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Hugo Duncan: Daniel O'Donnell's still in tune with the music business even after all these years

Still going strong: Daniel O’Donnell and his wife Majella
Still going strong: Daniel O’Donnell and his wife Majella
Loretta Lynn

By Hugo Duncan

When the-then leading Dublin band manager, Sean Reilly, decided that he would like to form a backing band for an unknown country singer back in the mid-Eighties, he little dreamt that he was in at the birth of this country's first genuine country music superstar.

Even within the confines of his beloved Donegal, Daniel O'Donnell was scarcely known all those years ago. Yet, today, he is an iconic figure in what is a global music genre.

As a singer, performer and all-round entertainer, Daniel is the real deal - a true star, whose talent and versatility initially projected him to the top and have helped to keep him there.

And even with three decades of success behind him, Daniel's appetite for performing and, in the process, bringing pleasure to millions is as strong as ever.

In a journey that has been highlighted by many significant milestones, Daniel still sets the standards for those who choose to follow in his footsteps.

And that's why the fact that he has just released a new duet with popular Tipperary-based singer Trudi Lalor and will star in his own spectacular concert in the plush Tullyglass House Hotel, Ballymena on Tuesday, August 20 have created huge excitement among his many fans.

I have known Daniel and his family for many years. I have always been warmly welcomed and treated to the utmost hospitality on my visit to Kincasslagh.

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When Daniel was proprietor of the Viking Hotel there, I used to perform regularly at his Belle of the Ball at his festival.

I well recall two Belles of the Ball on different occasions, one being our own Dana and the other being Loretta Lynn, dancing with Daniel with his mother and Dana's mother looking on with considerable pride.

On the numerous occasions on which I have had him as my studio guest on my Radio Ulster show and on which I have had the pleasure of sharing the stage with him in concerts, I have always found Daniel to be most courteous, warm and friendly. He is always the same: modest, unassuming and approachable.

Indeed, it is no secret that Daniel's sincerity and outlook have won him not just fans, but confidants - he's the type of person to whom you would be tempted to reveal your innermost thoughts in the sure and certain knowledge that they would not be revealed elsewhere.

But while he is convivial and warm-hearted, Daniel is, nonetheless, the ultimate professional, a singer who always expects nothing but the best from himself and from those with whom he performs.

I have performed with him on Opry le Daniel, his popular TG4 series, and found it a marvellous experience.

I have long ceased to be surprised at the amount of emails, texts and phone calls that we would receive in the studio when it was known that Daniel would be on the show.

The fact that he is coming to Ballymena has created considerable excitement.

But even before then, I would expect that his duet with Trudi Lalor will have further cemented his popularity.

The song is entitled I'm Getting Over You and was written by Max T Barnes and Billy Morrissey.

It's a song which shows both singers at their best and looks destined to be a hit.

Trudi Lalor is very much a performer in her own right, but naturally when the chance came to share a song with Daniel, she simply could not pass it up.

And I was not in the least surprised to learn that Daniel has included songs from several singers and songwriters from here on his most recent CD.

Sean Hughes, from The Outlaws band, Gerard Dornan of Country Harmony fame and popular Cork vocalist Patrick O'Sullivan are among those who feel honoured because Daniel has decided to record some of their material.

Thoughts are with Jim after loss of his father

Popular country singer Jim Devine was bereaved by the death of his father, Gerald, this week. Gerald, who was a hugely popular figure within the farming community in the north Tyrone area, had been ill for some time and his passing occasioned deep regret.

Jim had been extremely close to his father, who had followed his progress in the country music sphere with considerable interest.

I well remember Jim launching his band some years, following his success on the RTE show The Voice and I always felt that he had the talent to make progress. He has certainly created a big impact and his parents have understandably lent him their support.

During his father's last illness, Jim spent considerable time undertaking hospital visits and doing everything to provide comfort, as well as fulfilling various engagements with his band.

Gerald's funeral took place on Sunday and the large attendance of mourners reflected the esteem in which he was held by all sections of the community.

To Jim, his mother and the rest of the Devine family, I extend sincere sympathy on their sad loss.

Truck run will help to drive funds for charity

All roads will lead to Irvinestown this weekend for the annual Marie Curie Truck Run. What began 13 years ago as a modest fundraising initiative has now developed into a very high-profile community festival, which attracts thousands of people.

I remember when the event took its first, faltering steps, the organisers were apprehensive, which was understandable in the circumstances. But, year-on-year since then, the event has gained considerably in status.

To date, the event has raised in excess of £456,000 to help Marie Curie nurses provide the invaluable aid they give to cancer sufferers.

One of the highlights is tonight's popular truck run, when lorries are driven round Irvinestown with the whole area spectacularly lit up by their headlights. Tomorrow, even more trucks will arrive to prepare for the Lakeland Convoy on Sunday.

Tomorrow night, the truckers and family members, along with many members of the public, will attend a festival dance in the Delaney Suite of Mahon's Hotel.

Then, on Sunday, the trucks will start to roll at 2pm on a Lakeland Convoy that will take them across the county.

Incidentally, the annual Marie Curie CD, which contains over 40 tracks featuring local acts, will be on sale and two of those who record every year for the album are George Gordon and Joe Mahon. George was formerly Kid Wayne in the Kid Wayne and The Islanders band, from Lisburn, and is now a prominent figure in trucking. His contribution this year to the CD is Hello Darlin', a song to which the popular George gives his own inimitable treatment.

And not to be outdone, Joe Mahon has chipped in with his version of Come Down the Mountain my Marie, a song which traces his family history in Irvinestown, with particular emphasis on his long-suffering wife, Marie.

George and Joe were the brains behind the whole truck run venture from day one and, along the way, popular Downtown Radio presenter Big T came onboard and has made a big contribution to the overall success of the CD venture and, indeed, to the truck convoy. You never know, Big T might even record a track next year.

Loretta put me in a sticky situation

When US superstar Loretta Lynn appeared at Daniel O'Donnell's Belle of the Ball festival in Kincasslagh a number of years ago, she left me with a rather sticky memory.

Loretta was, naturally, the centre of attention and was about to be interviewed by Daniel onstage.

I was standing just offstage when he eased herself backwards towards me and whispered: "Could you hold out your hand, please?"

I did not know what to expect, but being of an obedient nature I did as I was bid. I was left rather speechless when Loretta reached into her mouth and deposited her chewing gum in my hand!

I admit that I was left utterly speechless by what had just taken place, but truth to tell, had I been able to speak, my reaction would not have been printable in a family newspaper.

Talk about being put in a sticky situation! Loretta certainly left me with plenty to chew over.

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