LONGVIEW, Wash. - The Irish Rovers have been around for more than 36 years, and Columbia Theatre for the Performing Arts offers a chance to see these international ambassadors of jolly at 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 28.

The story of the Irish Rovers starts in Canada in 1963, when 16-year old George Millar and 23-year old Jim Ferguson, both emigrants from Northern Ireland, met in Toronto, Canada at an Irish function.

They performed as a duo until they recruited George's cousin, Joe Millar who immigrated to Canada the following year. Joe, who played button-key accordion and harmonica, and also sang traditional ballads. After several months of engagements around Ontario, the trio made its way to Calgary, Alberta, where they joined forces with George's brother, Will Millar.

In California they landed at the folk club, "The Purple Onion," in San Francisco, where they headlined for 22 sold-out weeks. The folk clubs of California became the learning grounds for the young Rovers, and through old-fashioned hard work and a wee bit of Irish luck, they were offered a recording contract with Decca Records in the mid-1960s.

In 1966, "The First of the Irish Rovers," a live album recorded at "The Icehouse" in Pasadena, Calif., was released. Their next album generated the single "The Unicorn," the band's signature song.

In 1980, the Rovers topped the pop and country charts with "Wasn't That a Party." It went on to become an international anthem of good cheer.

The Irish Rovers perform in theaters around the world, with original members George Millar, Joe Millar and Wilcil McDowell. Completing the Irish Rover line-up is Kevin McKeown, John Reynolds and Wallace Hood. Sean O'Driscoll, a multi-instrumentalist, accompanies the band on many of their tours, and plays on new Rover recordings.

Tickets for the Irish Rovers are $25, $20 and $15 (a $1 preservation fee is added to the price of each ticket). Purchase tickets by calling the CTPA box office at (360) 575-8499 or (888)423-8499 or online at www.columbiatheatre.com

Box office hours are 11:30 to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and two hours prior to showtime. Columbia Theatre for the Performing Arts is located at 1231 Vandercook Way in Longview, Wash. Corporate sponsorship for the Irish Rovers is provided by the Evans-Kelly Family Foundation.

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