The Dubliners were an Irish folk band founded in Dublin in 1962. The band started off as The Ronnie Drew Ballad Group, named in honour of its founding member; they subsequently renamed themselves as The Dubliners. The group line-up saw many changes over their fifty-year career. However, the group’s success was centred on lead singers Luke Kelly and Ronnie Drew. The band garnered international success with their lively Irish folk songs, traditional street ballads and instrumentals. The band were regulars on the folk scenes in both Dublin and London in the early 1960s, and were signed to the Major Minor label in 1965 after backing from Dominic Behan. They went on to receive extensive airplay on Radio Caroline, and eventually appeared on Top of the Pops in 1967 with hits "Seven Drunken Nights" (which sold over 250,000 copies in the UK) and "The Black Velvet Band". Often performing political songs considered controversial at the time, they drew criticism from some folk purists and Ireland’s national broadcaster RTÉ had placed an unofficial ban on their music from 1967 to 1971. During this time the band’s popularity began to spread across mainland Europe and they appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show in the United States. The group’s success remained steady right through the 1970s and a number of collaborations with The Pogues in 1987 saw them enter the UK Singles Chart on another two occasions.
The Dubliners were instrumental in popularising Irish folk music in Europe, though they did not quite attain the popularity of The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem in the United States. They influenced many generations of Irish bands, and their legacy can to this day be heard in the music of artists such as The Pogues, Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly. Much adored in their native country, covers of Irish ballads by Ronnie Drew and Luke Kelly tend to be regarded as definitive versions. One of the most influential Irish acts of the 20th century, they celebrated 50 years together in 2012, making them Ireland’s longest surviving musical act. Also in 2012, the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards bestowed them with a Lifetime Achievement Award. The Dubliners announced their retirement in the autumn of 2012, after 50 years of playing, following the death of the last of the founding members, Barney McKenna. However, the surviving members of the group, with the exception of John Sheahan, continued touring under the name of "The Dublin Legends". As of 2016, there are two of the former members still in this group, Seán Cannon and Eamonn Campbell, although the latter died in October 2017.