Jimmy Johnston, former showband leader and promoter, dies aged 77

Jimmy Johnston led his own showband in the 1960s and early 1970s
Jimmy Johnston led his own showband in the 1960s and early 1970s

Jimmy Johnston, a former showband leader and entertainment promoter, has died at the Ulster Hospital in Dundonald, after an illness, aged 77.

The Lisburn man, who lived in 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 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, and lead singer Joan Bell the backbone.

With the advent of the Troubles, the showband era went into recession 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 for shows.

Jimmy was also involved on the country ‘n’ Irish scene, promoting dances and shows in hotels like the Tullyglass in Ballymena and the Mourne Country in Newry and at other major venues with most of the leading performers.

I knew Jimmy well from the early 1960s when he was on the road with his own band, charging £45 a night for a nine-to-two dance, good money in those days for a semi-professional band.

I later worked with him when he was manager at the Seagoe Hotel and later when he promoted with the Trevor Kane.

Jimmy was a great character, and a very shrewd individual with a sharp business acumen. My sympathy is extended to his family.