The appearance of the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem on the Ed Sullivan TV show in 1961 was a defining moment in the modern story of Irish singing. In England and Scotland in the late 1950s the number of folk clubs was growing, the most influential being Ewan MacColl's Singers Club in London.
At the beginning of the 1960s the Irish State was emerging from the cultural and economic stagnation that marked its first 40 years. The Abbey Tavern in Howth, on the outskirts of Dublin, introduced the first ballad sessions and the country's first television station, Radio Telifis Eireann, was launched in January 1961.
The great Dublin singer Frank Harte observed that while America and Britain had their folksong revivals, "we in this country have been spared the sacredness of a revival due to the fact that the tradition of singing of songs has never died."
Barely beneath the surface of a young nation craving respectability, there existed, as ever, a vibrant sub-culture of traditional music and song in rural homes, at fairs, sports events and in some pubs. The only singer of note making recordings and giving concerts from the late 1930s to the early 1950s was Delia Murphy. In the 1950s the McPeakes of Belfast sang using backing instruments, including uilleann pipes and banjo.