Mama’s Boys were a hard rock trio formed in Northern Ireland at a time when international success wasn’t easily attainable. A lot of hard work and dedication would be required to follow in the footsteps of Rory Gallagher and Thin Lizzy, but, luckily for Pat McManus, he and his brothers never lacked the drive to survive in an industry that can turn on someone just as quickly is it anoints them the next big thing.
They released a string of ripping albums between 1980 and 1992, and even found themselves performing in front of 120,000 people at Knebworth in 1985. Had drummer Tommy McManus not tragically passed away of Leukemia in 1994, who knows how much further they could have gone? They had a sound, a look, and a magical chemistry that could have only come from being brothers.
I had the honor of catching up with Pat this week to discuss his latest project, “Full Service Resumed,” with the Pat McManus Band as well as how instrumental Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy was in helping Mama’s Boys get to where they knew they always deserved to be.
MNOD: 2020 was certainly a challenging time everyone, especially musicians. Tell me about how the new album came together.
McManus: I had a lot of time on my hands, because we were totally locked down here in Ireland. I developed these songs and felt that I had enough material for an album. The finished product never matches up entirely to the idea that you have in your head, but I love the spontaneous nature of these songs. I wanted songs that I could emulate live pretty easily, so I laid these tracks down with that in mind. Sometimes, you lose the raw power of a piece when you do too many overdubs. I didn’t want it to sound overproduced or squeeze too much of the goodness out of it. I am pleased with how everything turned out, though.
MNOD: What was the scene like in Ireland when you initially started out in music?
McManus: It was very hard and difficult back in those days. I came from a traditional Irish folk music background, so I was playing the fiddle at the beginning. My dad was a farmer as well as an amateur musician and he was very supportive of my brothers and I getting into music. We were 100 miles from Dublin and 100 miles from Belfast, so there weren’t many bands getting noticed in Northwest Ireland. My dad played the saxophone and the violin, but both of my parents told me to do what I wanted to do to be happy. They were keen to help any way they could. My brothers and I would put a log on the fire and rehearse all day long. We were fortunate that Philip Lynott discovered us, because it would have been difficult to break out otherwise. Supporting Thin Lizzy on their farewell tour in the UK was really a launching pad for us.
MNOD: When did the guitar become your main instrument?
McManus: It was really trial and error. We had no YouTube or online tutorials in those days, so Horslips were the band that I wanted to learn from. They were a Celtic rock band and their guitarist Johnny Fean was my hero growing up. When I saw them, I knew that was what I wanted to do. I had a great aptitude for it and then I got into guys like Gary Moore and Rory Gallagher. Rory was the first real rock star here in Ireland and he carried the flag. In the early days of Mama’s Boys, we learned a lot as we went along, as well, because there wasn’t much to look forward to outside of music. I was still into the traditional music, so I didn’t get the rock ‘n’ roll bug until later on. I was aware of it, but we didn’t start to immerse ourselves in Black Sabbath and Deep Purple until later. Once I saw the energy behind going electric, I was hooked.
MNOD: What was it like when you first toured in America?
McManus: Touring America was the Holy Grail for bands in those days. We used to get American television in Ireland, so it was a totally awesome feeling to be going out with bands like Ratt, Twisted Sister, and Blackfoot. It was phenomenal to be there. It’s an experience in my life that I’ll never forget, because I learned a lot by watching those bands and how they crafted their performances. Everybody was driven to succeed.
MNOD: How would you compare the audiences in the US, UK, and Europe?
McManus: What I’ve found is that European audiences didn’t always pay attention to the supporting acts. They paid to see the headliner and often hung out at the bar until they came on. They can be selective and protective of their favorite bands. The American people arrived to the show to have a good time and really got behind the supporting bands. They gave everyone a chance and appreciated everyone who played their hearts out.
MNOD: Describe your experience opening for Thin Lizzy during their UK farewell tour?
McManus: We were fortunate to be discovered at that time. They were saying ‘Goodbye’ while we were saying ‘Hello,’ which was interesting. Philip Lynott was a true professional and master of communicating with the audience. There was a huge learning curve for us, because we were thrust into the rock ‘n’ roll lights. Philip would come back after our show to tell us what he thought was good and what he thought wasn’t so good. He was always helping us become better at what we did by sharing his experiences with us. Scott Gorham and John Sykes also spent a lot of time with us. Sykes was the new kid on the block with them at the time, but he was also one of the world’s greatest guitar players. He would hang out with us quite often. They all treated us well, though, so being able to support them on that tour was amazing.
MNOD: Lizzy is a band that should have been bigger in America, so I’m always fascinated to hear from bands that spent time around them.
McManus: A lot of it was sheer bad luck, because they were a phenomenal band. I think America was ready for them. They had issues with various members not being able to tour at certain times, so the dice never really got rolling for them. Every time the momentum appeared to be in their favor, something would happen to derail it. They definitely had everything going for them, though.
MNOD: Given everything you’ve experienced in your career to this point, what are some things that you’d still like to accomplish?
McManus: I’d love to get out there to countries that I’ve never played before. I still have that fire in my belly and I’ve never rested on my laurels. There’s always more out there and more to be seen and more jams to be had. I love playing music. People think I’m crazy, because I even play guitar in my spare time. I have shows lined up this year, so I’m looking forward to getting back out there.
“Full Service Resumed” is out Oct. 8