Waterford singer Paddy O’Brien is one of the great troubadours of the country music scene.
He first came to prominence back in the mid to late 1980s, when he was chosen to represent Ireland at the Euro Country Gold Star Awards in Holland.
For over three decades, Paddy has proudly flown the flag for country music and his beloved Déise county.
My journey down to Aglish, from where Paddy hails, took me for the first time through the charming village of Clogheen in Tipperary, beautifully located beside the Knockmealdown mountains, and up through The Vee – a scene that nearly took my breath away. It was awe inspiring beyond words.
Over the years, I have covered many stories about Paddy. His new album is due for release towards the end of May and a promotional DVD, Glasgow Dan, has been released in advance. But, on this occasion, I decided to ask Paddy to shine the spotlight on Waterford and its music tradition, especially in the country music genre.
“I suppose a lot of it goes back to Tom Dunphy, Brendan Bowyer and the legendary Royal Showband, of whom we have always been so proud of here in the county. Brendan was a true gentleman and a great ambassador, along with the lads, for Waterford.
I was mesmerised as a young lad with that song
“Elvis came to see Brendan perform with The Big 8 in Las Vegas. The Beatles played support to The Royal at a show in Liverpool in the early 1960s.
“Tom was the country singer with The Royal and I recall hearing him on the sponsored shows on Radio Éireann singing Come Down the Mountain Katie Daly. I was mesmerised as a young lad with that song and I later got the country LP (long play) that he brought out, Tom Dunphy Country, with some classic songs.”
Paddy takes a brief meander across the county border to Cork, the nearby Gortroe and Youghal areas, to give a special mention to Art Supple of The Victors Showband fame.
“Art has been an unbelievable performer over the decades and still is. He has just released a new album along with his son Shane and he is still a brilliant showman.”
Going back to former times, Paddy recalls the popularity of Gerry Walsh and The Cowboys, who established quite a reputation for themselves as the country scene took off in a huge way in the late 1960s and early 70s.
“Gerry is from Portlaw and is a good country singer. He later performed for a number of years with the famous Maurice Mulcahy Band and has played dates all over the island of Ireland. He recorded some fine music and I am sure he is looking forward to returning to the scene in the months ahead.”
They were a brilliant pop band based out of Ballycotton
The sudden death of Jerdi Mackey (Dale Haze) from Kilmacthomas last November at the age of 67 came as a huge shock to Paddy.
“I always loved Gina, Dale Haze and The Champions. They were a brilliant pop band based out of Ballycotton and Jerdi was the only Waterford man in the band. It is so hard to believe we are talking about Jerdi in the past tense.”
On the local circuit, Paddy has fond memories of Mattie Weldon from near Bunmahon.
“Mattie was a lovely man, full of nature. He died in 2013 at the age of 59. There was a great affection for Mattie around the southeast. I am glad to see his family carrying on the music tradition.
Their videos are light-hearted and fun
“The Bachelors in Trouble, Tony Coffey, Seán Murphy, Willie Walsh and all the crew, have brought so much joy and happiness to so many over the last three decades. They are intimately associated with rural Waterford.
“Their videos are light-hearted and fun and have lifted the spirits of so many people over the years. I have featured in several of the videos. They have toured all around the region and are hugely popular at the Ploughing Championships every year.”
Paddy has always had a great love for the singers from Ulster: “The north has been traditionally very strong for country music – Brian Coll, Gene Stuart, Johnny Loughrey, John Glenn and so many more.
I loved Big Tom. He never sang a bad one
“In my young days, I could hardly wait for the release of the new singles. Brian Harkin from Derry was another fine singer. Frank McCaffrey from Mayo has great range and ability too.
“Big Tom and The Mainliners intrigued me from the outset. I loved Big Tom. He never sang a bad one. He had a way of delivering a song that was unique in the same way that Johnny Cash, Marty Robbins or Ronnie Drew or any of those special singers had. Give the same song to some others and it could be nothing.
“The Mainliners had that special dancing beat. When I started off, in every recording studio I went into I was asked: ‘What tempo do you want – a quick jive tempo or a Big Tom tempo?’ That said it all, Big Tom and the band had created their own special identity.”
Paddy is a keen sports man with an outreach to many activities, but GAA, and especially hurling, takes precedent. Not many know that both his parents, John and Lizzie, were from Cork, Clonpriest (near Gortroe) and Glenville respectively.
“We all long for the day that Waterford will bring the Liam McCarthy Cup home again. We love our hurling with a passion here in Waterford.”