I met four out of the five Rogues in high school in Crystal Lake, where we sang in the folk group at church, and did some musicals. The original group started in ’82 as O’Reilly’s Reelers. It was Jamie, Tom and some of our college buddies. Our first promo shot was on the set of Translations, at the Body Politic Theater, where Tom played the romatic lead. The band and the name changed to O’Reilly’s Rogues. Tom and Paul’s Dad Phil took the first Rogues photo, on a walk in Crystal Lake.
We practiced in the living room of a two-flat in Bucktown, owned by composer Wayland Rogers (pictured above), who lived upstairs and was also our voice teacher.
Listen to Will Ye Go, Lassie, Go
In ’84 we met folksinger Bob Gibson, who offered us his club for St. Patty’s Day, and he offered Tom the role of Carl Sandburg in a musical he was doing with Anne Hills. Paul had joined Tom and me by then, and they did a kind of Smothers Bros thing between my ballads on stage. We added John on bassviol, and nudged him to sing bass, too. I shared a recital with John Junior year at DePaul, School of Music, (picture above).
Of course we needed a fiddle player, and soon Stuart came on board. He knew a bunch of the material from touring Irish bars as half of the duo Callahan and Briscoe. We asked Peter to play classical guitar and some banjo. Peter had chops. He was already accompanying me on Irish artsongs. We recorded a record at WFMT studio, produced by Anne Hills.
We were pretty eclectic, singing madrigal style work-ups, some Gilbert and Sullivan, the Clancys, Mary O’Hara, folkie-favs like Bryan Bowers, and later did some songs of our friend Michael Smith.
In ’84 we did a month long stint at a bar in Houston – as a trio – Tom, Paul and me. We had kids by then, and they came along, with my sister Beth Ann watching them at night.
One weekend we drove to the Kerrville Folk Festival. That was an adventure, an unairconditioned van with three toddlers.
Folk festivals, Irish bars, concert halls and radio shows became our thing. We recorded two albums: On the Banks of the Roses in 1986, and Bangers ‘n Ballads in ’89. We toured a Christmas show – A Rogues Christmas, first in Elizabethan dress, then as Dickensian carolers. We did Stuart’s The Flea Market radio show, on WBEZ, and as a lark, put together a pirate show for an art center in Michigan. We even played the pre-game show at Wrigley Field, sang on the Budweiser Float in Bridgeport, and did a week-long gig at Tommy Makem’s in NYC!
I sang my share of luncheons for Irish politicians in hotel ballrooms, was a regular at the Irish American Heritage Center, and had my vocal debut at Orchetra Hall for the John McCormick Centenary.
In 1987, just after Nia was born, we showcased Rogues Show, a musical the Amandes Bros put together – getting as far as some backer’s auditions, then scrapped it. She Would Sing the Kerry Dances, a song of Tom’s written for Rogues Show, about my Aunt Dorothy lived on and I sing it still.
Here’s a video clip.
“Life came along and exacted a cost.”
We tried changing our name again to Balderdash – to make for a hipper image. But careers were being made, bills needed paying, and Irish bars and band life lost its zing. We went our separate ways. Kinda.
All my musical buddies continued to work and create and record. Often with me! Now we get together and play, and reminisce. So grateful we recorded what we did. We were fuckin’ great.
“Little Rogues easily become great ones.”
Our children are musicians, and (most of) the married ones, married musicians. Our grandkids dance and sing to The Rogues songs.
I have dreams of Wayland’s place on Dickens – the windows are open on a steamy spring night. We’re crammed in the dining room. The girls are playing on the windowsill. The guys stay focused for a couple hours – going over parts. And then we laugh, and laugh and laugh.
The Rogues join me June 27 in Cary, Illinois at the Floeter home for a concert. I’ll sing a set with pianist John Erickson, and they’ll join us for a few songs. Then it’s off the races – for a full set of me with the band.
Read more here. https://www.jamieoreilly.com/events/2021-06-27/