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A showband leader and well-known impresario

Published 15/07/2016

Star maker: Jimmy Johnston
Star maker: Jimmy Johnston

Northern Ireland has lost one of its best-known entertainment agents with the passing of Jimmy Johnston following an illness.

The 77-year-old Comber man spent over half-a-century initially as leader of his own band, then as a fledgling booking agent before becoming manager of the popular Seagoe Hotel in Portadown, and then helping to spearhead the province's biggest country music and dancing agency.

It was in the halcyon days of the showband era in the 1960s that the Jimmy Johnston Showband rubbed shoulders with Brendan Bowyer And The Royal, Joe Dolan And The Drifters and Dickie Rock And The Miami in Ireland's biggest ballrooms.

They struck success in the recording sphere with My Son Calls Another Man Daddy.

It was after this that Jimmy took his first tentative steps into the booking agency arena, slowing moving up from the small, rural halls to the high-profile hotels with whom he had worked in more recent years under the Jayco, Jimmy Johnston Promotions and JKC Country umbrellas in tandem with his partners Trevor Kane and John Campbell.

During the 1980s and early 1990s he was manager of the Seagoe, transforming the Mid-Ulster venue into an entertainment hotspot.

But it was when he immersed himself in booking bands for numerous hotels across the province that he acquired the reputation as leading impresario.

Even during the Troubles crowds flocked to the venues, their cross-community element an enduring theme.

The Noughties spawned a fresh wave of enthusiasm among younger people in particular for country dancing and in this respect Jimmy offered many new bands the platform on which to build their success.

He introduced major acts such as Nathan Carter, Derek Ryan and Lisa McHugh to Ulster audiences. His enthusiasm and zest for music and bands never left him even in his final illness.

If his life tended to revolve round his work, then there was still time for his wife Carol, daughter Yvette and the family circle. Jimmy's funeral arrangements will be confirmed later.

Belfast Telegraph

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