Foster and Allen bring Irish folk fun to Ipswich

As Foster and Allen prepare to visit Ipswich on their 20th Australian tour, Ipswich First meets one half of the musical duo to find out the secret to their success.

Mick Foster and Tony Allen have an unusual record for band members.

In 52 years of playing together, the pair have never had an argument.

“We’re like chalk and cheese,” Mr Foster says.

“Neither of us is placid, but we seem to get on well together.

“We have never once had an argument in 52 years.”

The pair met back in 1967 in an Irish pub where Mick was performing. Before long, they were playing together in local bands, with Tony singing and playing guitar, and Mick on the piano accordion.

They went their separate ways for a while, before getting back together in 1974, without the rest of the band.

Their career took off as Foster and Allen, with their song ‘A Bunch of Thyme’ topping the Irish charts in 1978.

But it was ‘Maggie’ that brought them a new level of fame, landing them a spot in the iconic British music show, Top of the Pops.

“I had never even seen the show before I was on it,” Mr Foster said.

“It was no big deal to me, but for Tony it was a major thrill, he was a huge fan.”

Since then, the pair have sold more than 20 million albums.

But it’s not the sales or number one hits that matter most to Mick.

His career highlight was playing with his childhood hero, acclaimed accordion player Jimmy Shand.

“I grew up in the 50’s listening to his music, and I was a serious fan,” he said.

“So to meet and perform with Jimmy Shand, well it couldn’t get any higher than that for me in my career.”

Looking back on their musical career, Mick admits the enduring popularity of Foster and Allen outside of Ireland was unexpected.

“From Australia to South Africa and Canada, we’ve had a lot of success in different parts of the world, and there’s been no one more surprised than us,” Mr Foster said.

When Foster is at home in Ireland, he helps look after his grandson’s horses, and plays Irish handball, which he describes as “a bit like squash without a racquet”.

But it’s the music that keeps him going and neither of the two men have any plans to retire in the near future.

“It’s a way of life more than a job,” he said.

“As long as our audience wants us, we’ll keep going.”

Foster and Allen play at the Ipswich Civic Centre on 8 May.

Book tickets here

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