The Dubliners, initially known as "The Ronnie Drew Ballad Group", formed in 1962 and made a name for themselves playing regularly in O'Donoghue's Pub in Dublin. The change of name came about due to Drew's unhappiness with the name, coinciding with the fact that Kelly was reading Dubliners by James Joyce at the time. Founding members were Ronnie Drew, Luke Kelly, Ciarán Bourke and Barney McKenna.
Ronnie Drew and Barney McKenna had originally teamed up for a fundraising concert and then went on to work in a revue with the Irish comedian John Molloy at the Gaity Theatre in Dublin. They used to sing songs between acts.
Before joining the Dubliners full time, Luke Kelly had spent some time playing at English folk clubs such as the Jug o'Punch in Birmingham, run by the folk singer Ian Campbell.
The group played at the Edinburgh Festival in 1963 and that led to them being featured on a BBC programme called Hootenanny. The extra exposure helped them to win a contract with Transatlantic Records, with whom they recorded their first album, called simply The Dubliners. They also recorded their first single featuring Rocky Road to Dublin and The Wild Rover.