Val Doonican

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Val Doonican
Val Doonican 1971.jpg
Val Doonican in 1971.
Background information
Birth name Michael Valentine Doonican
Born (1928-02-03) 3 February 1928 (age 86)
Waterford, Rep of Ireland
Genres Traditional pop music
Years active 1951–2009
Labels Decca, Pye, Philips
Website Official website

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.[1]

Early life[edit]

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.[citation needed] 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.

Singing career[edit]

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.[2]

He sang with the group "The Four Ramblers" and had appeared regularly on BBC radio including 'The Raiders of the Range' series. Anthony Newley recognised Doonican's talent and was a catalyst in persuading him to leave the singing group and 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.[3] 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.[1] He also sang the theme song to the film Ring of Bright Water.

He was the subject of This Is Your Life in 1970 when he was surprised by Eamonn Andrews during a game of golf at the South Herts Golf Club.

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.

Current activities[edit]

Doonican lives in Seer Green, Buckinghamshire. He stopped performing in 2009[4] and enjoys spending his free time in Spain, where he has a second home. He is a keen golfer and a talented watercolour painter. Another hobby he enjoys is cooking.

In popular culture[edit]

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 gift for telling humorous stories about his life and show business in general. As well as writing three very entertaining autobiographies he has produced another book simple entitled, 'The Stories of O'Rafferty'. Doonican's 1965 song I'm Gonna Get There Somehow currently[when?] 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.

UK Top Ten Hit Singles[edit]

  • 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)[1]


  1. ^ a b c Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 166. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  2. ^ "Val Doonican Biography". 1927-02-03. Retrieved 2013-02-05. 
  3. ^ Val Doonican: The Special Years
  4. ^ "The Val Doonican Website". Retrieved 2013-02-05. 
  • Val Doonican - Legends (BBC Four), December 2007
  • Brooks, T. and Marsh, E. The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows (1998)

External links[edit]