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Hugo Duncan: Susan McCann proved she was a cut above at US charity show

True star: Susan McCann went the extra mile at a charity show
True star: Susan McCann went the extra mile at a charity show
On song: John McNicholl
On song: Owen Mac

By Hugo Duncan

Not too many people would go to New York for a haircut, I would wager. Mind you, I haven't what you could call a full head of hair nowadays, come to think of it. But it was rather different in the 1970s. Then, I was young, impressionable and, if truth be told, game for anything.

It was an era when the living was easy, money was not exactly scarce and entertainment in Ireland was booming, even though we had already been overtaken by the Troubles.

Undaunted by the daily happenings that were projecting the province in a less-than-favourable light across the globe, the Top Rank Allstars, which comprised a ladies' and a men's football team, travelled to the US in the mid-1970s as part of their ongoing charitable fundraising drive.

The teams were made up entirely of singers and entertainers - there was no shortage of talent as we were still in the days of the showband boom, when dancing was a way of life in this country.

If truth be told, I was tickled pink to be in the company of Philomena Begley, Larry Cunningham, Brian Coll and all the others as we lived life to the full in the US.

But little did I know when I left Dublin Airport that I would get the chance to provide commentary on a match in Gaelic Park, New York - or have my hair trimmed by a superstar!

When the Ladies' Allstars met a New York Select XV, it was decided that the match should be broadcast on the local radio station, and yours truly was invited to be the guest commentator.

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Now, my knowledge of football is limited, as anyone who knows me well enough will confirm, but let's just say that the craic was good as I babbled away in a bid to hold the attention of listeners.

I must have done something right, because I was surprised to receive plaudits from all sides at the finish. And when the match was over, I indicated that I was heading to downtown New York in order to get a haircut and do some shopping.

But Susan McCann, already a household name in Irish country music circles, was having none of it.

Never one to stand on ceremony, Susan made me sit down, fetched a pair of scissors and what looked like other dangerous-looking implements and proceeded to transform my appearance.

The fact that she had been a qualified hairdresser before she went on to attain legendary status in the country music sphere helped, and I must say that she certainly enhanced my appearance.

Nowadays, Susan and her husband Denis still perform occasionally and, indeed, host an annual country music weekend event at the Carrickdale Hotel, which is quite near their home in Newry.

And Susan is still always willing to play her part in helping good causes.

That's why she was among the first of the artistes to agree to lay down a track on the Truckin' for Marie Curie Cancer Care CD, which has just been released.

Derek Ryan, Michael English, Cliona Hagan, Keith and Lorraine McDonald, Billy McFarland and Boxcar Brian are just some of the other artistes who have shown their support for what is a very worthy cause.

In all, there are 41 tracks on the CD. The project has been overseen by the very capable George Gordon and Joe Mahon, both of whom have been associated with country music in the province for longer than they might care to remember.

George is perhaps better known as Kid Wayne, having gone under that name when he fronted the Islanders a number of years ago. That was during a period when there were hundreds of bands playing throughout Ireland and when dancing was at a peak, with Ulster providing many of the top acts.

The Marie Curie CD is available from Sharpe Music, George Gordon, Mahon's Hotel, Irvinestown and other outlets.

He's only 14, but Owen Mac could be the future of country music

Owen Mac is one of the youngest country and western singers in the province.

The young man from Coleraine has been making quite a name for himself as a recording artist, and right now he is very much in-demand to appear at concerts and shows.

He may be only 14 years of age, but Owen clearly possesses a magnetism that his fans find hard to resist.

His musical qualities certainly suggest he has a very bright future ahead of him.

His on-stage professionalism belies his tender years, and he believes that his parents have had a profound influence on his career.

Owen's albums to date embody some excellent material, and he is now in the process of choosing what he considers to be suitable material for his next record.

In the meantime, he is lapping up the success he's enjoying with his new single, Old Rocking Chair, which was written by popular songwriter BG Pollock.

Owen will be among the entertainers at the North West Fermanagh Vintage Club Family Fun Day at McAleer's, Dromore Road, Irvinestown, which will run from 11am until 4pm tomorrow.

He will be joined on stage by Boxcar Brian, Simon Peters and myself for what promises to be a feast of fun.

The event will include vintage cars, bikes, tractors and stationary engines.

There will also be crafts on display.

It's the recipe for a perfect family day out - providing the weather remains fine, of course.

All proceeds from the event will go to the Fermanagh branch of the NSPCC and to the Northern Ireland Children's Hospice.

It is well worth supporting, if only to hear Owen Mac.

Three cheers for trio set to light up outside broadcast

Three singers from different ends of the country music spectrum will be appearing at our BBC Radio Ulster outside broadcast at Carnlough today.

Jim Devine, John McNicholl and Ciaran Rosney will be on air to give everyone a taste of their new releases and in the process provide some quality entertainment at the popular Antrim coast resort.

Tyrone man Jim Devine has made quite a name for himself over the course of recent years, his dynamic style and lively stage presence winning him many admirers.

Ciaran Rosney, on the other hand, is a newcomer to the country dancing arena, but is already making encouraging strides with his own talented outfit.

Ciaran only took to the road with his new outfit in March, and since then has been making quite an impact in venues up and down the country. His latest release, Found, is a distinctive number that looks destined to bring Ciaran to a higher level of popularity.

Not only is he a polished singer, but he is also an accomplished guitarist. He has surrounded himself with very proficient musicians in his band, and their versatility is proving a big element in their drive for success.

When he appeared on my show recently and performed live to his own backing on radio, he created a huge impression, triggering a number of very complimentary emails and texts.

While Ciaran is still cutting his teeth in the country music arena, John McNicholl - who had a huge hit with You Are No Angel and followed this up with several other recordings - just seems to get better with the passage of time.

He has been on the road for some 15 years, and in that time has built up quite a following both in this country and in England, where he appears on a regular basis.

Jim, John and Ciaran should certainly help things to go with a swing at Carnlough, where the popular Norman Borland is also among the artistes who will be performing.

And also on stage will be local celebrity and undertaker Michael McSparran - the last man to let you down!

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