger in his VW car. Driving along Westmoreland Street, I saw this same blonde girl walking along the footpath. I shouted to Johnny, 'Pull up, pull up quick!'"

Paddy didn't miss his opportunity a second time and asked Helen for a date that would lead to one of the strongest marriages in showbiz.

In 1971, Cole, Helen and their two young sons, moved to Las Vegas after he joined The Big 8 showband, featuring singers Brendan Bowyer, Tom Dunphy and Twink, who had landed a residency in The Stardust.

Paddy would go on to meet many showbiz icons in Vegas, including Elvis Presley, who went to see The Big 8 perform.

"He was a nice guy, humble and so friendly and pleased to meet us. Elvis was delighted too that Brendan [Bowyer] was doing a tribute to him."

After a few years, Paddy and his family returned to Ireland. He's had quite the life, worthy of a book, but there's a lot more to come from old king Cole.

Sure he's only 80!

  • Paddy Cole - King of the Swingers by Paddy Cole with Tom Gilmore, is published November 2.

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