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Morelli, Anthony (Tony) 15th August 2012

  • Cemetery: Roselawn
  • Listed: August 15, 2012 5:24 pm
Morelli, Anthony (Tony) 15th August 2012

Description

Morelli Anthony (Tony)
15th August 2012

Morelli Anthony (Tony) peacefully at hospital surrounded by his loving family 15th August 2012. Beloved husband of Kathleen, much loved father of Miriam, Giovanni, Katrina and Antoinette. R.I.P. Tony’s remains will leave his late home 28 Ladybrook Park on Monday at 9.30am for 10.00am Requiem Mass in St Michael the Archangel. Afterwards to Roselawn Crematorium for Service at 12noon. St Pio pray for him. Deeply regretted by his sorrowing wife, daughters, son, sons-in-law, daughter-in-law, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and family circle. All enquiries to Healy Brothers Funeral Directors 2 Owenvarragh Park Belfast BT11 9BD 028 90309333.

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Mention the Witneses  Showband to anyone , and two names will come directly to mind , Tony Morelli and Joe “Boots”Clarke. This popular band was formed by breakaway members of the Dave Glover Band , Alex Burns (Guitar), Gerry Rice (Sax./Clar.), “Trixie” Hamilton (Bass),Andy Wilson (Trombone), George Mullan (Trumpet), Harry Mitchell (Piano/Vocals), and Joe Clarke (Vocals), you may say that the whole Glover band was there!. When Harry Mitchell decided to leave he was replaced by an excellent Italian born vocalist , Tony Morelli who proved to be an instant hit with the punters. Morelli was the “man for the big ballads” and fitted right into a band playing mainly pop classics with “ a wee bit of Dixieland and the odd country number” thrown in for good measure! Their main fan base proved to be the big city ballrooms countrywide, possibly because their lack of country material , but this did,ht deter them as they had a huge following being an excellent musical combination.

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During the course of their time on the road many fine musicians played with the band including vocalist Colm C. T. Wilkinson better known for his performances in stage shows such as “Phantom of the Opera” and others. They toured extensively at home and abroad and played on the same bill as Elvis Presley in the Bahamas in 1969. Just like Letterkenny,s Marines showband, they played many times in the various US military establishments  in Britian and Europe, and made many contacts there. However their biggest stint abroad was a fine month coast to coast tour of Australia , a massive success including T.V. and radio performances  while they were there. A five week tour of the USA ,earlier in 1964 saw them play in New York , Chicago and San Francisco, another resounding success for the band.

A residency in the Talk of the Town Club in Manchester , succeeded in making them immensely popular with the North of England audiences, and we rarely saw them here, only for short periods on the Irish dancehall circuit. They found time though to go into the recording studios where Tony Morelli recorded “Take good care of Her” and “Nobody’s Child” and Joe “Boots” Clarke really “ sent them home sweating” with his recording of “The Haunted House.”  Sadly Joe passed away in Canada last year, and he left us with great memories from his brilliant performance of Haunted House on BBC T.V. showband series “Do you come here Often”. Gerry Rice and Tony Morelli continue to entertain senior citizens in Belfast at afternoon gigs in local day centres. Tony and Gerry , joined by other musicians, issued a fine CD a few years ago entitled “The Professionals” a very fitting name for musicians from such a great showband , the Witnesses.

Witnesses Showband were probably the only Irish showband to welcome Elvis Presley to their show! The King and his entourage, including his wife Priscilla attended their Christmas Show at The Paradise Island Hotel in The Bahamas in 1969, took a bow when introduced to the audience by bandleader and compere Harry “Trixie” Hamilton and later told the lads that he had enjoyed the show. He bought drinks for the band and joined them onstage, though he did not sing.

The Witnesses began when six musicians from another great Belfast band, Dave Glover’s Showband, left to start a new band. Alex Burns (guitar), Harry Hamilton (bass), Gerry Rice (saxophone), Andy Wilson (trombone), Harry Mitchell (piano) and vocalist Joe Clarke formed the nucleus of the new showband and trumpeter George Mullen was recruited to complete the line-up. Mitchell later left to be replaced by Tony Morelli and in the mid-60s, Dubliner Colm Wilkinson joined as lead vocalist. Italian-born Morelli was a former choirboy who had come from the Northern Comets Showband. His father had been a member of Glenn Millar’s Big Band in the USA. Colm Wilkinson has since gone on to be one of the world’s biggest stars of stage-musicals having starred in shows such as “Les Miserables” and “Phantom Of The Opera”.

The band made a huge impact on the British club and cabaret scene and while resident at The Talk Of The North in Manchester, were supported by acts who later went on to become famous, such as Gerry Dorsey (Englebert Humperdinck) and comedian Freddie Starr. In 1964, they traveled to America for a five-week tour where they appeared in venues in New York, Chicago and San Francisco traveling a total of 14,700 miles! While in the U.S.A. they had the pleasure of meeting stars like Lionel Hampton, Gene Krupa and Sammy Davis Jnr.

One afternoon, as the Witnesses were having a rehearsal, who should walk in but the King himself. He complimented the lads on their sound and even said that he might pop into the gig that night. Elvis did add, however, that it might be difficult for him to get into the club. Geordie Mullan misunderstood.

Elvis was worried that he might be mobbed; Geordie interpreted the superstar’s reluctance as (a) Elvis being worried he might not have enough money, or (b) he might be considered an undesirable. The Belfast man immediately sprung to Elvis’s defence and said: “Listen big lad if you have any problems on the door get them to ask for Geordie Mullan.”

MESSAGES

Eddie Colvin,  Coleraine
Very sorry to read of the passing of Tony i was Tony’s Manager in the days of The WItness Showband he was a true friend will be sadly missed Eddie
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John Shaw,  Belfast
A true legend and gentleman, will be sadly missed.
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The Chevys Showband,  Belfast
Very sad to hear of the passing of our very good friend and fellow musician Tony, he was a true legend and a great mentor. He will be sadly missed in the music business.
From Micky, Davy,Graham,Joe and Sean.
R.I.P.
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Listing Reference ID: 83502bdb39df461

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