A Rogue by any other name: Shay Duffin

Posted by on Sep 15, 2015 in Books, Brian's Blog, Music | 0 comments

We needed a stage name, singer Shay Duffin and I, when we got together in 1966 to perform Irish ballads at corporate banquets and conventions in Vancouver. Our agent, a nightclub advertising director named Ben Kopelow, came up with the name. Shay and I were both from Dublin so Kopelow thought we should call ourselves the Dublin Rogues. His first instinct was to call us the Irish Rogues but there already was a popular singing group out there called the Irish Rovers and Kopelow thought a similar name would lead to confusion. So the Dublin Rogues we became.

Dublin Rogues in 1967. I'm on the left and Shay Duffin is on the right.

The Dublin Rogues playing a Kitimat trade fair in 1967. That’s me strumming guitar on the left, with Shay harmonizing on the right.

We dressed for the part by donning tweed caps, green silk ties, white sweaters and green corduroy pants. We recorded an album of Irish ballads, Off to Dublin in the Green, which was picked up for distribution by RCA Records on its Camden label. Soon we were doing well enough to quit our day jobs and hit the road. We spent the summer of 1967 playing the Palace Grand Theatre in Dawson City and then established residency in Toronto while we played the hotels and nightclubs of Ontario and Nova Scotia.

For the next 10 months, from September 1967 to July 1968, we were never out of work. Among the places we played were Niagara Falls, Ottawa, Sudbury, Timmins, Renfrew, Halifax and Antigonish. Each gig lasted one to two weeks, six nights per week. We could have kept going indefinitely, but we both wanted to do other things with our lives. Shay wanted to develop a one-man show based on the life of the boozy Irish playwright Brendan Behan. I wanted to become a journalist.

We both realized our dreams. Shay became a successful character actor in Hollywood. I worked in the newspaper business for 30 years and then started writing books. One of those books was called Scoundrels and Scallywags: Characters from Alberta’s Past. I wanted to have the name “rogues” in the title but the publisher’s managing editor nixed the idea. He discovered there already were hundreds of books in the catalogues with “rogues” in the titles so he asked me to pick another word.

Scoundrels and Scallywags was published in 2002. Nine years later, I completed an autobiography and submitted it for publication. I wanted to call it Memoirs of a Dublin Rogue but, again, my editor had another idea. “I hate to tell you this but nobody remembers the Dublin Rogues,” she said. The chosen title was Leaving Dublin: Writing my Way from Ireland to Canada.

My latest book was released on Sept. 15, 2015. Its title is Rogues and Rebels: Unforgettable Characters from Canada’s West.  Finally, I get to put the word “rogues” into the title of one of my books. One of the characters is my old friend and singing buddy Shay Duffin. He died five years ago at age 79 of complications following heart surgery. Life comes full circle then proceeds apace.

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Copyright 2015 Brian Brennan - Author

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