By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — Doyens of Irish traditional music, The Chieftains, have hit the headlines for "sex ‘n’ drugs ‘n’ jigs ‘n’ reels" after they gave a series of interviews to the rock magazine Hot Press.
Since they emerged in the late 1950s, the grand-daddies of Irish folk have become international ambassadors for the music, albeit with a rather bland image.
The rock magazine says they are more like mad, trad and dangerous to know and there is a lot more of the rock and roll lifestyle for some of the "diddley aye" stars.
In the first of a two-part series, two of the group describe boozing, taking dope and busting muscles through wild sex.
"Smoked a lot of dope," Kevin Conneff tells Hot Press, "Not before going on stage."
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He recalls how he and a few roadies went backstage to meet Thin Lizzy in Glasgow. Phil Lynott produced "some pretty powerful stuff" and the effects persuaded him to never take dope again before going on stage.
"Smoking away, I’m thinking I’ll be OK, plenty of time before the gig. Indeed, I didn’t smoke too much of it, but I’ll never forget the gig that night," Conneff said.
"I kept ending tunes long before they were due to end! I’d think, ‘Jesus, this has been going on for ages’ and I’d end with a flurry and a bang! I totally lost my sense of time."
He also reveals that he "did a couple of lines of coke and it gave me a zip for a while," but once or twice he got the "heebie jeebies" and as a result he decided never again. He now sticks to pints.
Conneff says that while the group never attracted groupies to the same extent as rock bands, there were plenty of flings on the road.
He remembered a very beautiful woman during a tour of the U.S. in the 1970s. There were two beds in the New York hotel and "I did a muscle in, in my back, because the beds started moving apart."
He also recalls the break up of his marriage to a Dutch girl he married when he was 44 and she was 18. They had two children and the constant touring took a toll on their relationship.
Band member Matt Molloy said musicians walk a tightrope when it comes to drink or drugs.
There is a belief that a "few nips" before a gig gives an edge, but he said drinking hurt him.
"I finished up in a TB ward as a result of it," he said, adding that the illness was also a consequence of smoking.
He said drink and drugs can help with playing great music, but "you do get sick and tired of getting up sick and tired every morning. . . . You get to a point where you say, ‘Am I going to do this all the time? My health can’t handle this every night of every year. I can’t do this every year. I can’t do this any more. I have to make a decision.’
"That’s what I did. And now I just don’t drink before a show," Molloy said.