Irish singer Eileen Reid has had a career that might've made a wonderful movie, or a mini-series, except for the fact that no one would believe the story of a career that took her from singing in Irish showbands in the early 1960s, turning her into one of the most popular singers in Ireland while scarcely in her twenties; to the theatrical stage in Dublin during the 1970s and 1980s; and into a Carmelite religious order in the 1990s, even as she also did filmwork. Born in Dublin during 1943, the fourth oldest of seven children, she was the daughter of Charlie Reid, an international-level football player for Ireland. She was educated at St. Bridget's Holy Faith School from ages 4 to 15 -- upon leaving school, Reid worked for a time at a clothing factory, and later for a biscuit factory. While working for the clothes manufacturer, she was asked by a friend to sing at a concert he'd organized, and proved impressive enough to get other invitations. Soon Reid was fronting a local Dublin band, singing two nights a week for a few dollars' remuneration. By age 16, she'd tripled this figure, and soon moved up to a group called the Melody Makers, whose engagements took her outside of Dublin for the first time. By then, Reid was having trouble juggling her musical commitments with her day job at the biscuit-makers. She broke into Dublin's booming showband scene at an event sponsored by her employer, which included a performance by the Blue Clavons, one of the more popular groups of the period -- they were persuaded to allow her to sing a couple of numbers with them, and one of the members helped lead her to an opening for a singer's spot with a rival band called the Cadets.
Reid passed the audition and joined the band, whose look was unusual, to say the least -- they wore naval uniforms, in keeping with their name. The other members of the band were Patrick Murphy on harmonica, Paddy Burns on vocals and trumpet, Jas Fagan on trombone, Gerry Hayes on piano, Brendan O'Connell on lead guitar, William Devey playing drums, and Jimmy Day -- whom Reid would later marry -- on tenor saxophone and guitar. From two nights a week, Reid was now working six nights a week, often up to five hours at a stretch, and she became a star -- female lead vocalists were unusual to star with among the showbands, and with her good looks and outsized beehive-style hair, she cut an enticing visual as well as musical figure with the group. From 1962 through 1966, Reid was voted the top vocalist in Ireland, and the group's fortunes reflected this string of honors. The Cadets were good enough to rate a spot on Johnny Cash's and June Carter Cash's tour of Ireland in the fall of 1963, and got a special introduction to the Beatles when the Liverpool group made their first Irish tour later the same year. Even more astonishing, in early 1964 -- a time when, admittedly, any five guys from that side of the Atlantic with mop-top hair and a beat could be brought to the United States as potential stars -- the Cadets got a month-long tour of the United States. They later reached the Top 10 in Dublin with "Fallen Star," the first Irish showband with a female lead singer to crack that summit of the sales charts. And Reid was as astonished as anyone when the song topped the national charts in Ireland in the spring of 1964. The follow-up, "I Gave My Wedding Dress Away," was also a huge hit, and led to the recording of a debut LP entitled The Cadets. And in late 1964, Pye Records tried Reid in a distinctly American girl group musical setting when it released "Chapel of Love" in a rendition credited to Eileen Reid & the Cadets -- Reid was convincingly soulful, if not quite in the league of the Dixie Cups, but the record failed to dent the charts in England. They enjoyed a third hit single in Ireland with "Are You Teasin'," and they also scraped the lower reaches of the British charts for a week in 1965 with "Jealous Heart." She continued with the group until 1967 when she married Day and chose to give up performing with the band. The Cadets broke up in 1970 and Reid and her husband left the music business, apart from the occasional cabaret performance as a duet.
By the second half of the 1970s, however, she was back, this time as an actress on-stage, under the aegis of director Noel Pearson, who put her into the musical You Ain't Heard Nothin' Yet, which led to her work in pantomime. By the 1980s, she and her husband were back in music, as songwriters as well as performers, and Reid enjoyed new success on-stage throughout the decade. Her personal life, however, was left in shambles as she engaged in a series of extra-marital affairs that led to a miscarriage of another man's child and a crisis of faith for her. Reid's marriage survived, and she turned toward religion in the early 1990s and chose to join the Carmelite order as a lay follower. She has continued to act, in films as well as on-stage, portraying Imelda's mother in Alan Parker's The Commitments, and a woman suffering from smallpox in the 1996 version of Moll Flanders, but most of Reid's work has been of a more directly charity-oriented nature since the early 1990s, and she remains a well-known celebrity/performer in her native country. In 2004, Castle Records issued Beat, Beat, Beat, Vol. 4, which included her 1964 version of "Chapel of Love" with the Cadets. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi