|Irish Coffee’s singer-guitarplayer William Souffreau (b.1946.4.14) made his first steps for musical fame back in 1960 in a band he formed with some school friends: The Blue Jets. They played cover-songs of early rock & roll-classics and Elvis Presley songs. In 1963 or thereabouts he joined another Aalst outfit who called themselves The Mings.|
|This adventure lasted another three years as it was in 1966 when he was asked to join The Four Rockets as a second singer. This band was quite popular in the dance hall-circuit and thanks to a manager they played a lot of shows (even in France) while on some evenings they backed “Pop” (Lou Deprijck) . On their setlist were mainly rock & roll classics, The Shadows, The Beatles and The Stones with only very few self-written songs. In 1967 The Four Rockets managed to release a single (Mademoiselle / The Place Where She Lives) on the “Micro” label, while a second one was recorded but never saw the light of day, as the original tapes seemed to got lost.
|Hugo Verhoye (b.1947.2.5.) came from a musical family and started playing balls & pubs in 1960 and by the time he was 15 he already had a band called The Rocking Stars. His next drumseat was with the Paul Lynde Quintet where he met Paul Lambert (b.1948.8.20 ~ d 1974.11.2) who was the organ player and via Josh Mondy he joined around 1966 the backing band for singer Rocco Granata called the Cardinal Show Quintet. This quintet was Hugo on drums, Paul on organ, William on guitar, Willy De Bisschop (b. 1948.1.20.) on bass and Rudy Van Impe on sax. Together they played a lot of shows for about three years till one day in 1969, after a show in Brugge Hugo got fired. Paul and William decided to quit also and start a new band with singer Dirk Diericks and guitar player Romain De Smet (ex The Mings).|
|They chose to name themselves Voodoo after analogy from The Voodoos (their only vinyl release was a 7” back in 1965), another Aalst-based band with singer Dirk and guitar player Romain, who played cover-songs in the dance halls since the early sixties.
|Voodoo had quite quick an agreement with the owner of dancehall “El Gringo” in Hekelgem to play every saturday and sunday rock music over there. Everyone seemed very enthusiastic but a week before the premiere of this new band, guitar player Romain decided to leave to play somewhere else. As everything was already arranged and announced; finding a new guitar player seemed the only option. Hugo did remember he had seen a band with a good guitar player named “Willy Palma & The Raja’s”, who played Gun’s “Race With The Devil”. Although he was only 16, they decided to wait for him after school and to ask this kid Jean Van Der Schueren (b.1952.7.24), if he could learn some songs in a week.
|They went along to his parents house, where they left him some records (one of them was Creedence Clearwater Revival) to study and play along with.|
When after a few days the band got Jean to their rehearsal they were astonished, as he made much progress and had learned more songs than they expected, so Jean was in!
|After some months they built a huge following, playing two sets of 90 minutes every night. (later on the sets became much shorter as people didn’t drank enough when the band was playing…)|
|While at the start they had a lot of mainstream songs (The Beatles, The Marmelade, Bee Gees, CCR,…) their setlist became much heavier the following months.|
The kinks, The Who, The Free, Jimi Hendrix, Spooky Tooth, Muddy Waters, Led Zeppelin (Whole Lotta Love, Babe I’m Gonna Leave You! , Communication Breakdown, Good Times Bad Times,), Deep Purple (almost everything from “3” & “In Rock”!), Blind Faith (Well Allright & Do What You Like-with a solospot for everyone!) and even Spirit (Fresh Garbage) .
|So the following months the band became much better and tighter as a result of this weekly playing and became very popular over there, as they played more heavy music than the other bands that were around at that time. Hugo: “if we should play all those songs now, without rehearsing, I’m sure we would know them all, as we played them so many times!” The Voodoos were then: Dirk Dierickx on vocals and guitar, William Souffreau on vocals and bass, Jean Van Der Schueren on lead guitar, Paul Lambert on organ and Hugo Verhoye on drums. By the end of the year the band was asked to play - for the first time outside their “El Gringo”- at a concert for local football team “Terjoden”. Irish Coffee played on this sunday-afternoon (as they had to return to their club to play that night) right before the well known band The Pebbles. Their manager Louis De Vries, who also managed Ferre Grignard & Mad Curry, was immediately convinced of their potential. They were snapped up by De Vries right there, who afforded them the opportunity to record a single, as long as they made own compositions. As there was another band called The Voodoos, he also changed their name without telling the band first, and so they had to adopt the new identity Irish Coffee.|
|The boys were excited and already two weeks later they recorded “Masterpiece” and “The Show” in the small 8-track Reward-studio in Schelle owned by the band The Jokers. The 7” was presented to the press on January 8th, 1971 at “the Team” in Brussels a club in the same building as the then famous “Cousins-club”.|
|It came out on the “Pirate’s” label (as well as some other labels later on) and should do it quite good in Belgium.Dirk Dierickx decided to leave the band prior to this release, as the music became to heavy for him, so he can only be heard singing backing vocals on “Masterpiece”. William still played bass on it but when Dirk left, William also switched to guitar while Willy De Bisschop joined to play bass. Everything was decided by Louis, so even the picture on the front cover (taken on the roof of Brussels first parking-tower) was a surprise for the band till it was in the shops.|
|In the first month of 1971 manager De Vries went to the well known Midem music fair in France (Cannes) were he managed to gain a lot of interest in Irish Coffee. As he could not be in both stands at the same time he left one of them with only a tape recorder to play the “Braintrust” music. That music came to the attention of a representative from American record company (Parrot) who signed Irish Coffee immediately and wanted a full album as soon as possible.|
|The single ended up in the Belgian charts (number 7 on humo magazine’s ttt-list) and resulted in a lot of concerts and TV-shows as BRT’s “Tienerklanken”(filmed on three locations; one of them shows the band at Reward Studios), “Binnen & Buiten” as well as on “Popshop”(RTBF) and even in Paris (“Anni Cordi Sur La Deux”) . This last show was quite an adventure for this young band as they had to stay a whole week there to rehearse their TV-appearance. It was the start of the second French national channel with a lot of other artists where everyone played his hit-single (”the show” remarkably!) Everything was well organised there (even a limousine to give autographs in record stores) but the boys weren’t professional enough to take full advantage of this extraordinary promotion. Hugo: “None of us besides Paul spoke a few words French and we were real laymen doing business, that’s were we really missed an opportunity”.|
At the same time the band started writing for the lp from scratch and after rehearsing four times a week they managed to record the complete album in 4 days (and nights!) at the Reward-studio.
|Everything had to be done very fast, (they had entered the studio with only three songs written, while the lyrics from the then unfinished song “Hear Me” were written in the studio right before they were recorded) so every note that was recorded ended on the album.|
|It turned out to be an impressive piece of heavy rock, when it finally hit the Belgian shops in July 1971on Triangle records. There weren’t any weak songs on it so Irish Coffee would certainly be able to make an impression abroad. Their hit-single “Masterpiece” (who was by now released in a lot of country’s around the world and even became a huge hit in Spain) wasn’t included as Parrot Records thought “The Show” on the flipside was the best song who had much more potential and should therefore appear on this long-player.|
|The artwork on the sleeve (made by Paul’s girlfriend) was also very special and different from most photo-sleeves from that time. Unfortunately their American dream did end, as Parrot-records failed without ever releasing the album.|
|But Irish Coffee were “hot” now and played a lot of shows, also in the southern part of Belgium. One of those gigs was recorded live (at the Aalst dancehall “Playboy”) but owner Louis Borms threw away the tapes a few years later when he found out the recordings where only on one channel… The Brain Trust Company with Louis Devries and his assistant Bob Leonard proved to be a fine management who made a lot of money for the band, not by selling records but thanks to those concerts. An Irish Coffee show those days wasn’t only their proper songs but still a lot of cover tunes they used to play at the El Gringo. They shared many times the stage (and the equipment) with Belgiums most popular band The Pebbels as they had the same management and they also supported well known bands as Dr Feelgood (RTBF studios 1971), Colosseum (1971) , Uriah Heep (Gent 1971), Focus (popshop 1971) and Chicken Shack (Antwerp 1972).|
|Nevertheless, as the album was well received in Belgium (on Triangle records), they decided to “carry on” and came up, quite fast (September 1971), with a new 7”. “Carry On” and “Child” were both excellent newly written songs who unfortunately did not became “hits” as the previous 45rpm, despite a TV-appearance on “Popshop”. The band was busy playing shows so they only wrote new songs when their management asked for it. William: “You got to have a proper goal; if they would have ask us in 1972 to write another album we would have done it…”|
|Hugo Verhoye decided to leave as he got tired of being on its way to play concerts all the time; many times they had to play two or three shows a night plus loading and unloading the gear in their old Bedford-van. He was replaced by Raf Lenssens (ex Glass Union), before the third single “Down Down Down” /”I’m Alive” was released at the end of 1971. Once again, both songs were really great. The pictures on this 7” shows the band as a four piece as also Paul Lambert had left the band for a few months, because it was difficult to combine the music with his day-job.|
|They appeared in a lot of magazines and in the “Pop Poll” from Humo magazine from 1972 the band even gained seven quotations. The following two years Irish Coffee couldn’t get any vinyl in the shops but continued playing live (on their height even up to 20 gigs a month!)
|In the spring of 1973 Paul had rejoined the band, but Jean Van Der Schueren left because he wanted to concentrate on his study classical guitar.|
|Finding a replacement for Jean didn’t seem easy at first but already a few weeks later (July) a new recruit was found in Luc De Clus (1951.06.27). Despite his age Luc was already an experienced player. Lucky to play his first guitar at the age of five, he later on started his own bands The Dender Birds and The Sten.|
|At sixteen things got even more serious as he started playing the John Larry orchestra to play weekly dance evenings and weddings. Playing a dance in the sixties was playing for at least five hours (mostly current hits) in witch John Larry sang only two half-hour-sets. In the spring of 1973 he also joined upcoming singer Wim De Creane’s backing band. It was a few weeks later when Raf Lenssens (who auditioned for the drum spot in the orchestra) asked Luc if he wasn’t fond of joining Irish Coffee.|
|Of course he agreed; “Although they weren’t that much on the radio, they were a real cult band of who everyone knew they were good” Luc remembers.|
|As the band was fully operational again, William started writing new songs and they played a lot of shows during the summer. The setlist didn’t contained any cover songs by then, while the new material wasn’t only straight forward hardrock but it included some jazz- and country-rock influences. As Raf Lenssens worked at the Gent’ Arena Theater Studio they managed to record a few of those songs over there, but those tapes disappeared since then.|
|Manager De Vries was glad the music was happening again and he also found Barclay Records willing to release a new single. He chose two great songs; “Witchy Lady” backed with “I’m Hers” who were recorded at Reward Studio once again and finally released in June 1974. This new record was premiered at Brussels famous “Beursschouwburg” and also made it to the national tv; BRT’s “tienerklanken” but didn’t charted despite some radio airplay. William: “we were only a hardrock-band and we really did what we liked; we never thought about writing a hitsingle”.|
|Along Irish Coffee, Raf, Paul, Willy and Luc also backed singer Wim De Craene who was quite popular by then, and returning from one of those gigs in November 1974 tragic struck on the highway when their van was hit by another driver who appeared to be drunk. Raf Lenssens was badly wounded but keyboard player Paul Lambert who also sat in front, died.|
|The boys never really recovered from this as Paul was the soul of the band; who always managed to make the others laugh in his own special way. After a few gigs they decided to make a fresh start under the name Joystick with new key-wizard Luc Coppens and without limitations on a musical genre. So in 1975 they dropped the Irish Coffee songs and started writing loads of new songs, this time integrating some jazz-rock elements and later on even funky horns. Luc De Clus was too busy playing with Wim De Craene (he wrote and played on five of his albums between 1974 and 1980) so he only rejoined around 1978. Joystick didn’t manage to record some music besides lots of demo’s and after some time “showman” Luc Coppens (unfortunately he died in the nineties) left while also Luc De Clus decided to leave in 1980 (to play once again with De Craene).
|He was replaced by guitarplayer Tony Boast from England. The band really enjoyed themselves, also on stage were they had more freedom then before. This four-piece even supported heavy metal icon Motorhead when they visited Belgium in march 1980. The gig in Avelgem was tough, but the one in hometown Aalst was well received. William: “I remember Motorheads soundman thanking us afterwards from letting him mix “real” sound, after all those days turning the knobs to maximum….”
|William played in a lot of dance-orchestras during those years but also made a great solo single as Feos in 1975 and a year later he produced a compilation album with bands from his region (“Raalst”) who also featured Isopoda on who’s song he sang backing vocals. Another project of him was Rock Train (with fellow “Mings” Romain De Smet) who released one 7” with a rock & roll-medley as their single a year later.
|Luc De Clus did a lot of session work (with Jean Marie Blanckaert, Misverstand, Wanted and even Will Tura) but most of it remained unreleased. In 1984 he started playing country rock as a duo with Franky Du Mongh under the name Dizzy Fingers. Two years later it was developed to a trio by adding a bass player but by then Luc was also asked by William to join his cover band Oh Boy. Together with Hugo (this time also on vocals), Willy and Réné Diependaele on keyboards they played a lot of shows (songs from Cream, Jimi Hendrix, etc) for about four years, just to enjoy themselves.
|William also played folk-rock in the eighties, but it wasn’t until 1991, when his first solo album came out that we heard his remarkable voice on record again (this one even gave him a spot on the stage of the Dranouter folk festival). His five solo albums between 1991 and 1998, show a variety of musical styles from this talented frontman. On “In My Room” there is, besides a cover version of Spencer Davis Group’s “Gimme Some Lovin’”, an acoustic version of “Masterpiece”, while “Been Away Too Long” opens with an impressive hard rocker (“Gimme A Reason”), who would’ve been a great Irish Coffee song. The fifth is a joined force with Franky Du Mongh (in fact a some sort of Dizzy fingers cd as it also got Luc playing the guitar), with yet another “Irish-like” goose-flesh song named “Love Life”. William was before that a full member of Franky Du Monghs Dizzy Fingers (who released beside a 7” their first cd in 1991) and he asked also Hugo Verhoye to join. Besides “Dizzy Fingers” and “Oh Boy” Hugo had played since 1973 a lot of concerts in various bands: “Crash Machine”, ” Cindy Nelson Band”, “Silver Connection”, “Mc Duff”, “The Nighttime Heroes” and to this day “Smooth And The Bully Boys”; an energetic rockabilly band.
|In 1999 the trio Souffreau, Verhoye and De Clus together with Filip De Braekeleer also managed to play real rockabilly music; Blinkit was the name; a band who even took them to the stage of the famous rhythm and blues festival at Peer.
|Guitar player Jean Van Der Schueren didn’t showed up in a band but as a teacher classical guitar.|
|So the name Irish Coffee was kept low profile until 1992 when they decided to release their recordings on cd. The original album had become a real valuable item through the years and therefore it was bootlegged quite a few times (most known is the Italian Satori bootleg as the sleeve is different to the original).|
|As the mastertapes were lost, they restored the original lp recordings at digipro-Brussels and released them (with the singles as bonus tracks) on their own Voodoo records label.(Even that one was seen as bootleg!) This limited edition cd (1500 copies) released on March 8th, 1992 was soon sold out and this encouraged them to play a one off reunion show. On Friday July 9th, 1993 the Netwerk club in Aalst was sold out when they hit the stage for almost 2 hours. The line up was: William, Hugo, Luc along with new members Geert Maesschalk on bass (as Willy stopped playing after “Oh Boy”) and Chris Taerwe (Mystery) on organ.|
|Unfortunately only 6 Irish Coffee songs were played, while the others were cover songs the band used to play in their early days. Seeing people totally out of their mind when they finally started playing those Irish Coffee originals should’ve made those guys think….|
|And although they somehow wanted to continue (with a few un-promoted gigs as result), nothing happened until 9 years later, a reunion was announced for a few concerts. Along those was a concert at the big Aalst Rockt festival on October 5th,2002 where they should headline right after Golden Earring. |
With the same line-up as in 1993 the band started playing a few shows in small clubs and this time all Irish Coffee classics were played along an occasional coversong.(“ The Painter” from Deep Purple or “Better By You” from Spooky Tooth).
At last Irish Coffee fans could see the band in good conditions and also the festival gig was quite impressive with original guitar player Jean Van Der Schueren who made an appearance on “carry on”.
|A few more gigs at clubs and festivals were pencilled in, introducing new bass player Franky Cooreman (from “Dizzy Fingers” & ”The Fake Band”). In Verviers the band played a full set with Staf Van Straalen on drums who replaced Hugo that evening as he had to cancel that very morning due to illness. Staf learned the complete set in the car on his way to the gig and played like he was in the band for years!|
Some more good news came from Italy where Akarma records re-released the first album - without the bands consent- on vinyl and cd (as a beautiful digi-pack).
|By the end of 2003 the major news from the Irish Coffee camp was that 4 new songs were written and would be released somewhere in 2004. Those new tunes were “Coloured Land” (in fact the very first Irish Coffee song written in 1971 who never got finished until now), “Bright Lights”, “Apocalypse” (with a much too short guitar ending) and the awesome “Brand New Day” (released as a promo cdr soon afterwards). Playing them “live” for the first time in Zottegem (and also with new organ player Stany Van Veer), Irish Coffee showed critics that they were still an operational unit after all.|
|They continued playing (in August they even played a 45minute set on a festival in Sint Lievenshoutem without keyboardplayer Stany who was on holiday) and finally in November the long awaited new full-length album recorded at De Clus’ home studio “Acid Avenue” was released on Fuzzy records. It was dedicated to the memory of Paul Lambert and contained eight new songs (a few of them were originally written for Joystick (“Lovely Lisa” and “Your Love” while many more Joystick jewels remain unheard…) as well as a new version of “I’m Lost” from the first album. Also “Dark Cloud” was a leftover-riff from the early days in 1970. After this period of studio activity, the boys played a mini-tour (Gent, Aalst, Verviers & Antwerpen) to let everyone know they were back with some excellent tunes. The gig in their hometown Aalst turned out to be a memorable experience (a big stage with projections behind the band) but finally in Antwerpen their excitement resulted in some extra cover-tunes (Humble Pie, Spooky tooth and Crosby,Stills,Nash & Young) in the setlist.|
|An excellent new Souffreau solo album “ Time” was released in April 2005 while also Dizzy Fingers released a fine collection of covers on cd: “The Breeze”. Irish Coffee itself played another memorable gig on Mai 2nd at their very own town hall. Finally “Your Love” found it’s way to the setlist and it proved to be a real live classic, so this time the complete new album was played.|
|Yet another new project who involves a lot Irish Coffee musicians, is the band “Zender” from Thijs De Clus who are about to release a cd with beautiful Byrds/Beatles-like rock songs.|
|Not that much shows followed but each musician was quite busy with his own projects; Stany joined Franky’s Fake Band while William even found time to start a completely new rock & roll-band; The Cochrans. Together with Luc he was also heavily involved in three tribute concerts for singer Wim De Craene. By the end of the year Irish Coffee was invited to play a concert in Germany for the famous TV show rockpalast, so on December 21st they took off (once again with temporary drummer Stef Van Straalen as Hugo was not in Belgium then) to Bonn for their very first German gig (together with Kraan).