A popular Irish duo who have played all over the globe are back on tour in the North West next month.
Foster and Allen will be appearing at The Charter Theatre, in Preston, on November 9 and at The Edge, in Wigan, the night after.
The story of Foster and Allen began back in the seventies when Mick Foster and Tony Allen were playing in country music bands around Ireland.
In 1975 they got together a small group and went over to the UK to work the Irish music venues on a short tour.
They had the idea of working together as a duo, playing easy listening music with a touch of traditional Irish instrumentals.
When their UK tour finished, the band returned to Ireland whilst they stayed behind to try out the duo on the public.
They played several venues in the London area and after a favourable reaction, they remained as a duo and Foster and Allen was formed.
They released their first single record, The Rambles of Spring, and they were soon in demand for cabaret venues all over Ireland and in the UK.
At the end of 1978, the pair released the A Bunch of Thyme in Ireland, which became their first top-selling number one single.
It was not until 1982 that this single was released in the UK and it climbed rapidly to the top half of the British top 20.
At the time, Mick and Tony were in the USA on a tour and it came as a great shock to them both when they were told to fly back to Britain immediately to appear on Television’s Top of the Pops.
Tony says: “I was a big fan of Top of the Pops. I used to hurry home from school to watch it, so I was very happy when I found out that we were going to appear on it.”
Following this, they were in great demand and they did their first concert tour of the UK in 1983, which was boosted even more by the release of Maggie. This proved to be a very popular song and, along with A Bunch of Thyme have become the signature tunes for Foster and Allen.
Since then Mick and Tony have toured the UK twice each year playing to sell-out concerts wherever they went.
They have also toured the USA, Canada, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Tasmania.
They have appeared on numerous TV shows in the UK as well as Australia, USA and Canada and they have had their own TV series on RTE Television in Ireland.
In the early days Mick and Tony performed on stage as a duo, but in 1982 they added a band to their show thus giving a much fuller sound to their program.
Foster and Allen have released more than 30 albums, all of which have gone into the British charts.
In 2015 they celebrated 40 years together in the music business with the release of Celebration album which reached Top 30 in UK album charts.
Their most recent release in 2017 The Gold Collection also made it into the UK Top 40 album charts featuring new recordings including Mrs Brown’s Boys.
Mick states that from an early age he was influenced in his music by the famous Jimmy Shand and another all time great accordion player Will Starr.
He was taught to play the accordion by a nun and a local hero Frank Gavigan.
He says: “I realised I wanted to be an accordion player after hearing records of Jimmy Shand when I was about five or six.
“I was always messing about with a mouth organ or melodeon but I didn’t have proper lessons until I was about 13. I was taught to read music by Sir Agnes who was from Cavan and all Ireland accordion champion, Frank Gavigan.
“My most memorable moment was recording and doing a video with the great Sir Jimmy Shand. I had been a fan all my life and to get to play with him was pure magic. Nothing could compare with that.”
Mick adds he is looking forward to performing in the North West next month.
He says: “We do a two hour show, with no support.
“We do an hour, have a break and do another hour. My wife Moyra Fraser is our band leader and she sings a medley as does our bass player Ollie Kennedy and our guitar player Bryan O’Donnelly does a guitar solo.
“Apart from that, it is Tony and myself. We do all our hits, some songs from our new CD, a bit of Irish dance music and plenty of material from our CDs over the past 43 years.”