Eugene Wallace

Late Limerick-born singer songwriter would be 60 today

I was reading through a Phil Collins bio recently. Collins was listing his favourite this, that and the other, and then cited Eugene Wallace as one his favourite singers.

Would that be Limerick’s Eugene Richard Wallace, the man from Ballynanty in the shadow of Thomond Park? In short, yes.

Wallace passed away just before the turn of the century. If he was still with us he would be celebrating his 60th birthday today, August 31st.

Described as a gifted songwriter and a powerful singer with a raw, yet soulful voice, his dilemma as a recording artist from a commercial context – it has been written – was that he sounded a bit too much like Joe Cocker.

However, according to Granny’s Intentions drummer Guido Di Vito, who played in bands with Wallace  on a number of occasions, Wallace didn’t sound like Cocker.

“Eugene had a fantastic voice. He was compared to Joe Cocker a lot which was understandable, but in my opinion he had much better voice that Cocker. He was a fantastic musician.”

Born on August 31st 1950, Wallace learned his trade playing in a number of bands in Limerick as a teenager.

His first band, Sweet Street, were active between 1967 and ’69. Pursuing a West Coast psychedelic sound, the band featured the mercurial talents of 16-year-old Johnny Fean who went on to fame with with Horslips,  and the classically trained Joe O’Donnell, who had a short stint with Granny’s Intentions before joining East of Eden, described as a British progressive rock band.

O’Donnell also collaborated with Rory Gallagher and Roxy Music. The talented Noel Franklin and Eamon Walsh completed the Sweet Street line up – some still refer to this band as Sweet Street Sect.

“The band (Sweet Street) was formed by Joe O’Donnell in Limerick, 1967. I was living in Shannon and still going to school, the Comprehensive, at that time, recalled Johnny Fean in an interview,
“The musical style of the Sweet Street was very much U.S. West Coast along with English Psychedelic music. This music was very much what prevailed in ’67.

“In our set list we played material from Jefferson Airplane, The Byrds, (Eight Miles High), Tim Rose, Tim Hardin, Cream, Hendrix, Stevie Winwood’s ‘Traffic’, (Mr. Fantasy), Steve Marriott and some others I can’t remember. We played mostly in Limerick and Cork.”

Wallace was also the lead singer with MacBeth between 1969/70. He left MacBeth, which included Pat Quigley, Pat Staunton and John Donnelly, and played briefly with the Rake N’ Ramblers at the turn of the 70s.

The basement of Geary’s Hotel (where Aubars is now situated on Thomas Street) was one of the venues for live music in Limerick at the time, and Joe Deegan, who describes himself as a music fan, recalls that some of the bands were into folk – can you dig it.

“Eugene sang with the Rake N’ Ramblers in the early 70s. The folk bands at the time were influenced by Fairport Convention, Bob Dylan, the Beatles and others. It was more of a progressive folk sound as opposed to just ballads. Folk music was cool around that time.

“I saw Eugene playing in Geary’s on a few occasions. He would always end the night with a version of the Beatles’ Rocky Raccoon.

“Eugene was a very down to earth person. There was absolutely no ego about Eugene. He was a very genuine person and an extremely talented and gifted musician.”

Wallace left Limerick in 1970 to play in clubs in Holland and Denmark, before moving to London to pursue his musical career in 1971.

Maurice Gibb of the Bee Gees was interested in recording him around that time. However, it was his appearance at a charity gig in aid of famine stricken Bangladesh at the Oval in 1971 – with The Who, Rod Stewart & The Faces, Atomic Rooster and the Grease Band – that began to open doors in his career.

That led to a recording deal with Neptune Production. His first album was scheduled for release in 1972, though Neptune were envisaging an LP of cover version to showcase Wallace’s powerful voice.

However, Wallace managed to persuade Neptune to include some of his originals.

Phil Collins, Brian Odgers, Davey Johnstone, Tim Renwick, Lynton Naiff, Riccotti Frank, John Hawken, B.J. Cole, Dave Hentschel, Ray Cooper and Nick Graham were just some of the musicians that played on the recording.

Queen drummer, Roger Taylor, attended the recording session but his contribution would not appear until later.

The debut album, called Book of Fool, was released on EMI in July 1974, by which time Wallace was working on his second offering which was preceded by a single, “Don’t you feel it/The Badman.”

Book of Fool, described as an excellent debut album, also showcased Wallace’s exceptional songwriting skills. The album included covers of Randy Newman’s You Can Leave Your Hat On and Jackson Browne’s Rock Me On The Water.

The LP, incidentally, was not Wallace’s vinyl debut per se as he appeared in the film “That Will Be The Day” with David Essex and Ringo Starr in 1973, contributing one song to the soundtrack album.

However, Book of Fool was not a commercial success. Consequently, Wallace was “encouraged” to record material more in the style of Joe Cocker.

The results are audible on his second offering “Dangerous”, released in 1975. Unfortunately, his attempt to sound like Joe Cocker only made the Limerick singer sound like an imitation of Cocker, a fact that did not go unnoticed by the critics, although the album did contain two superb tracks “Children and “The Killer”.

The title track of the album was recorded in 1972 and features Roger Taylor of Queen on drums.

According to a report from the time, Taylor met Eugene as they (Queen and Eugene) were meant to be the same package of musicians offered by Trident to EMI.

Dangerous was not released in the USA and is apparently very difficult to find on vinyl, partly because of Taylor’s contribution attracting Queen collectors. It was preceded by a promo single which has been described as especially difficult to locate.

Wallace’s solo career ended – apart from a Bee Gee cover released in 1978 – around that period. He also worked with Phil Lynott.

Eugene Richard Wallace died following an illness on November 24th 1999. Limerick has had, and still has, many fine musicians and Wallace was undoubtedly one of the finest.

This was man who left his home town – like tens of thousands of his compatriots fleeing this Fianna Fail- and Catholic church-ridden island (what’s new?) – in search of fame and fortune.

Accompanied by some of the best musicians in the world he recorded two fine albums – at a time when record companies weren’t exactly handing out contracts at the drop of a hat – and is fondly remembered by his friends and fellow musicians.

Likewise, I reckon he’s long overdue some official recognition in his home town. At the very least a commemorative plaque in recognition of his contribution to the arts is warranted.

Maybe we could even get Phil Collins to unveil it in tribute to one of his favourite singers?

Meantime, how about a tribute night boys?

24 thoughts on “Eugene Wallace

  1. Never saw this man. Think young Bock mentioned him before. I betya someone mentioned gravelly ( 2 x l’s there ) or gritty to describe. A powerful voice and maybe Joe Cocker was more Eugene Wallace. There’s strong evidence of a labor of love in this informative piece, Mr. Out. Good one. ,

  2. Was with Balla for 12- years myself en route to Deportiva la Coruna Mr Sniffle.
    It didn’t work out for me in La Liga however and I moved back to Weston Villa
    on a loan deal, a premanent one, “permanente senor” as an Iberian wretch said to me at the time. I didn’t let it get to my confidence though.

  3. I don’t think I ever heard him live either Mr Sniffle, but there are plenty of people around town who remember him well..

  4. Balla and Weston Villa! .. Why I think you deserve some recognition too Seconds. :)
    On that Album cover Book of Fool, Eugene looks the spit of that actor Edward Burns.. exact same. Handsome chap so he was.

  5. Had never heard/heard of they guy myself until very recently.Just had a chat with my dad who went to school and grew up with him in Ballynanty.He said you couldn’t meet a nicer,more talented and more humble person.He has a signed copy of his album,ill look forward to hearing it in its entirety.It’s a pity he hadn’t and hasnt been afforded the respect and success his talent so obviously deserved,will be interesting to see what happens in the future.Count me in for a tribute BTW!

  6. Seconds. This is a really nice post on Eugene, I think i commented on this previously.
    Eugene was a massive talent, A genuinly lovely person, A good friend.
    A couple of us had an ” epic ” road trip with Eugene in ’71 from NL to Copenhagen, It was his first foray into Europe, great memories, I have his albums that he gave me, unfortunately I no longer have a turntable.
    I also remember some of the bands you mention, There were 2 Joe O’Donnells, Musician Joe was maybe the first to play electric violin the other Joe was a great friend of Johnny Fean’s, he was from U.S. and lived in shannon.
    Also Mick Fraser, Father of Jane, who Bock features here, I think he might have sang with Sweet Street at one point, my memory isn’t 100 % on that but he was definitely big part of the music scene back then.
    Eugene was also compared to Richie Havens, but all comparisons were void really because he was such the individual, He used to really bash that guitar such was his emotive expression.
    Those were such innocent times when everything at least looked simpler, Eugene arrived in Holland in ’71 on his own, just a bag and his guitar,………….and bucketloads of talent.
    I last saw Eugene in Thurles, just bumped into him, maybe it was late ’80’s or early 90’s, we had a coffee and it was like no time had passed, We chatted about kids and life, He was exactly the lovely sincere genuine man he always was, I was very sad to hear of his death.
    It would be a piece of magnificence to have a tribute to him, Thank you very much for posting this.

  7. As far as i can remember Eugene played 2 gigs in the Savoy top floor venue not long before the venue finished up sometime in the early 90’s. He headlined 1 and played support for the 2nd which I think was Tuesday Blue. Cant recall if he did a solo or if a band was involved. Bob O C should know. Unfortunately i missed both.

  8. I was at his gig in the top floor myself, one of the gigs – a great singer. Thanks for filling in some of the dots Norma and for the boys in the above also.

  9. Yeah Bock Im up for that. Had a great session with Eugene in London at a friends house. We had the bit of stew and a few glass’s. There was a great collection of musicians there on the night including 2 really good female backing singers. Very soulful night.

    Twas about 8 months before Eugene died. Yeah Im definitely up for a tribute night. In fact it would be a great honour if I was invited to participate.

  10. Mr. Seconds out, thank you so much for writing so kindly about my Uncle Eugene. He is missed an awful lot. Some of Eugene’s siblings still live in Limerick and I know they would be happy to help out with a tribute night.

  11. Eugene
    You bastard
    What makes you think I should make you macaroni cheese Just Because \I made some for David.
    Yoyu know I loved you just as Much
    Gill Rogers – Good o;ld days aye?

  12. Kevin Wallace, Eugene`s brother is a professional photographer. Has his studio next to Souths Pub, on the first floor. Another brother ” Wacker ” is living with his daughter on the old Cork Road, not in the best of health right now.

  13. I’m an italian fan of Eugene Wallace, great voice and great rocker. Unfortunatly his albums are very very rare and i would spread his music also in my country. Thanks for this article and comments, Eugene lives in our hearts.

    p.s. sorry for my bad english :)

  14. Saw Eugene coming out of the subway adjacent to the Hammersmith Odeon (Hammersmith Apollo) about 1973/74, he was on his way to the Greyhound pub at the bottom of Fulham Palace Road, treated me like a long lost friend even though I’d never spoken to him before, but I used to hang out with one of his neighbours on Ballynanty Road.

  15. Hi guys. I’m another one of Eugene’ nephews. I would be thrilled to attend a tribute night for my uncle. Please mail me with details or if you need a hand with anything. Last time I saw him was the year before he died at his home in London. He played a gig in his local pub, I was too young to attend, but I was privileged to be at the session in his house afterwards. Long time ago but i’ll never forget that voice.

  16. There are no arrangements for a Eugene tribute at the moment, but I think it should be done. He was one seriously talented individual.

  17. He sure was Bock. I know that a friend of the family, Bill Dillon, was trying to organize a tribute early last year, but it never happened. Please keep me posted of any developments, and I’ll do likewise.

  18. no relation but was also with Mick(above) when we met him in Hammersmith, Eugene was in great form and was chuffed when we mentioned we saw him in That’ll be the day.Tribute and memorial long overdue, a limerick and ballynanty great.

  19. Hi Norma. Bridget here, Eugene’s sister thank you for all the nice comments about Eugene and he the also the best brother ever to all his siblings, 5 brothers and 2 sisters, could I ask a big favor of you? I have the album Dangerous but not Book of Fool! I’ve tried everywhere for It with no joy! If you can bear to part with it I’d love to pay you for it.
    All the best
    Bridget Wallace Morrissey

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