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The Band

The original group formed in 1970, and following several transitions settled into a foursome of Stephen Houston on keyboards and vocals, Vincent McCusker on guitar and vocals, Peter Farrelly on bass and lead vocals, and Martin Foye on drums. During the early seventies the band played hundreds of gigs, and in about two years time put out four amazing albums -- a level of productivity that any modern group couldn't begin to fathom. Fruupp's unique blend of Irish folk and art rock music has, like a fine wine, weathered well with time.  Adjectives used by reviewers to describe their aural outputs include "lush", "pastoral", "symphonic", "dark", "ethereal", "subdued", "manic", "dignified", "melodic", "breath-taking", and "artsy-fartsy".  This was a band that pushed the envelope of music of the time, dancing on the dialectic edges of the early seventies progressive rock movement.  Check out Wikipedia's Fruupp page.

1969 to 1971
The formative years of Tinhead, Vince, Super, The Beast, Capone...

1971 to 1974
Stephen Houston: keyboards, oboe, vocals, story-telling
Peter Farrelly: bass guitar, flute, and vocals
Martin Foye: drums and percussions
Vincent McCusker: guitar and vocals

The band was formed in the early months of 1971, the brainchild of Vince McCusker, a native of Maghera County, Derry, Northern Ireland.   Vince had played in Irish bands for years, the most notable being Blues by Five, a cover band for ballroom audiences.  Vince recruited Stephen Houston from the Ulster Youth Orchestra, Peter Farrelly (then working as an artist/sign-writer), and Martin Foye, formerly with Fosset's Circus Band.  Fruupp's debut gig was June 23, 1971 at the Ulster Hall, Belfast, supporting Rory Gallagher and others.  A few days latter they hopped the Belfast/Hesham ferry and played their first English date at Mr. Smiths, Manchester, on July 2, 1971.  Paul Charles (the band's long-time and trusted coordinator and today, Fruupp's archivist) opines: "Vince's idea in going straight to England was a simple one; he wasn't sure this new 'Progressive' music the band played would go down well in the ballrooms.  In those days the showbands and the ballrooms ruled the Irish music scene."  After cycling through a vocalist, one Miles "Tinhead" McKee, Peter Farrelly stepped to the mike as lead vocalist, and the band embarked upon a grueling schedule, playing "anywhere and everywhere they could set up their equipment".  Paul Charles amuses: "Fruupp gigged and gigged and then did some more gigs.  I think it was about an average of 230 shows per year, give or take a Red Lion, Leytonstone, or two." Their break came when the head of Dawn Records, Robin Blanchflower, heard the band, took a fancy to Decision, and signed up the foursome on the spot.  From London they headed to a residential studio in the wilds of Kent, called Escape, and proceeded to craft their debut album, Future Legends, recorded in July of 1973 and released on October 5, 1973.  In rapid-fire succession, they released two other gems, Seven Secrets (April 1974) and The Prince of Heaven's Eyes (August 1974).   An early press release revealed a band hungry for success.  The group seemingly hit big-time when Melody Maker featured the Fruupp Files in March, 1974.  They live on as one of the more notable Irish showbands


1975 to 1976
Peter Farrelly: bass guitar, flute, and vocals
Martin Foye: drums and percussions
John Mason: keyboards, vibes, and vocals
Vincent McCusker: guitar and vocals

Stephen Houston left the band in late 1974, in the wake of Heaven's release, because, in the words of Paul Charles, he "found religion".  (Stephen later joined a Christian Rock band, Liberation Suites, and toured in Europe; he also later released a solo album of mainly Christian pop tunes; for more on Stephen's work with Liberation Suites, see article on "Steve's Liberation" and photo with the band and concert photo at the mike.)  Stephen was replaced on keyboards by John Mason, who based on the very artful Modern Masquerades and live recordings, stepped in very nicely. Still, Stephen's musical sensibilities, hauntingly angelic vocals, and gift of engagement and story telling could not be replaced. The heart-and-soul of the band had left.   Fruupp's "last puff", in the words of Paul Charles, was at the Roundhouse, London, September 1976.  In a salute to the music of 1976, Smiley Bolger declared that the "Northern classic/jazz rockers" had "gone under".  R.I.P.

The Fifth Member: Paul Charles
Although not a stage performer, Paul Charles was a valued member of the Fruupp team.   He was their "coordinator" which meant he did all the off-stage things needed to keep the enterprise going.  He also contributed lyrics and poetry, lifted equipment here and there, and developed and choreographed musical themes, including that enigmatic, fanciful tale of Mud Flanigan's wandering search for his pot of gold, The Prince of Heaven's Eyes. Today, Paul Charles is Fruupp's historian.  His accounts of yesteryear, found in the note sleeves of the three CD releases on the 1990s, are as whimsical as they are informative.  Here's a brief
history of Charles' life in the music industry and his association with the "ill-fated Northern Ireland prog-rockers Fruupp". Also check out Paul's home page about his life as a mystery writer and his memiors on early Fruupp and the making of the band's four one-of-a-kind albums".

cat.jpg (2846 bytes)   Sleeve notes for Songs For A Thought (Paul Charles, 1991)

What's In a Name?
saturn.jpg (13428 bytes)  What's a Fruupp?

Fruupp Reunion?
The most frequently asked question of current-day Fruupp fans is will the foursome ever reassemble?  Up till very recently, the answer was "doubtful".  However, thigns could change.  Here's what Stephen Houston post in October 2006 on his website:
Could there be a reunited Fruupp tour? Prof. Rob Cervero of Berkeley and editor in chief of the Official Fruupp Tribute Website: threw the challenge down to Houston in a recent e-mail to him. Rob wrote that he, Houston, "should contact Vincent McCusker " and obviously, get on with it. Stephen is definitely open to the possibility of a reunification tour if management, funding and the band members personal lifestyles could handle the upheaval. One interesting piece of insider info has surfaced, in that Nick Sadler, former Fruupp promoter and venue manager has been in regular recent contact with Houston. I wonder, if more comes out of the woodwork, will a Houston' "Thaumaturge" album tour become an original Fruupp "Thaumaturge" tour, with a live version of the album being recorded with McCusker, Farrelly and Foye thundering through in ultimate original Fruupp dynamism?  For an older take on this question, see Stephen's Trivia web page.

Fruupp's Sheba's Song Gets Adapted & Hits the Billboard Charts at #2 in 2007!

Sheba's Song gets resurrected from the ashes!.  Who would have thought that a Fruupp song would get a adapted and hit near the top of the Billboard Charts some three-plus decades after its release.  Hear it on YouTube. The September 2, 2007 edition of the Belfast Telegraph tells the story:
Fruupp on the up [Published: Sunday 2, September 2007 - 09:40]; By Eddie McIlwaine. A smash hit album by an American rapper will have unexpected royalty cheques flowing in for a couple of Ulstermen. And Magherafelt born showbiz impresario Paul Charles today launches a search for his old pal, Ulster born keyboard player John Mason, who played in the 70s cult band Fruupp, to tell him the good news. For the pair co-wrote a song which was a minor UK hit for the band back in the 70s and which has now been covered by rapper Talib Kweli (inset) on his new album which has crashed into the US Billboard charts at number two. It's called Sheba's Song, lyrics by Paul, to a melody written by Mason, originally from Belfast. "Sheba's Song was a favourite when Fruupp played places like the Ulster Hall for the late Jim Aiken," recalls Charles, who was band manager. And now after all these years it has been picked up by rapper Talib Kweli from Brooklyn, who has changed the title to Soon the New Day and released it as a track on his new album Ear Drum. Talib likes the track so much that he is keen to launch Soon the New Day as a single. "It's a kind of fairytale and would make a plot for one of my novels," says Charles who writes thrillers when he's not putting bands and singers on the map. "I need to talk to John Mason about royalties and he will be anxious to hear about Kweli's schedule for the UK so that he can go and see this rapper in action with our song." Our picture of Fruupp's past line-up shows, from the left, Peter Farrelly, Mason, Martin Foye and Vincent McCusker. "But I haven't seen John, who is now in his 50s, for years," adds Charles. "He was an important member of Fruupp when they were cutting their four albums which were quite successful." Kweli, who records for his own Blacksmith label, calls himself a rap visionary and had hits with We Got the Beat, Broken Glass, Gun Music and For Women.


Stephen Houston has had a life of twists and turns since leaving Fruupp, serving as a Methodist pastor in England and Ireland and for a while running a weekly television news and current affairs show based out of Dallas, Texas.  He has returned to the U.K., residing in Wiltshire where he is a minister of Pentecostalism.  For background on his musical history, check out his web site's Trivia Page.  Also, check out this video clip of  his current musical tastes -- some pretty impressive blues guitar chops.  He has an album in the works, called "The Thaumaturge".  What's a "Thaumaturge"?  Check out Wikipedia's definition.

Peter Farrelly
currently resides in Belfast.

Martin Foye played in a rock band called "The Bad Articles" following Fruupp's break-up, a band that had a large following in Ireland; he still  does sessions with them occasionally.  Along with Peter, Martin also played in a band called "The Crowd" that later became "MGM".  Writes Bob Stevenson: "Marty still keeps the perfect beat even in a small cramped pub, armed with only a snare drum and a pair of brushes.  He currently lives in Dungannon, County Tyrone." More recently, he has been playing in a band called "The Moon".

Vincent McCusker currently plays in a pub band in Northern Ireland and works in a music store, Danny Otterson's, in Maghera, County Derry.

John Mason lives a very quiet life in South London, in the Honor Oak area.  He doesn't perform in public but remains musically active, in the words of his friend, Peter Bennett: "he has all his chops up on the piano and recently he's been playing a nice classical guitar which he loves and is spending a lot of time on."

Paul Charles resides in England, is a successful manager of some big names in the music industry, and also has several popular novels to his name. Check out his new book, First of the True Believers, a novel that uses the Beatles story and life with Fruupp as a backdrop.  Also see his memiors on early Fruupp and the band's four albums.

Miles "Tinhead" McKee
(, after leaving Fruupp, began managing a Christian rock band called Liberation Suite (  He is today a syndicated Christian radio broadcaster, based in Las Vegas, Nevada, and is heard on five continents, Monday through Friday.

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