The Journey

1974-1981. Mike Wallace & Gerry Goodwin

The origins of The Irish Brigade go back to a time in Limerick just prior to 1974. Gerry Goodwin already had experience in the band ‘Thadys Remedy.’ Gerry met Mike Wallace at a place called McNamara’s, where Mike was working part time while going to school for public accounting(!) At the time, Mike was developing a rock ‘n roll reputation. Gerry’s band did not want to travel anymore, so he joined Mike’s group to play bass. Gerry informed Mike he had a visa to go to America and encouraged Mike to do the same. Other musicians involved in the plan to play in America included Mick Gavin (a traditionalist fiddle player) and Johnny MacNamara (rock ‘n roll). Gerry went ahead of the group and was able to line up a gig in Boston, Massachusetts for March 17 in time for the St. Patrick’s Day celebration. The other 3 followed later, getting such a send-off they wouldn’t dare go back to Ireland without giving it a go. They were definitely on the one road… So at the young age of 24, embracing life as it came, the 3 took off for Montreal. Now there is the fact that they had not yet arranged for an American visa, but thankfully the border guard (after wielding a gun during interrogation) was kind enough to make them go back to Montreal and do it proper. When the border guard saw them again, he smiled and said ‘Welcome to America, guys’.

Now, getting to Boston straight-away would have been too boring. So at their first long stop in a small town in America that included a time change, they decided to grab their instruments and visit the nearest pub to play a few songs and enjoy a couple of pints. They enjoyed it so much, forgetting to re-set watches, that they missed their bus! But the pub owner was enchanted so put them up for the night and they caught the bus the next day.

BOSTON. Reunited with Gerry in Boston, they formed the band ‘Ireland’s Heritage.’ The March 17 gig took place in Somerville, Massachusetts at Blarney Stone. The place was packed. Funny thing was, they only knew 2 Irish songs at the time! The young lads were impressed by the owner’s hospitality. They were invited to the owner’s house for corned beef and cabbage. The father threw the keys at his daughter and said ‘Drive Mick and Johnny to the gig, I’ll take the rest!’ Mike’s summary words of his first impressions of America: Hospitality. Honesty. Giving.

CHICAGO. During that same year, the band ended up at Fox’s in Oak Lawn near Chicago. Mike recalls driving around in an old station wagon called ‘The Irish Whale.’ After the first night there, the owner told the band they looked too ‘scruffy.’ So off they went to J.C. Penney’s to get their polyester pants and shirts that were all the same. Lovely! Mike also has a fond memory of the soloist Mike Joyce who would sing non-stop and cut into their gig time. When Mike asked him why he liked to sing so long and hard, the reply was ‘Women love to see me schweat.’ The band also played for awhile at ‘Pride of Erin’ in Chicago, ‘The Abbey Pub’ and ‘Dirty Dick’s’ (owned by guys from Scotland and Dublin) on the north side, and Emerald Isle on Rush Street. At a place called Kenney’s Pub, the band would skip out when not playing the gig and play pool at a place down the road because they hated the gig so much. The owner was not happy.

DETROIT. In 1975, the band started playing at the Gaelic League on Michigan Avenue in Detroit. This is when the band started falling apart. Mick Gavin stayed in Detroit, Johnny Mac went back to Ireland. They had a female vocalist from Dublin, Emer Geraighty, join the group briefly, but she had to leave as well. So Gerry and Mike make a decision to get serious and start the slow formation of something else. At first, they changed the name to ‘Double Jig.’ The name did not work well for them, though, so when Gerry got a gig at ‘The Irish Brigade’ in Davenport, Iowa, they asked the owner Jerry Hopkins for permission to use the pub’s name as their band name, and so starts the history of The Irish Brigade. (In the 80’s, a band out of Tyrone met Mike during a Brigade hiatus, so gave them permission to use the name. This was before the internet. Now you can imagine there is some confusion bouncing back and forth across the pond!). Mike’s talents included vocals, 6- and 12-string guitar, bass, and boudhran. Gerry’s talents included vocals, guitar, bass and mandolin. Together, they were magic.

SAINT LOUIS. In 1977, the band received an award from the city of St. Louis, Missouri, thanking Mike and Gerry for bringing Irish music back by performing to an audience at McGurk’s Irish Pub that has embraced The Irish Brigade to this very day.

SAINT PAUL. Also in the late 70’s, The Irish Brigade was invited by the Irish community up in St. Paul, Minnesota to come and play at a well-known establishment called McCafferty’s. The event was a huge success, and when invited to come up again from Chicago, Mike felt so at home he never looked back, making St. Paul his permanent home base. A little later, an impressionable young Joe Smith who lived near McCafferty’s became a fan…


1977 ‘The Pair of Us’ Oak Park, Illinois
1978 ‘Live at the Waterhole’ Des Moines, Iowa
1979 ‘One For The Road’ St. Paul, Minnesota
1980 ‘Down in the Wee Room’ Collinsville, Illinois
1981 ‘Limerick Town’

1981-84. Mike Wallace, Steve Mulligan & Pete Yeates

Gerry Goodwin went back to Ireland for awhile. Giving ‘The Irish Brigade’ a rest, Mike Wallace teamed up with two great musicians located in St. Paul, Minnesota to form the band ‘The Old Triangle’. Steve Mulligan was from Glasgow and Pete Yeates from Dublin. The combination only meant more road adventures and embarrassing moments that resulted in energy, warmth, mischief and great harmonies on stage that entertained and brought about audience participation. Daily gigs were packed at McCafferty’s and later The Half Time Rec in St. Paul. But they also traveled throughout the Midwest in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota and Nebraska. The trio made it through thick and thin: having a woman pose as a fake photographer from Rolling Stones to keep a gig during the dreadful Disco days; making sure Steve was o.k. after being thrown out the front window in an accident, only for Mike to be jailed later that night in trying to get the instruments out of the impounded vehicle; putting up with habits and compromised situations in a shared hotel room; accidentally staying too long on a docked casino boat. Even though Pete and Steve went off to do their own thing later, the occasional reunion brings back all the memories that they are more than happy to elaborate on between songs, and their sound is still so good.


1982 ‘Three Sheets to the Wind’
1984 ‘The Grande Affaire’
1998 ‘Some Things Never Change’ Des Moines, Iowa

1984-86. Mike Wallace & Gerry Goodwin

Gerry came back for a couple more years to revive The Irish Brigade, but the call of Ireland was once again too compelling, and he returned back to Limerick to be with family, play golf, and enjoy his favorite sports of football and hurling. He of course also continued to play music until his untimely death on August 31, 2003.

1987. Mike Wallace & Dan Newton

Dan Newton teamed up with Mike for a short while, offering his talents in guitar and accordion. Today he is best known as Daddy Squeeze, and appeared regularly as a guest on Garrison Keillor’s ‘A Prairie Home Companion’ radio show. Joe Smith also started appearing on the scene, playing with Mike now and then (read ahead for more on Joe).

1987-2008. Mike Wallace & Sean Conway

Mike Wallace was then joined by flautist and whistle player Sean Conway, himself an ex-member of the Shaskeen, a renowned Irish Ceili band. With Sean, The Irish Brigade showed versatility between being a straight traditional group with sets of tunes using flute, tin whistle and bodhran, being a mainstream Irish folk group playing a mix of revival ballads, and being adept at more recent contemporary songs. Mike Wallace’s vocals continue their emotional tug on the audience, and the guitar accompaniments recall his rock beginnings, blending well as a support to highlight solos by other instruments. Sean Conway’s instrumental leads and fills create a light and lively environment for those who just have to get up and dance. Both Mike and Sean are at home with their music– past, present and future– and revel in the warmth and acceptance of a well known crowd. Though they have parted ways, their fans continue to enjoy the duo’s talents with the recordings produced during their time together.


1996 ‘Better Late Than Never’ Omaha, Nebraska
2001 ‘Live at the Half Time Rec’ St. Paul, Minnesota

2008-2015. Mike Wallace & Joe Smith

Joe brought the fiddle into the Irish Brigade sound, and you could often hear him playing ad hoc snippets between songs from not just traditional Irish music, but also classical music and familiar bits from musicals. Joe’s vocals captured the dramatic essence of the song ‘Over the Water to Charlie’ like no other. He played several Beatles’ songs that made you want to sing along, and his jigs on the fiddle wanted to make you dance along. For many many years, Joe has also performed with another band called ‘Bedlam’ at the Renaissance Festival in Minnesota. One of his favorite memories there is the day after the festival closes when they play ‘fondle football.’ Say no more, Joe, say no more. We mourn the loss of Joe, who departed too soon in life on July 31, 2019.


2014 ‘We’ll Have One More’ St. Paul, Minnesota

2016-2019. Mike Wallace & Darren Crossey

Darren is a familiar face with The Irish Brigade back from 1999 – 2006. During that time, he played all over the United States, but especially in the Twin Cities, St. Louis, and Omaha. His voice is captivating as he sings Irish Ballads about the different counties in Ireland, and whimsical as he sings ‘My Little Honda 50’ and ‘The Liar’ that will have you laughing in no time. He plays guitar and bass as well, and is bringing Mike into the 21st century for music aids. Darren continues to entertain and perform regularly in Ireland and has returned home to spend more time with family.

Be sure to visit the schedule page so that you can plan on a time to hear Mike and his musical friends perform.