seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Birth of Neil Hannon, Northern Irish Singer & Songwriter

Edward Neil Anthony Hannon, Northern Irish singer and songwriter, is born in Derry, County Londonderry, on November 7, 1970. He is the creator and front man of the chamber pop group The Divine Comedy, and is the band’s sole constant member. He is the writer of the theme tunes for the television sitcoms Father Ted and The IT Crowd.

Hannon is the son of Brian Hannon, a Church of Ireland minister in the Diocese of Derry and Raphoe and later Bishop of Clogher. He spends some of his youth in Fivemiletown, County Tyrone, before moving with his family to Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, in 1982. While there he attends Portora Royal School.

Hannon enjoys synthesizer-based music as a youngster. He identifies The Human League and Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD) as “the first music that really excited [him].” In the late 1980s he develops a fondness of the electric guitar, becoming an “indie kid.”

Hannon is founder and mainstay of The Divine Comedy, a band which achieves their biggest commercial success in the last half of the 1990s with the albums Casanova (1996), A Short Album About Love (1997), and Fin de Siècle (1998). He continues to release albums under The Divine Comedy name, the most recent being Office Politics (2019). In 2000 he and Joby Talbot contribute four tracks for Ute Lemper‘s collaboration album, Punishing Kiss.

In 2004 Hannon plays alongside the Ulster Orchestra for the opening event of the Belfast Festival at Queen’s University Belfast. In 2005, he contributes vocals to his long-time collaborator Joby Talbot’s soundtrack for the movie version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

In 2006 it is announced that Hannon is to lend his vocal ability to the Doctor Who soundtrack CD release, recording two songs – “Love Don’t Roam” for the 2006 Christmas special, “The Runaway Bride“, and a new version of “Song For Ten”, originally used in 2005’s “The Christmas Invasion.” On January 12, 2007, The Guardian website’s “Media Monkey” diary column reports that Doctor Who fans from the discussion forum on the fan website Outpost Gallifrey are attempting to organise mass downloads of the Hannon-sung “Love Don’t Roam,” which is available as a single release on the UK iTunes Store. This is in order to attempt to exploit the new UK Singles Chart download rules, and get the song featured in the Top 40 releases.

The same year Hannon adds his writing and vocal talents to the Air album Pocket Symphony, released in the United States on March 6, 2007. He is featured on the track “Somewhere Between Waking and Sleeping,” for which he writes the lyrics. This song had been originally written for and sung by Charlotte Gainsbourg on her album, 5:55. Though it is not included in its 2006 European release, it is added as a bonus track for its American release on April 24, 2007.

Hannon wins the 2007 Choice Music Prize for his 2006 album, Victory for the Comic Muse. He wins the 2015 Legend Award from the Oh Yeah organisation in Belfast.

Hannon is credited with composing the theme music for the sitcoms Father Ted and The IT Crowd, the former theme composed for the show and later reworked into “Songs of Love,” a track on The Divine Comedy’s breakthrough album Casanova. Both shows are created or co-created by Graham Linehan. A new Divine Comedy album, Bang Goes the Knighthood, is released in May 2010.

Hannon has collaborated with Thomas Walsh, from the Irish band Pugwash, to create a cricket-themed pop album under the name The Duckworth Lewis Method. The first single, “The Age of Revolution,” is released in June 2009, and a full-length album is released the following week. The group’s second album, Sticky Wickets, comes out in 2013.

Hannon contributes to a musical version of Swallows and Amazons, writing the music while Helen Edmundson writes the book and lyrics, which premiers in December 2010 at the Bristol Old Vic.

In April 2012 Hannon’s first opera commission, Sevastopol, is performed by the Royal Opera House. It is part of a program called OperaShots, which invites musicians not typically working within the opera medium to create an opera. Sevastopol is based upon Leo Tolstoy‘s Sevastopol Sketches. Hannon’s second opera for which he writes music, In May, premiers in May 2013 in Lancaster and is shown in 2014 with overwhelming success.

The world premiere of “To Our Fathers in Distress,” a piece for organ, is performed on March 22, 2014, in London, at the Royal Festival Hall. It is inspired by Hannon’s father, Rt. Revz. Brian Hannon, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease.

Hannon’s partner is Irish musician Cathy Davey. The couple live in the Dublin area. He is previously married to Orla Little, with whom he has a daughter, Willow Hannon. With Davey, Hannon is a patron of the Irish animal charity My Lovely Horse Rescue, named after the Father Ted Eurovision song for which he wrote the music.

Politically, Hannon describes himself as being “a thoroughly leftie, Guardian-reading chap, but of the champagne socialist variety.”


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Westlife Becomes First Act with 6 Consecutive No. 1 Singles in British Pop History

On September 24, 2000, Westlife, an Irish pop vocal group formed in Sligo in 1998, makes British pop history by becoming the first act to have six consecutive number one singles.

Kian Egan, Mark Feehily and Shane Filan, all schoolmates in Summerhill College in Sligo, participate in a school production of Grease with fellow Sligo men Derrick Lacey, Graham Keighron, and Michael Garrett. They considered it as the start of Westlife. The sextet forms a pop vocal group called Six as One in 1997, which they later rename IOYOU. The group is managed by choreographer Mary McDonagh and two other informal managers. McDonagh first encounters Egan as a six-year-old student at her weekly dance classes, and comes to know Filan and Feehily in their early teens as they star in shows such as Oliver! and Godspell for Sligo Fun Company.

Louis Walsh, the manager of fellow Irish boy band Boyzone, comes to know the group after Filan’s mother Mae contacts him, but the group fails to secure a BMG record deal with Simon Cowell. Cowell tells Walsh, “You are going to have to fire at least three of them. They have great voices, but they are the ugliest band I have ever seen in my life.” Lacey, Keighron, and Garrett are told they will not be part of the new group, and auditions are held in Dublin where Nicky Byrne and Brian McFadden are recruited. McFadden is part of an R&B group called Cartel before this.

The new group, formed on July 3, 1998, is originally named Westside, but as another band is already using that name, the group is renamed Westlife. They manage to secure a major record deal the second time around under BMG with all other record labels competing. They sign a four million pound record deal with RCA Records. Westlife’s first big break comes in 1998 when they open for Boyzone and Backstreet Boys concerts in Dublin.

Westlife has released twelve studio albums. They rise to fame with their debut international self-titled studio album, Westlife (1999). It is followed by Coast to Coast (2000), World of Our Own (2001), Unbreakable – The Greatest Hits Volume 1 (2002), and Turnaround (2003), which continues the group’s success worldwide. The group then releases their cover albums Allow Us to Be Frank (2004) and The Love Album (2006) and the studio albums Face to Face (2005) and Back Home (2007). After a hiatus of studio recording for almost one year in 2008, they release the studio albums Where We Are (2009), and Gravity (2010), and the compilation album Greatest Hits (2011). After eight years, the quartet group releases their eleventh studio album, Spectrum (2019), followed by their twelfth studio album, Wild Dreams (2021).

Westlife is the act with the most Number 1 debuts on the UK Singles Chart, with all 14 of their chart-toppers landing there in their first week. They have the most singles certifications for a pop band on the UK number one singles artists chart since The Beatles. According to the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), Westlife has been certified for 13.1 million albums, 1.3 million video albums, and 10.4 million singles, with a total of more than 24 million combined sales in the United Kingdom (UK). They are also currently ranked 19th with the most number-one albums of all time and sixth-highest band in the list. The group has accumulated 14 number-one singles as a lead artist as well as having eight number-one albums in the United Kingdom, making them Ireland’s and non-British act’s (since Elvis Presley) most prolific chart-toppers. In 2012, the Official Charts Company lists Westlife 34th among the biggest-selling singles artist, 16th amongst the biggest selling groups, and 14th with most top ten hits — all the highest for a boy band and a pop group in British music history. They are also the biggest selling album group of the 2000s, and three of their studio albums are part of the 50 fastest-selling albums of all time in the UK.

Westlife has the most consecutive number one studio albums in a decade in the UK and Ireland for a band, since The Beatles, and for a pop band and act since ABBA. Also in Ireland, they have 11 number one albums with a total of 13 top two albums, 16 number one singles, as well as 34 top fifty singles. They have sold over 55 million records and are holders of the following Guinness World Records: first to achieve seven consecutive number-one singles in the UK; most public appearances in 36 hours by a pop group; most singles to debut at number one on the UK chart; and top-selling album group in the United Kingdom in the 21st century.

Westlife is one of the most successful music groups of all time, among the highest-profile acts in 2000s popular culture in most territories worldwide, and one of the few boy bands to have continued success after their commercial peak. On the best-selling boy bands of all time list, they are currently tenth worldwide along with the biggest-selling boy band from Ireland in history globally. They have received numerous accolades including one World Music Award, two Brit Awards, four MTV Video Music Awards, and four Record of the Year Awards. As a live act, Westlife has sold 5.5 million concert tickets worldwide from their fourteen concert tours so far. They hold the record for the most shows played at The SSE Arena, Belfast and Wembley Arena. This makes them the biggest arena act of all-time in the United Kingdom. They sell out Croke Park in Dublin in a record-breaking five minutes. Their fourteenth, and latest concert tour is called The Wild Dreams Tour.


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Birth of Dana Rosemary Scallon, Singer & Former European Parliament Member

Dana Rosemary Scallon, Irish singer, pantomime performer, and a former Member of the European Parliament known as Dana, is born on August 30, 1951 in Islington, London, England, where her Northern Irish family had relocated to find work. She wins the 1970 Eurovision Song Contest with “All Kinds of Everything,” a subsequent worldwide million-seller. She resides in Birmingham, Alabama, for much of the 1990s, hosting a Christian music and interview series on the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN).

Scallon is born Rosemary Brown, the fifth of seven children of a King’s Cross railway station porter and trumpet player originally from Derry, Northern Ireland. When she is five, the family moves back to Derry where she grows up in the Creggan housing estate and Bogside. She attends St. Eugene’s Primary School and then enrolls at Thornhill College. A singing talent from childhood, she wins several local contests while also participating in local choirs and taking piano, violin and ballet lessons.

In the early 1960s Scallon forms a trio with two of her sisters, often performing at charity concerts organized by their father. When one sister leaves, the remaining duo lands a summer-long booking at the Palladium and a recording contract with Decca Records. Her other sister, however, leaves to join her new husband, a United States airman, in America. Stricken with stage fright, Scallon the solo singer manages to win a folk competition at the Embassy Ballroom with her eyes shut. The contest’s sponsor, teacher and music promoter Tony Johnston, helps her complete her equivalency degree and records a demo that convinces Decca Records to sign her on as a solo artist. She releases a single in 1967 that brings some attention from local TV and radio.

Performing under her school nickname “Dana,” Scallon becomes a fixture in Dublin‘s cabaret and folk clubs. She is crowned “Queen of Cabaret” and feted with a parade and a reception at Clontarf Castle on the Saturday before Easter 1968.

At the suggestion of Decca Record’s local agent, Phil Mitton, Scallon auditions for the Irish National Song Contest, a preliminary for the 1969 Eurovision competition. She reaches the finals in Dublin, but comes in second.

RTÉ Television chief Tom McGrath invites Scallon back to compete the following year. She accepts even though she is preparing to retire from active performing to pursue teaching. The song, “All Kinds of Everything” by Derry Lindsay and Jackie Smith, is picked for her by McGrath and propels her to victory. She goes on to represent Ireland in the 1970 Eurovision contest, held in Amsterdam. She performs perched on a stool on stage and defeats England’s Mary Hopkin and Spain‘s Julio Iglesias to secure Ireland’s victory.

Scallon is given a hero’s welcome upon her return to Ireland, especially in Northern Ireland. “All Kinds of Everything” shoots to #1 on the Irish Singles Chart, as well as the UK Singles Chart. It is also successful in Australia, Austria, Germany, Israel, Malaysia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa, Switzerland and Yugoslavia, on its way to passing 1 million sales. She quickly records an album, with orchestral accompaniment. Her follow-up single, “I Will Follow You,” fails to make much of a splash. Given the choice of giving up, she decides to fight for her recording career, and succeeds with Paul Ryan‘s “Who Put the Lights Out,” which spends eleven weeks on the UK charts.

In 1974 Scallon switches to GTO Records. Her first single on that label, “Please Tell Him That I Said Hello,” returns her to the top 10. Her 1975 holiday single “It’s Gonna be a Cold Cold Christmas” by Roger Greenaway and Geoff Stephens, reaches #4 and remains a classic. Now an established Irish singing star she appears in films and festivals and sells out a week of concerts at the London Palladium. She also maintains her “Queen of the Cabaret” reputation with regular appearances in top London clubs. The BBC gives her two shows of her own: a series called A Day with Dana in 1974 and four-part series of Wake Up Sunday in 1979. BBC Radio follows suit with a series of I Believe in Music in 1977.

Meanwhile, Scallon begins performing stage pantomime in a blockbuster production of Cinderella in Oxford. In September 1976, however, she is hospitalized with a non-malignant growth on her left vocal cord, requiring surgery. The single “Fairytale” is sustained in the charts with the publicity from her dire medical prognosis. The experience strengthens her religious faith. On October 5, 1978 she marries Damien Scallon, a hotel-owner from Newry, at St. Eugene’s Cathedral in Derry.

In 1979, recovered from her surgery, Scallon records a new album entitled The Girl is Back, which has modest success. Pope John Paul II‘s visit to Ireland that year inspires her to write a song based on his personal motto, “Totus Tuus,” which tops the Irish charts. Long associated with Christian causes and Sunday-morning programs, she and her husband look for opportunities to reach a broader market for Christian music, and find one in the United States. They attend the National Religious Broadcasters conference in Washington, D.C. in 1980 and secure a contract with Word Records.

Scallon’s first album of Christian songs, Totally Yours, is released on Word Records in 1981. She continues to record pop music, including the 1982 album Magic and the official 1982 FIFA World Cup song for the Northern Ireland team, “Yer Man.” She also continues her stage career, starring in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at Hull and later in London’s West End and Wolverhampton. She tours the United States in 1984, including appearances at Billy Graham‘s Boston crusades. She pens an autobiography in 1985. She performs “Totus Tuus” before a packed Superdome crowd during John Paul II’s visit to New Orleans in 1987.

Also in 1987, after one of her husband’s hotels is damaged for the seventh time by a terrorist bomb, he takes a job managing retreats for EWTN and moves the family to Alabama. They rent a house in the Cherokee Bend area of Mountain Brook and enroll their children at Saint Rose Academy. Scallon is welcomed to the network as well, hosting the Say Yes and We Are One Body programs. She leaves Word Records and signs with Heart Beat Records for her later Catholic albums. In 1993 she again performs for the Pope at a World Youth Day event in Denver, Colorado.

Scallon is naturalized as a dual citizen of the United States and Northern Ireland in 1997, and moves back there a year later because she has been drafted as an independent candidate for President of Ireland. She garners 15% of the popular vote, finishing third in the race won by Mary McAleese, ahead of the Labour Party candidate. Most of her votes come from rural districts where conservative values are more strongly held.

In 1999 Scallon wins a seat on the European Parliament, representing Connacht-Ulster on a family values and anti-abortion platform. During her five-year term she opposes the development of a European constitution. She also speaks out against a 2001 proposal to amend the Irish constitution to legalize the “morning-after pill” and intrauterine contraceptive devices. With the support of the mainstream parties, the amendment is put to a popular referendum, which fails in 2002. That same year she is defeated in a campaign to represent Galway West in the Dáil Éireann, the lower house of the Irish parliament. In 2004 she fails to hold her seat in the European Parliament and also does not secure a nomination for President.

Leaving politics behind, Scallon joins a weight-loss challenge on RTÉ’s The Afternoon Show in 2005. In 2006 she competes with Ronan McCormack on Celebrity Jigs ‘n’ Reels, finishing second on the popular dance contest.

That same year, Scallon and her husband launch their own music label, DS Music Productions, and release a compilation of songs deidcated to John Paul II’s memory. That is followed by Good Morning Jesus: Prayers and Songs for Children of All Ages, which is featured in a special series on EWTN. Heart Beat Records files a lawsuit against DS Music Productions for alleged copyright violations.

In 2007 Scallon appears as a guest judge for Young Star Search, a Belfast CityBeat radio contest. In 2009 she is brought on as a judge for The All Ireland Talent Show. That same year she returns to EWTN as host of Dana and Friends.


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Birth of Feargal Sharkey, Singer & Music Industry Executive

Seán Feargal Sharkey, a singer from Northern Ireland most widely known as the lead vocalist of punk rock band The Undertones in the 1970s and 1980s, and for solo works in the 1980s and 1990s, is born in Derry, County Londonderry, Northern Ireland on August 13, 1958.

Sharkey joins The Undertones shortly after their formation in 1975. They have several UK hits, with songs such as “Teenage Kicks,” “Here Comes the Summer,” “My Perfect Cousin,” “Wednesday Week” and “It’s Going to Happen!” The band splits in 1983 citing musical differences, with Sharkey pursuing a solo career and other members of the band forming That Petrol Emotion the following year.

Before his solo career takes off, Sharkey is also the singer of the one-shot group The Assembly with ex-Yazoo and Depeche Mode member Vince Clarke (pre-Erasure). In 1983 their single “Never Never” is a No. 4 hit in the UK Singles Chart.

Sharkey’s debut single is a collaboration with Madness member Cathal Smyth titled “Listen to Your Father.” The single is released on Madness’s label Zarjazz in 1984, reaching No. 23 in the UK chart. The track is performed on Top of the Pops with members of Madness.

Sharkey’s solo work is significantly different from the post-punk offerings of The Undertones. His best-known solo material is the 1985 UK chart-topping single penned by Lone Justice frontwoman Maria McKee, “A Good Heart,” which goes to No. 1 in several countries including the UK in late 1985. He also has a UK Top 5 hit in 1986 with “You Little Thief.” His eponymous debut album reaches No. 12 in the UK Albums Chart.

Following on from his second album Wish in 1988, Sharkey achieves further success in 1991 with his UK Top 30 album Songs From The Mardi Gras, which produces the No. 12 hit single “I’ve Got News for You.”

Starting in the early 1990s Sharkey moves into the business side of the music industry, initially as A&R for Polydor Records, and then as managing director of EXP Ltd. He is appointed a member of the Radio Authority for five years from December 1998 to December 2003.

When the Undertones reunite in 1999, Sharkey is offered the opportunity to rejoin the group but turns down the offer. His position as lead vocalist/frontman for the Undertones is taken by fellow Derry native Paul McLoone, who is also a radio presenter for the Irish national and independent radio station, Today FM.

Sharkey becomes chairman of the UK Government task force the ‘Live Music Forum’ in 2004, to evaluate the impact of the Licensing Act 2003 on the performance of live music, and gives public evidence before the Culture, Media and Sport Committee on November 11, 2008.

In 2008, Sharkey is appointed as the CEO of British Music Rights, replacing Emma Pike. In October 2008, he becomes head of UK Music, an umbrella organisation representing the collective interests of the UK’s commercial music industry. He has become prominent in criticising the use of Form 696 by the Metropolitan Police requiring event promoters to provide data on performers and audiences. He resigns from UK Music on November 11, 2011.

In 2011 Sharkey makes a one-off appearance in a set named Erasure + Special Guests singing “Never Never.” He states that he has not sung live for 20 years and that Vince Clarke is the only person he would have returned for.

Sharkey appears on BBC Radio Newcastle, interviewed by Simon Logan on the afternoon show on August 7, 2013. He speaks about his career and his decision to retire from the stage. “I’ve had an absolutely brilliant career… It’s time to get off the stage and make room for [new artists].”

Sharkey is awarded the “Scott Piering Award” by the radio industry in 2004, the “Bottle Award” at the International Live Music Conference in 2006, and an Honorary “Doctor of Arts” by the University of Hertfordshire in 2008. In 2009 he enters The Guardian‘s MediaGuardian 100 at number 56. In 2010 he appears in Wired‘s The Wired 100 at number 45. The same year he receives a Doctor of Letters honoris causa from the University of Ulster in recognition of his services to music.

Sharkey is appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2019 Birthday Honours for services to music.


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Birth of Val Doonican, Pop & Easy Listening Singer

Michael Valentine Doonican, singer of traditional pop, easy listening, and novelty songs, who is noted for his warm and relaxed style, is born in Waterford, County Waterford on February 3, 1927.

Doonican is the youngest of eight children of Agnes (née Kavanagh) and John Doonican. He is from a musical family and plays in his school band from the age of six. His father dies in 1941, so he has to leave De La Salle College Waterford to get factory jobs fabricating steel and making orange and grapefruit boxes. He begins to perform in his hometown, often with his friend Bruce Clarke, and they have their first professional engagement as a duo in 1947. He appears in a summer season at Courtown, County Wexford. He is soon featured on Irish radio, sometimes with Clarke, and appears in Waterford’s first-ever television broadcast.

In 1951 Doonican moves to England to join the Four Ramblers, who tour and perform on BBC Radio shows broadcast from factories, and on the Riders of the Range serials. He also begins performing at United States Air Force bases. The Ramblers support Anthony Newley on tour and, recognising Doonican’s talent and potential as a solo act, persuades him to leave the singing group and go solo. He is auditioned for radio as a solo act, and appears on the radio show Variety Bandbox. Soon he has his own radio show and is performing in concerts and cabaret. In the late 1950s, he becomes one of the artists managed by Eve Taylor, the self-described “Queen Bee of Show Business,” who remains his manager until her death.

After seeing Doonican in cabaret in London in 1963, impresario Val Parnell books him to appear on Sunday Night at the Palladium. As a result of his performance, Bill Cotton, then Assistant Head of Light Entertainment at BBC Television, offers Doonican his own regular show. The TV shows are produced by Yvonne Littlewood and run for over 20 years. The shows feature his relaxed crooner style, sitting in a rocking chair wearing cardigans or jumpers, sometimes performing comedic Irish songs as well as easy listening and country material on which he accompanies himself on acoustic guitar. Being variety shows, his TV programmes give a number of other performers, such as Dave Allen, early exposure. Regular guests include Bernard Cribbins, Bob Todd, the Norman Maen Dancers, the Mike Sammes Singers, and the Kenny Woodman Orchestra. At its height The Val Doonican Show, which features both American and British acts, has 20 million viewers. In the United States, The Val Doonican Show airs on ABC on Saturday evenings from June 5 to August 14, 1971.

The Palladium performance also kick-starts Doonican’s recording career. Between 1964 and 1973 he is rarely out of the UK Singles Chart. The album Val Doonican Rocks, But Gently reaches Number 1 in the UK Albums Chart in December 1967 and knocks The BeatlesSgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band off the top of the chart. The 1966 single release “Elusive Butterfly” reaches a UK chart peak of #5 and #3 in Ireland. In all, he records over 50 albums. After a time with Philips Records in the 1970s he also records for RCA Records. He also sings the theme song to the film Ring of Bright Water.

Behind the scenes, Doonican is described as “a perfectionist who knew his limitations but always aimed to be ‘the best Val Doonican possible.'” He is sometimes compared to American singer Perry Como, though he claims his main influence is Bing Crosby. He appears on Royal Variety Performance three times. On December 31, 1976, he performs his hit song “What Would I Be” on BBC One‘s A Jubilee of Music, celebrating British pop music for Queen Elizabeth II‘s impending Silver Jubilee.

Doonican wins the BBC Television Personality of the Year award in 1966. He is the subject of This Is Your Life in 1970. Eamonn Andrews meets him at the 18th green of the South Herts Golf Club as Doonican plays a round of golf. He writes two volumes of autobiography, The Special Years (1980) and Walking Tall (1985).

Doonican officially retires in 1990 but is still performing in 2009. He has a second home in Spain and is a keen golfer and a talented watercolour painter. Another hobby he enjoys is cooking. In June 2011, he is recognised by the Mayor of Waterford bestowing on him “The Freedom of the City.”

Doonican dies at a nursing home in Buckinghamshire at the age of 88 on July 1, 2015.


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Ruby Murray Has Two Singles in the British Top 20

Belfast-born Ruby Murray has two singles, “I’ll Come When You Call” and “Evermore,” in the UK Singles Chart on October 22, 1955. Her much quoted achievement is that she has five hits in the Top 20 in a single week in March 1955, a feat only matched by pop singer Madonna four decades later.

Murray is born near the Donegall Road in south Belfast on March 29, 1935, the youngest child in a Protestant family. She has surgery at six weeks of age due to swollen glands, and as a result, has a very husky voice. She tours as a child singer and first appears on television at the age of twelve, having been spotted by producer Richard Afton. Owing to laws governing children performing, she has to delay her start in the entertainment industry. She returns to Belfast and full-time education until she is fourteen.

After being again spotted by Afton, Murray is signed to Columbia Records and her first single, “Heartbeat”, reaches No. 3 in the UK Singles Chart in December 1954. Afton offers her the position of resident singer on the BBC‘s Quite Contrary television show, to replace Joan Regan. “Softly, Softly“, her second single, reaches number one in early 1955. That same year she sets a pop chart record by having five hits in the Top Twenty in one week, a feat unmatched for many years. In 2014, the Guinness Book of World Records issues three certificates confirming that at the date of issue, nobody has beaten this record, although it is now shared with three other singers.

The 1950s are a busy period for Murray, during which she has her own television show, stars at the London Palladium with Norman Wisdom, appears in a Royal Command Performance (1955), and tours the world. In a period of 52 weeks, starting on December 3, 1954 and lasting until the end of November 1955, she constantly has at least one single in the UK charts, this at a time when only a Top 20 is listed.

Murray appears in her only film role, as Ruby, in A Touch of the Sun, a 1956 farce with Frankie Howerd and Dennis Price. A couple of hits follow later in the decade. “Goodbye Jimmy, Goodbye“, a No. 10 hit in 1959, is her final appearance in the charts.

In 1957, while working in Blackpool, Murray meets Bernie Burgess, a member of a successful television and recording vocal quartet, the Four Jones Boys. Shortly afterwards she leaves Northern Ireland to marry him and live with him in England. The couple includes a song-and-dance segment in her act during the 1960s.

Murray struggles with alcoholism for most of her life and this contributes to the breakdown of her marriage in 1974. The divorce is finalised in 1976 and she moves to Torquay to live with an old friend, Ray Lamar, a former stage dancer and theatre impresario, who is 18 years her senior. They marry in 1991 and spend the evening with a small party of friends and family at an Italian restaurant in Babbacombe.

Although her days as a major star are long over, Murray continues performing until close to the end of her life. Spending her last couple of years in Asprey’s Nursing Home, she often delights her carers with a song, and is visited by her friend Max Bygraves. She dies of liver cancer at the age of 61 on December 17, 1996.


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Birth of Brendan Bowyer, Royal Showband Frontman

Brendan Bowyer, Irish singer best known for fronting the Royal Showband and The Big Eight and who had five number one hits in Ireland, is born in Waterford, County Waterford on October 12, 1938.

Bowyer is also renowned for having The Beatles open for the Royal Showband at a concert on April 2, 1962 at the Pavilion Theatre, Liverpool, England, some six months before the release of The Beatles debut single “Love Me Do” in October 1962. He is regarded as one of the first headlining Elvis impersonators. Elvis Presley himself is a big fan of Bowyer’s performances and often attends his concerts in the Stardust Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada during the 1970s.

Bowyer begins his career with the Royal Showband in 1957. His ability to tailor American rock and roll music to the tastes of Irish audiences, and his athletic, spirited on-stage performances make him a popular vocalist of the 1960s Irish showband era. On September 6, 1963, he and the Royal Showband become the first Irish artists to top the Irish Singles Chart, with the hit “Kiss Me Quick,” which stays at the number one position for seven weeks. They return to the top position later that year with “No More,” and repeat the feat in 1964 with “Bless You.”

Bowyer takes part in the 1965 Irish National Song Contest for a chance to represent Ireland at the Eurovision Song Contest in Naples with the song “Suddenly in Love,” but can only manage fifth place. The Royal Showband’s greatest success is to come in 1965 with “The Hucklebuck,” which spends a further seven weeks at the top of the Irish Singles Chart, and is a hit in Australia, but fails to appear in the UK Singles Chart. “Don’t Lose Your Hucklebuck Shoes” returns the band to the number one position later in 1965.

In the summer of 1971 Bowyer, along with singer Tom Dunphy, leave the Royal Showband and form the Big Eight Showband. The band spends the summers playing the ballroom circuit in Ireland but also spends six months of the year in Las Vegas. Within a short time, the band makes the decision to relocate to Las Vegas permanently. He is based in Las Vegas from then on, though he makes frequent trips back to Ireland. In 1977 he makes a brief return to the Irish charts with his tribute, “Thank You Elvis.”

Having enjoyed a semi-retirement phase, Bowyer returns to the spotlight, touring Ireland each year, some for months on end, with his daughter Aisling Bowyer, and a six piece band. They perform his showband era hits, dance numbers, nationalist songs, modern contemporary songs and concert hits.

A covers album, Follow On, is released in 2001, where Bowyer performs some of the most popular Irish songs, such as “Summer in Dublin,” “What’s Another Year,” “Past the Point of Rescue,” and “I Don’t Like Mondays.”

In 2005, Bowyer and Aisling headline the entertainment list for the Tall Ships Festival in Waterford, performing in the open air to an estimated crowd of 12,000. In 2015, Bowyer is the star of the “Ireland’s Showbands – Do You Come Here Often?” concert series.

Bowyer dies at the age of 81 in Las Vegas, Nevada on May 28, 2020.


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Gilbert O’Sullivan’s “Clair” Reaches No. 1 in UK Singles Chart

claire-gilbert-o-sullivanIrish-English singer-songwriter Gilbert O’Sullivan reaches No. 1 in the UK Singles Chart on October 29, 1972 with “Clair,” one of his biggest selling singles, from the album Back to Front. The song is written by O’Sullivan and produced by Gordon Mills.

“Clair” is the love song of a close family friend who babysits a young girl (actually the artist’s manager’s daughter), though for the first part of the song, the ambiguous text leads one to think that it is from one adult to another. The brief instrumental introduction is the sound of O’Sullivan whistling, before he comes in. The real Clair is the three-year-old daughter of O’Sullivan’s producer-manager, Gordon Mills and his wife, the model Jo Waring. The little girl’s giggling is heard at the end of the song. The “Uncle Ray” mentioned in the song is O’Sullivan himself, a reference to his real name of Raymond O’Sullivan. The instrumental break in the middle section is done half a step up from A to B-Flat, before going back to A.

“Clair” is the number one single in the UK Singles Chart for two weeks and number one in Canada on the RPM 100 national singles chart. In late December, it peaks at number two on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States, behind both “Me and Mrs. Jones” by Billy Paul and “You’re So Vain” by Carly Simon. “Clair” is also O’Sullivan’s second and last number one hit on the United States Easy Listening chart, after “Alone Again (Naturally).”


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Death of Eamonn Andrews, Radio & Television Presenter

eamonn-andrewsEamonn Andrews, Irish radio and television presenter employed primarily in the United Kingdom from the 1950s to the 1980s, dies in London, England on November 5, 1987. From 1960 to 1964 he chairs the Radio Éireann Authority, which oversees the introduction of a state television service to the Republic of Ireland.

Andrews is born in Synge Street, Dublin, and educated at Synge Street CBS. He begins his career as a clerk in an insurance office. He is a keen amateur boxer and wins the Irish junior middleweight title in 1944.

In 1946 Andrews becomes a full-time freelance sports commentator, working for Radio Éireann, Ireland’s state broadcaster. In 1950, he begins presenting programmes for the BBC, being particularly well known for boxing commentaries, and soon becomes one of television’s most popular presenters. The following year, the game show What’s My Line? begins and Andrews is the host.

Throughout the 1950s, Andrews commentates on the major British heavyweight fights on the BBC Light Programme, with inter-round summaries by W. Barrington Dalby. On January 20 , 1956, he reaches No. 18 in the UK Singles Chart with a “spoken narrative” recording named “The Shifting Whispering Sands (Parts 1 & 2),” which is produced by George Martin with musical backing by the Ron Goodwin Orchestra, released by Parlophone as catalogue number R 4106, a double-sided 78rpm record. The song later reappears on Kenny Everett‘s compilation album The World’s Worst Record Show, which is released in June 1978.

Between 1955 and 1964, Andrews presents the long-running Sports Report on BBC’s Light Programme. In 1965, he leaves the BBC to join the ITV contractor ABC, where he pioneers the talk show format in the UK. He hosts a chat show on ITV, The Eamonn Andrews Show, for five years. He is known for coming up with off-the-cuff linkings that do not work, such as: “Speaking of cheese sandwiches, have you come far?” This is parodied by the character Seamus Android on Round the Horne in the 1960s, performed by Bill Pertwee. In the 1960s and 1970s he presents Thames Television‘s Today news magazine programme.

Andrews is probably best known as the presenter of the UK version of This Is Your Life, between its inception in 1955 and his death in 1987, when he is succeeded by Michael Aspel, who had also succeeded Andrews as the host of Crackerjack! more than twenty years earlier. Andrews is the first This Is Your Life subject on British television when he is surprised by the show’s creator, Ralph Edwards. He also creates a long-running panel game called Whose Baby? that originally runs on the BBC and later on ITV. He is a regular presenter of the early Miss World pageants.

Andrews’ chairs the Radio Éireann Authority between 1960 and 1964, overseeing the introduction of state television to the Republic of Ireland and establishing the broadcaster as an independent semi-state body. About this time, he also acquires a number of business interests in Ireland, including recording studios and a dance hall. He steps down from the RTE Authority amidst a bitter political storm started by the Catholic Church hierarchy over what is seen as the controversial content of The Late Late Show. Before leaving RTÉ, he defends the show as “freedom of expression.”

After months of illness during 1987, originally caused by a virus contracted during a plane journey but which is not recognised at the time, Andrews dies from heart failure on November 5, 1987 at the Cromwell Hospital in London. A funeral service is held at St. Anne’s Church in Portmarnock, where he had his home, and his body is buried in Balgriffin Cemetery to the north of Dublin. A memorial mass is held for him in Westminster Cathedral.

Andrews had recorded his last edition of This Is Your Life six days previously on October 30, 1987. After his death, the show, and two others that had yet to be broadcast, are postponed until, with his widow’s permission, they are broadcast in January 1988.


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Live Aid

live-aid-logoLive Aid, a dual-venue benefit concert organised primarily by Dublin-born Bob Geldof, is held on July 13, 1985. The event is organised by Geldof and Midge Ure to raise funds for relief of the ongoing Ethiopian famine. Billed as the “global jukebox,” the event is held simultaneously at Wembley Stadium in London, England, (attended by 72,000 people) and John F. Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, (attended by about 100,000 people).

On the same day, concerts inspired by the initiative take place in other countries, such as the Soviet Union, Canada, Japan, Yugoslavia, Austria, Australia and West Germany. It was one of the largest-scale satellite link-ups and television broadcasts of all time. An estimated global audience of 1.9 billion, across 150 nations, watch the live broadcast. If accurate, this would be nearly 40% of the world population at the time.

In October 1984, images of millions of people starving to death in Ethiopia were shown in the UK in Michael Buerk‘s BBC News reports on the 1984 famine. The report shocks Britain, motivating its citizens to inundate relief agencies, such as Save the Children, with donations, and to bring the world’s attention to the crisis in Ethiopia. Bob Geldof also sees the report, and calls Midge Ure from Ultravox, and together they quickly co-write the song, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” in the hope of raising money for famine relief. Geldof then contacts colleagues in the music industry and persuades them to record the single under the title “Band Aid” for free. On November 25, 1984, the song is recorded at SARM West Studios in Notting Hill, London and is released four days later. It stays at number-one on the UK Singles Chart for five weeks, is Christmas number one, and becomes the fastest-selling single ever in Britain and raises £8 million, rather than the £70,000 Geldof and Ure had initially expected.

The 1985 Live Aid concert is conceived as a follow-up to the successful charity single. The idea to stage a charity concert to raise more funds for Ethiopia originally comes from Boy George, the lead singer of Culture Club. On Saturday, December 22, 1984, an impromptu gathering of some of the other artists from Band Aid join Culture Club on stage at the end of their concert at Wembley Stadium for an encore of “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” George is so overcome by the occasion he tells Geldof that they should consider organising a benefit concert.

The concert begins at noon at Wembley Stadium in London. It continues at John F. Kennedy Stadium in the United States, starting at 8:51 EDT. The overall concert continues for just over 16 hours, but since many artists’ performances are conducted simultaneously in Wembley and JFK, the total concert’s length is much longer.

Throughout the concerts, viewers are urged to donate money to the Live Aid cause. Three hundred phone lines are manned by the BBC, so that members of the public can make donations using their credit cards. The phone number and an address that viewers can send cheques to are repeated every twenty minutes.

The following day, news reports state that between £40 and £50 million had been raised. It is now estimated that around £150m has been raised for famine relief as a direct result of the concerts. Geldof mentions during the concert that the Republic of Ireland had given the most donations per capita, despite being in the threat of a serious economic recession at the time. The single largest donation comes from the Al Maktoum, who is part of the ruling family of Dubai, who donates £1M during a phone conversation with Geldof.