John Stokes: Born in Dublin, started school at three years of age at Watermount Convent. Put himself at the mercy of the Presentation nuns, who turned out to be really nice and were excellent teachers. (They must have been to get my attention.) They introduced me to singing, but I think this was because of my older sister Betty at the same school, who had the most beautiful voice and always won her section at the Dublin Fesh Kioll. The nuns thought that I should enter the little boys' section, but each time I could only manage second place. Competition was fierce in the five year old boy section.
During the annual school musical play, "Molly Bawn" I was chosen to play the part of Molly. This is a story of Brian Og (husband of Molly) and has spent in the pub his signing-on shilling and is saying goodbye to Molly. Molly sings to the macho, inebriated five year old Brian Og, Ah, now musha you've been drinking Brian Og, I can tell it by your winking Brian Og. Just then I heard a nun close by saying to another "Doesn't he make a lovely little girl". I thought that they might be trying to change my natural direction in life, so I vowed to take part in things more masculine in future, and soon after that moved to the Christian Brothers, Donore Avenue.
The Christian Brothers soon found out that I was good at sports and at junior and senior level represented the school on Gaelic football and Hurling teams and later went on to play soccer at a good level.
My sister Betty joined "The Rainbow Choir" as a soloist, which was quite a famous choir in Ireland and sang regularly in the Theatre Royal., she talked me into joining. I was about eleven years old then. After passing the audition, I had to go to music lessons so that I could read the choral parts. This stood me in good stead for later.
My interest in harmonica music brought me in contact with the Cluskey brothers. I had started a trio with two local lads and played in many of the local halls with fair success, but I did not have the time to continue with this. I had met Con a few times and he asked me if I would get together with his younger brother Declan, who I had never met, with a view to perhaps forming a trio again at a later date when i might have more time.
One evening he brought him to my house. Con joined us later to make up a trio and we practiced some songs together and did some shows around the local halls and sometimes the Theatre Royal. But I knew there was not much future in show business for a harmonica trio which prompted me to buy a guitar to introduce some singing into the act. Dec borrowed the guitar and decided to alter the construction of the instrument. This wrecked my guitar. Just another one of his great ideas that I had to suffer.
Our big break came when we were asked to play a tune plus some little bits of link music in a twenty-six week radio series. A summer at Butlins in Mosney, Co. Meath followed, which was quite an enjoyable time. A five week tour of England was offered and we decided to give it a try. The tour finished in the Palace Theatre in Manchester and a local agent offered some club work.
Then a summer season in Scotland, where Dick Rowe from the Decca Record Company was talked into coming all the way from London to see us. He had a song for us to record and was confident of its success. We were very excited at the thought that we were getting a new song to record, but when he handed us a copy of Charmaine and told us there were already fifty-seven recorded versions I sensed a feeling of disappointment.
We knew that we had to do something with the song, but nobody knew what. We did a busking version on stage, but we were not getting anywhere. I then took it over, changed the melody to what I thought would sound more commercial. Put in harmonies that I thought would have suited "The Rainbow Choir" and our first hit was born. I sang the lead on the show for a while, but it did not suit my voice and Con could not sing the harmonies. We changed around.
Charmaine went to number six in the UK charts and we followed this with "Far Away Places" which did nothing. Dick Rowe was that we did not have any material for a single. I had been working on a vocal arrangement of "Whispering" and suggested this to Dick. He liked the idea, we went into the studio and the re4cord went to number sixteen. This was the restart we needed.
Fifteen more hit singles and many hit albums followed throughout the world until the demise of "The Bachelors" in May 1984, in the High Court in London.