13 February 1938|
County Longford, Ireland
|Died||28 September 2012
|Genres||Country and Irish|
|Years active||1961 – 2012|
|Associated acts||The Mighty Avons|
Larry Cunningham (13 February 1938 - 28 September 2012) was an Irish country music singer, who was one of the leading figures of the showband scene in the 1960s and 1970s. Regarded as a "trailblazer" and "legend" in the music industry, he accomplished a series of "firsts" during his career. In 1964, Cunningham broke into the British charts with "Tribute to Jim Reeves", the first time an Irish artist had done such a thing.
Cunningham grew up in the townland of Clooneen in Mullinalaghta parish, near Granard, County Longford, in a farming family of seven children. After leaving school at 16 he went to England and worked as a carpenter, playing Irish traditional music and gaelic football during his spare time. In 1958 he returned to Ireland. Still working as a carpenter, he soon joined the part-time Gowna-based Grafton Showband, but left it in 1961 to become fully professional as the lead singer of the Mighty Avons, based in Cavan. That band initially specialised in covers of Jim Reeves songs and similar country material.
The band's first taste of fame came when they were supporting Jim Reeves during the Irish leg of his European tour in 1963; when Reeves walked off the stage during a concert in Lifford in protest at the poor condition of the supplied piano, the Avons (as they later became popularly called) took over and entertained the crowd, to much subsequent publicity and acclaim.
In December 1964, Cunningham and the Mighty Avons had a Top-10 hit with the song "Tribute to Jim Reeves", which also entered the British charts (the first time for an Irish artiste), and played on Top of the Pops (also an Irish first), which further boosted their career. Their major hit was "Lovely Leitrim" in September 1965, which stayed at number one in the charts for four weeks. As well as regularly touring Ireland to large crowds, the Avons made many appearances on television, and often played in Britain, the USA, and other places.
In late 1969, he left the Mighty Avons and merged with Edenderry band The Fairways to form Larry Cunningham and the Country Blue Boys, leaving Gene Stuart to front the Avons. Cunningham continued having success with his new band, but after his marriage in 1972 he gave up regular touring in favour of occasional concerts and recording. He continued to have top-10 hits until the mid-1970s, and still performed occasionally for the remainder of his life. In recent years, audio and video compilations of his music have been released, as well as a biography.
In February 1972, Cunningham married Beatrice Nannery, who worked for him managing a supermarket which he owned. They had four children and two grandchildren. He died on 28 September 2012, following a long period of illness. Among those to pay tribute were U.S. country singer Robert Mizzell who said: “I am so saddened to hear of the passing of country legend Larry. I admired his talent and quick humour. My thoughts are with his family, friends, and the fans who loved the big deep voice that rattled the radio waves”.
Cunningham and his bands have released the following recordings:
|Released||Band||Title||Peak chart position|
|Jan 1965||Mighty Avons||"Tribute to Jim Reeves"||9|
|Apr 1965||Mighty Avons||"I Guess I'm Crazy"||4|
|Sep 1965||Mighty Avons||"Lovely Leitrim"||1|
|Apr 1966||Mighty Avons||"Among the Wicklow Hills"||2|
|Nov 1966||Mighty Avons||"Snowflake"||2|
|Feb 1967||Mighty Avons||"Fool's Paradise"||5|
|Jul 1967||Mighty Avons||"Three Steps to the Phone"||8|
|Dec 1967||Mighty Avons||"Little Nell"|
|Mar 1968||Mighty Avons||"The Emigrant"||10|
|Nov 1968||Mighty Avons||"The Great El Tigre"||17|
|May 1969||Mighty Avons||"Bracero"|
|Sep 1969||Country Blue Boys||"Ballad of James Connolly"||10|
|Dec 1969||Country Blue Boys||"Don't Let Me Cross Over"||7|
|May 1970||Country Blue Boys||"Mother, the Queen of My Heart"||13|
|Jan 1971||Country Blue Boys||"Pride of the West"||17|
|Dec 1971||Country Blue Boys||"Slaney Valley"||1|
|Jul 1972||Country Blue Boys||"Four Great Irish Hits, Volume 1"||4|
|Oct 1972||Country Blue Boys||"Four Great Irish Hits, Volume 2"||10|
|Mar 1973||Country Blue Boys||"Goodbye Comes Hard to Me"||5|
|Jan 1974||Country Blue Boys||"This Time of the Year"||3|
|Jun 1974||Country Blue Boys||"Lovely Leitrim"||19|
|1975||Country Blue Boys||"My Kathleen"||3|
|Dec 1975||solo, with Margo||"Hello Mr. Peters"||15|
|Sep 1976||Country Blue Boys||"Annaghdown"||6|
|Apr 1977||Country Blue Boys||"Where the Blue and Lonely Go"||19|
|1980||Country Blue Boys||"Where the Grass Grows Greenest"|
|Jun 1983||Country Blue Boys||"The Story of My Life"||16|
|Nov 1983||Country Blue Boys||"Galway and You"||30|
|Aug 1984||Country Blue Boys||"Walk On By"||26|
|Jan 1967||solo||Two Sides of Larry|
|Dec 1967||solo||Larry Cunningham Sings Country and Irish|
|Jun 1969||solo||Ramblin' Irishman|
|May 1970||Country Blue Boys||Country My Way|
|?||Country Blue Boys||This is Larry Cunningham|
|1972||Country Blue Boys||Songs Fresh from Nashville|
|1973||Country Blue Boys||Larry Cunningham in Concert|
|1974||Country Blue Boys||Tribute to Jim Reeves|
|1980||Country Blue Boys||Come Back to Erin|
- Doc Rock. "The Dead Rock Stars Club 2012 July To December". Thedeadrockstarsclub.com. Retrieved 2012-09-29.
- "The nostalgia two-step". Irish Independent. 14 July 2001. Retrieved 24 August 2011.
- Conlon, Owen (29 September 2012). "Larry a star in heaven". The Sun. Retrieved 29 September 2012.
- "Irish showband singer Larry Cunningham dies". BBC News. 29 September 2012. Retrieved 29 September 2012.
- Cunningham, Larry. "Biography". Retrieved 22 August 2011.
- Gallagher, Ian. "The Mighty Avons". Retrieved 21 August 2011.
- "Larry Cunningham in Rooskey". Roscommon People. Retrieved 22 August 2011.
- "Larry Cunningham to appear on Nationwide". Longford Leader. 18 March 2010.
- Healy, Shay (21 September 2002). "50 years on - why the chart's still No 1". Irish Independent. Retrieved 24 August 2011.
- "Hats off to Top Of The Pops...and those great green years". Irish Independent. 18 September 2003. Retrieved 24 August 2011.
- "Larry Cunningham Feature". irish-showbands.com. Retrieved 2011-08-21.
- "A lifetime of music recalled in new book". Longford Leader. 25 August 2009. Retrieved 24 August 2011.
- Gilmore, Tom (2009). LarryCunningham: A Showband Legend. Mentor Books. ISBN 978-1-906623-39-5.
- "Showband singer Larry Cunningham dies". RTÉ News. 29 September 2012. Retrieved 29 September 2012.
- Sweeney, Ken (26 March 2012). "Showband legend vows to gig again despite illness". Irish Independent. Retrieved 26 March 2012.