Former showband leader passes away

Jimmy Johnston.
Jimmy Johnston.

Lisburn man Jimmy Johnston, a former showband leader and highly successful entertainment promoter, has died last week in the Ulster Hospital, Dundonald, after an illness, aged 77.

Jimmy, who lived at Comber. was highly popular as front man with the Jimmy Johnston showband in the 1960s and early 1970s.

The eight-piece band played at major ballrooms across Northern Ireland and in the Irish Republic and in town, Orange and church halls across the province.

Jimmy’s band members were mainly recruited from the Lisburn area, with guys like Maurice Beckett and Trevor McCleery (on steel guitar) and lead singers Merv Allen and Joan Bell the backbone.

With the advent of the Troubles, the showband era went into decline and, after standing his band down, Jimmy became manager of the Seagoe Hotel in Portadown, where he remained up until the 1990s.

He later linked up as a promoter with his business partner Trevor Kane and, together, they brought top British pop and rock groups to Belfast.

Jimmy was also involved in his Jayco entertainment agency on the country ‘n’ Irish scene, promoting dances and shows in hotels like the Tullyglass in Ballymena and the Mourne Country in Newry.

News Letter journalist Billy Kennedy knew Jimmy well back to the early 1960s when he was on the road with his band. “Jimmy was a great character, and a very shrewd individual with a sharp business acumen. Back in the early 1960s Jimmy and his eight-piece band worked 9 to 2 Friday night dances for £45 to £50, good money in those days for a semi-professional band,” said Billy.

“I worked with Jimmy on shows and in booking performers locally and from Scotland. He knew show business in and out and was able to move with the times on his side of entertainment,” Billy added.

Belfast promoter David Hull, of David Hull Promotions, also paid tribute to Jimmy, describing him as “a troubadour”, and “a true professional”.

Jimmy was buried on Tuesday, after a service in First Comber Presbyterian Church.

He is survived by his wife Carol; daughter Yvette and stepson David.