||This biographical article needs additional citations for verification. (August 2009)|
Val Doonican in 1966
|Birth name||Michael Valentine Doonican|
3 February 1927 |
Waterford, Rep of Ireland
|Genres||Traditional pop music
|Labels||Decca, Pye, Philips|
Val Doonican (born Michael Valentine Doonican, 3 February 1928) is an Irish singer. From 1965 to 1986 he was a regular fixture on the BBC Television's schedule with The Val Doonican Show, which featured his own singing performances and a variety of guest artists. The TV shows were produced by Yvonne Littlewood. A notably relaxed crooner, Doonican had 5 successive Top 10 albums in the UK Albums Chart in the swinging sixties.
Doonican was born in Waterford, Ireland, the youngest of the 8 children of Agnes (née Kavanagh) and John Doonican. His father died in 1941 when Val was a teenager, so he had to leave De La Salle College, Waterford, to get factory jobs fabricating steel and making orange boxes. In the early days Sean Smyth the legendary Dublin music magnate toured with Val around Ireland. Sean was a major player in the showband scene who was managing the Clipper Carltons at the time.
He was from a musical family and started performing in his hometown and in a summer season at Courtown Harbour. He was then featured on Irish radio and appeared in Waterford's first-ever television broadcast. Then he played the drums in a band on a tour through Ireland. In 1951 he moved to England to join The Four Ramblers, who toured and performed on BBC Radio shows broadcast from factories.
Val met Lynnette Rae when both she (a dancer) and the Ramblers supported the late Anthony Newley on tour. Newley introduced them and for the first time in his life, Val fell in love. He and Lynn married in the early 1960s and are the parents to two grown-up daughters, Sarah and Fiona, and grandparents to their two grandchildren, Bethany and Scott.
Anthony Newley recognised Doonican's talent and was a catalyst in persuading him to go solo. Soon after his solo career started, he had a radio show as well as performing in concerts and cabaret. In 1963 he was booked to appear on Sunday Night at the London Palladium. As a result of this performance, Bill Cotton, then Assistant Head of Light Entertainment, offered him his own show on BBC television, lasting for over 20 years. It featured his relaxed crooner style performance sitting in a rocking chair, as well as a number of comic Irish songs, notably "Paddy McGinty's Goat", "Delaney's Donkey", and "O'Rafferty's Motor Car", on which he accompanied himself on acoustic guitar. He often wore cardigans and jumpers, which became his trademark along with the rocking chairs from which he often performed, and he was sometimes compared to American singer Perry Como, though he has claimed his main influence was Bing Crosby. As it was a variety show, it gave a number of other performers early exposure, such as Dave Allen. On 31 December 1976, Doonican performed his hit song "What Would I Be" on BBC1's A Jubilee Of Music, celebrating British pop music for Queen Elizabeth II's impending Silver Jubilee.
The Palladium performance also kick-started his recording career. Between 1964 and 1973 Doonican was rarely out of the UK Singles Chart, his greatest successes including the singles "Walk Tall", "The Special Years", "Elusive Butterfly", "What Would I Be", (on Decca) "If The Whole World Stopped Loving" (Pye), and "Morning" (Philips); and the albums 13 Lucky Shades of Val Doonican (Decca), and Val Doonican Rocks, But Gently (Pye) which reached Number 1 in the UK Albums Chart in 1967. After a spell with Philips records in the seventies he also recorded for RCA. He also sang the theme song to the film Ring of Bright Water.
In the United States, The Val Doonican Show aired on ABC Saturday nights at 8:30 (7:30 Centrsl) from June 5 to August 14, 1971. Regulars included Bernard Cribbins, Bob Todd, the Norman Maen Dancers, the Mike Sammes Singers, and Kenny Woodman's orchestra. Both American and British acts appeared on the show.
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In popular culture
He is cited as a member of the eclectic (and fictional) "orchestra" in The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band's recording, "The Intro and the Outro", credited "as himself". He also has a great relaxed gift for telling stories about his life and show business in general. Doonican's 1965 song I'm Gonna Get There Somehow currently appears in adverts for toy store Smyths. Val's name has, since 2006, also been linked to the Barnsley comedy-folk band 'The Bar-Steward Sons of Val Doonican'. The three members share an uncanny love of knitwear (their on-stage personas feature Val-styled wigs and suitably Val-esque tank-tops) and re-write popular pop, rock, punk and metal songs with Northern humourous lyrics (often linked to their hometown). The band started as a duo consisting of wayward brothers, Scott Doonican (vocals, guitar, banjo, bouzouki, mandolin and ukulele) & Danny Doonican (vocals & guitar), before later enlisting Alan Doonican (accordion) to become the three-piece they are today. After Danny Doonican's unexpected departure in March 2010, Andy Doonican joined the band on guitar, bouzouki and banjo. It has, since the beginning of the band, been jokingly suggested that the members are the offspring of the famous Irish singer, but in truth, lead-singer, principle songwriter and general instigater, Scott Doonican has opening welcomed the possibility of meeting the great man he has spent years suggesting is his estranged father, due to a genuine respect for him and his contribution to the entertainment industry prior to the "dark days of the X-Factor, Justin Bieber and other such nonsense". (In fact, a direct quote found on the band's website taken directly from Doonican's third autobiography, 'My Story, My Life' states: "When you entertain the public it's no good just having good music or singing, you must also have entertainment value, so people will go home having a good time." This would suggest that they clearly share the same ethos. The trio have notably made something of a stir in their hometown of Barnsley, and supported or played alongside many top live acts such as Roy Wood, Eliza Carthy, Martin Carthy, Norma Waterson, The Lancashire Hotpots, Oliver/Dawson Saxon, Chas n Dave, The Sweet, The Bay City Rollers, Mike Harding, The Blockheads, Maartin Allcock, 3 Daft Monkeys, The Levellers, Miles Hunt & Erica Nockalls, Ben Ottewell, Hugh Whitaker, Ted Key, The Wurzels, Peter Donegan, Tom Hingley and Chumbawumba. As of 2013 they are beginning to make waves on the independent festival circuits including Beatherder, Beautiful Days, Watchet Live and Bearded Theory. They have produced a vast back-catalogue of music, including 6 studio-albums and countless live endeavors, and in 2013 managed to successfully crowd-fund not only a 7" vinyl single but also a 12" LP of the Greatest Hits called 'Bestest Bits'. www.thebarstewardsons.com
UK Top Ten Hit Singles
- 1964: "'Walk Tall" (#3)
- 1965: "The Special Years" (#7)
- 1966: "'Elusive Butterfly" (#5)
- 1966: "What Would I Be" (#2)
- 1967: "If the Whole World Stopped Loving" (#3)
- Val Doonican - Legends (BBC Four), December 2007
- Brooks, T. and Marsh, E. The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows (1998)