Irish easy listening duo Foster and Allen are due to visit the north east next month, with concerts in Spennymoor (27th March) and South Shields (28th March) as part of their Scotland and Northern England Tour 2017.
Steve Foster and Tony Allen have been playing their mix of easy listening music, Irish folk and country for more than 40 years and have sold over 22 million albums. They first sprang to prominence in the UK when their single A Bunch of Thyme was a surprise hit in 1982 and they performed it on Top of the Pops.
Tony Allen said, “It was amazing. We used to come over and work the Irish clubs in England and the Irish pubs in London, but we never dreamed anything like that would happen. All of a sudden, we were driving down to the BBC studios in Shepherd’s Bush to do Top of the Pops.”
“It changed our lives completely. After that, lots of our songs charted. We’ve had an album in the British charts every year from 1983 to 1999 and then from 2001 to last year.”
And their singles too have been troubling the charts in recent years. As well as recording a popular tribute to the TV comedy show Mrs Brown’s Boys, Foster and Allen have released a version of Galway Girl featuring Shayne Ward of X Factor and Coronation Street fame.
Tony Allen said, “During Shayne’s X Factor days, his mentor was Louis Walsh, and Louis is a friend of ours. Louis told us that every time he got into Shayne’s car, he had one of our CDs on so we asked if he’d like to have a go at a song with us.”
“Shayne’s parents are both Irish and he’s got a good Irish connection and a huge Irish fan base so I thought about what we could do and then I thought about that song. He’s got such a strong voice and he’s such a good singer and it’s a great song.”
Speaking about the single Mrs Brown’s Boys, Tony said, “We’ve been friends of Brendan (O’Carroll, creator and star of the show) for years and years. I like the show; I watch it a lot.”
“For our fortieth anniversary two years ago, we suggested to our friend, songwriter P.J. Murrihy, that he might have a look at the show and try to write something based on it. What he came up with was great; it described the whole show so well.”
“And we got a massive reaction to it; it was unbelievable. Twenty years ago, it would have been number one.”
As well as having their own TV shows in Ireland, and hits in territories including Canada, Australia and South Africa, Foster and Allen have recorded over 30 albums.
Tony said, “There are probably CDs and cassettes of us in almost every house in the UK. It’s a great feeling.”
The duo were introduced to music early. Mick Foster, born in County Kildare, was taught to play the accordion by a Westmeath nun and by local hero Frankie Gavigan.
Tony Allen, whose father played the fiddle and whose mother sang, said of his childhood, “There were nine kids in our family and all of them played something.”
“The minute I heard music, and the minute I saw bands on stage in Ireland, I wanted to be part of that.”
To read a full interview with Tony Allen, click here.
Foster and Allen are appearing at Spennymoor Leisure Centre (01388 815 827) on 27th March. On 28th March, they play the Customs House Theatre, South Shields. (0191 454 1234/customshouse.co.uk)
A new album from Foster and Allen, The Gold Collection, will be released on March 3rd.