Derry musician, Pat McCrossan, chats to Derry information in regards to the 60s music scene in Derry, transferring to make a life in North America & how he continues to gig at 80 years previous

A musician and entertainer for more than 50 years, Pat McCrossan left his beloved Derry to move to Canada in 1969 to join a Canadian Country and Rock band.

Pat became in demand for session work at ARC studios in Toronto with many top Canadian country, folk and Pop musicians. He decided to make the leap and moved to Canada.

Prior to this Pat was considered one of the top-rated rock guitarists in Ireland in the 1960’s and had previously taught classical piano and guitar with ‘The Royal Conservatory of Music.

He has recorded many albums with various themes from Country, Blues, Rock n’ Roll, Easy listening, and acoustic Folk.

Even now, at eighty years old, Pat has not slowed down at all as he continues to gig and is still in demand for shows, dances and wakes.

Inspired by early Blues, Country and Jazz musicians like Skip James, Hank Williams, Wes Montgomery, Pat tells me he is a huge fan of the older great guitarists like Chet Atkins, Les Paul, Joe Maphis and Doc Watson, and the players in the 60’s to 80’s like Jimmie Hendrix, Mark Knopfler, Pat Travers and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

Pat is also a massive fan of the Southern Gospel music of JD Sumner, Statler Brothers and of course, Elvis.

After seeing Elvis in the movie, “Love me Tender,” Pat bought his first guitar when he was just 15 years old and practiced like mad to be Elvis.

In his ever distinct Derry accent, Pat told me of his musical life in Derry in the 1950s and 60s: “The Mainliners was my Dad’s band and once I learned a few chords he put me to work playing rhythm.

“As soon as I could, I bought my first electric guitar. The guitar had no manufacturer’s name on it so it remains a mystery. The band played the popular country music of the period.

Pat found his love for playing guitar at just 15 years old and idolized the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley

“By late 1958, I had purchased a white Harmony electric with twin De Armond pickups and a Bigsby unit. We’re still the Mainliners, but I was introducing Rock n’ Roll into the program. Frank McKay on bass amd Seamus McConnell on guitar .

“The Magnificent Seven -called after the movie of the same name- was a Showband in that we put on a stage show as well as playing the popular songs of the day.

“It is my first full-time professional band, professional in that we made a living from playing music. We played all the current popular music from America and the UK whether it was Rock n’ Roll or country, or Irish and interspersed the program with Dixieland and modern Jazz.

“In 1963, I built a double neck guitar and formed my own band, The Checkers. Imagine an eejit building a guitar to sound like a motorbike, I always did have a funny head on me for inventing things.

Pat pictured with the double-necked guitar that he created in the 1960s

“In early 1964 we landed a resident spot on Irish TV on a show called ‘Picking the Pops.

“We became very popular in Southern Ireland as Irish TV had not yet beamed into the top half of the country.

“The band also toured England and for a few years we had a good run until I decided to emigrate to Toronto, Canada.

“The Shamrocks was a band, evolved from The Maple Leaf Showband, who I came to Canada to join in 1970.

“We were together for three years and recorded two albums. The band played all over Ontario with frequent forays into New York. It was a good show but torn apart by large egos.”

Pat continued to live a life full of music, selling records and gigging across Canada and latterly Arizona.

Pat performing during his time in Canada

Pat confesses he no longer gigs till the early hours and it is a different scene from his younger years but music is still his passion in life.

Pat said: “I’ve been on the music scene for the last 50 years. I’m still working and feel lucky to be as I’ve just turned 80.

“Truthfully, I never thought I’d make it to 80, I only took my life insurance out till I was 72, so far, I’m outliving my insurance policy,” he laughed.

“I’m playing in care homes now and I’m home for 2pm. It makes quite the difference from gigging in clubs and getting home at 2am.”

Pat still has family in Derry, including siblings, and many musician friends, “There’s still a few of us left,” he continued.

“Derry will always have my heart, I have great memories growing up there, including getting hunted out of the courthouse with my friends as a boy when we watched all the drunks getting charged,” he laughed.

Pat travels back to Ireland with his wife often but has not managed to get home since 2019, due to the global pandemic.

“The last time I was there it rained everyday, I ended up in the travel agents telling her to get me to the sun, we ended up in Italy. I am too used to the heat now even though we can’t stay in Arizona during the summer, we go back to Canada.”

Pat and his wife’s two children still reside in Canada and he spends five months of the year in Canada with his daughters.

“My siblings think I am crazy for making the drive north every year but it’s the equivalent here of driving from Derry to Portrush.

“I can’t take the plane anyway with my banjo and guitars. They say I am too old now to drive over 2000 miles but it used to take us six hours to get to Dublin, I can make the journey just fine.

“I’ve been told to stop making that car journey, I’ve been told to stop having any alcohol by the doctor, I’ll no doubt be told to stop gigging.

“But, if people had told me to stay away from smoking and drinking, I’d have been dead long ago.

“I’ll keep playing music until I can’t, I loved it then and I love it still.”

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