Spotlight on: Foster and Allen – Celebrating 40 years on the road

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There are no finer ambassadors of Irish Music than Mick Foster and Tony Allen, collectively known as Foster & Allen. For the past four decades, they have brought their unique blend of Country and Irish to the four corners of the world and to a diverse mix of nationalities.

This is a landmark year for the popular duo, and to mark their 40 years on the road, they will release a brand new Album entitled ‘Celebration’. Tony Allen took time out to chat to me for the Harp; “We have just finished the new Album, all the songs are newly recorded – all except ‘After all these years” he explained, “this has been the most requested song we ever released, so we just re recorded that as a speciality for the Album”.

Their friend PJ Murrihy has penned a brand new number to mark the lads four decades as entertainers; ‘We owe it all to you’ tells it’s own story, while other stand out tracks include Eileen McManus, Noreen Bawn, Song for Ireland, and Sloop John B.

In total, there are 20 tracks on the CD which will be released on October 16th, “We’ve just shot a new commercial for the Album which will run on ITV and Channel 4 ahead of the Christmas market” Tony explained.

Tony and Mick are seasoned globe trotters at this stage having toured extensively since the early 80s when iconic numbers like Maggie, A Bunch of Thyme, and Old Flames made huge inroads into the British Charts. As a result, the duo were invited to tour Australia and New Zealand, and since then they have returned down under every two years.

In a few weeks, they head off to Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, and already this year, they have brought their music to audiences in South Africa where they played to 2,400 people in one stadium in Johannesburg, last April saw them in bonnie Scotland, and they are off to New Zealand in June.

They will play the Belfast Opera House on October 24th, and undertake a tour of Ireland just after Christmas. UK audiences can look forward to seeing them on their Concert Tour which will run during the last week of October and the entire month of November.

How it all began

Mick and Tony played in various Bands back in the seventies and in 1975 they got together with a small group and headed for the Irish venues in the UK.

At the end of the tour, while the Band returned to Ireland, the lads remained in England where they gigged as a duo around the London area to favourable reaction.

Their unique blend of easy listening music together with traditional Irish instrumentals hit the right chord with audiences and Foster and Allen was born.

While things were relatively slow at the beginning on the circuit both in the UK and in Ireland, the duo soon released their first single ‘The Rambles of Spring’ which made a significant impact with the result that Mick and Tony became very popular at home in Ireland.

In autumn 1978 they released ‘A bunch of thyme’ which quickly became their first No. 1 single, remaining in the Irish charts for 40 weeks, and re entering for a further 13 weeks. However, the record was not released in the UK until 1982 where it soon charted, and climbed rapidly into the upper reaches of the British Top 20. At the time, Mick and Tony were on tour in the USA, and needless to say were gobsmacked when they were asked to fly to Britain immediately to appear on Top of the Pops!.
Things snowballed from there with requests for appearances both nationally and internationally. Foster and Allen kept the hit machine rolling with Old Flames which also charted in the UK, later on ‘Maggie’ put the icing on the cake for the duo and ensured their status as one of the most popular acts to ever come out of Ireland.

To date, the duo have released a total of twenty nine Albums, all of which have entered the British Charts – a huge achievement for a middle of the road easy listening act!. In addition, the lads have made thirteen DVDs, again best sellers and Chart successes. At the time of writing, Foster and Allen have achieved Album and DVD sales in excess of 19 million world wide. In addition, they have appeared on all the premium TV shows in numerous countries as well as hosting their very own show on Irish Television.

Tony lives and breathes music

Tony, who now lives in Armagh, is the youngest of nine children and was interested in music from an early age. His Father Patrick was a fiddle player and his mother a fine singer. After receiving the gift of an accordion from his brother, Tony began playing, and shortly afterwards joined the local Mary Landers Band, and later the Kieran Kelly Band.

Tony lives and breathes music; “I love touring, returning to different countries and meeting people again, we always make a point of chatting to everyone after the Concerts are over” Tony says. In his limited spare time, he enjoys working in his own Recording Studio – Roseland Studios in Moate where many of the top acts in Ireland record. To wind down, he loves watching TV, and is a keen GAA fan, and attends as many matches as he can.

Master Accordionist Mick Foster

Mick Foster is a Kildare man, born beside the Curragh, it is no wonder therefore that he loves the great outdoors. Nowadays, he lives on his small farm in Mullingar where in his spare time, he enjoys looking after his horses and cattle.

His accordion is one of his most prized possessions and from a young age he was hugely influenced by master Accordionists Jimmy Shand and Will Starr. However, it was a nun from Westmeath who taught him to play, and he honed his expertise with musician Frankie Gavin.

International Recording artists Foster & Allen are bringing their 40th Anniversary Tour to the U.K. this October and November and their brand new Album Celebration will be released on October 16th.

And a final word from Tony; “We’re really looking forward to seeing all our UK friends during the 40th Anniversary tour in October/November”.