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Legend Roly keeps rollin' after years at top of his game

By Hugo Duncan

When Roly Daniels left his native India for Ireland all those years ago, little did he think that it was the first step in a journey that was to take him to iconic status in country music here.

It was after plying his trade at the height of the showband boom that Roly drifted into the country sphere, where his distinctive voice and style were to win him many admirers.

Today, Roly - four decades down the line - is still performing with the same zeal and commitment that have been his hallmarks for as long as I've known him.

Only recently, in tandem with his daughter, he paid a return visit to his native India to relive memories of his life there by visiting familiar landmarks, such as his local shop and school.

It was, in many ways, an emotional occasion, but Roly certainly underlined that he has not forgotten his roots.

Roly's appetite for performing here has not been without its stumbling blocks.

I remember, a few years ago, a routine visit to his doctor, for what was thought to be a normal check-up, resulted in Roly having to undergo major open-heart surgery.

This, of course, impacted on his career for a short time, but in true showbiz style, Roly has always adhered to the mantra that the show must go on.

He may have curtailed his travelling, but he is nonetheless a showman supreme - an artiste with his own particular magnetism.

It was as the mainstay of Roly Daniels, Kelley and the Nevada Showband that he first sprang to prominence in Ireland, when his dynamic stage shows brought an added element to the flourishing scene here.

Gradually, Roly migrated into the country music sphere and numbers such as Hello Darlin' and Mr Jones helped to underpin his popularity.

Yet he had to exercise patience before he became accepted as a lead vocalist. I remember with the Jim Farley Showband he was regarded as singer number three, while with the Nevada he played second fiddle to the vivacious Kelley.

But it was when he eventually formed his own band and took to the road that he was to become accepted as one of the premier entertainers in this country.

"I had to play the waiting game," Roly said at the time - and not without a little remorse.

In more recent years, his ability as a concert performer has opened new doors for him and lent a fresh dimension to his career.

He continues to take everything in his stride, just as he has always done, and his charisma and dynamism remain undimmed. Quite a number of bands and artistes have come and gone over the years, but Roly just keeps rolling along.

Roly will be the VIP guest on my Country Legends series on BBC Radio Ulster tomorrow morning at 10.30am. The programme will be repeated on Monday, July 9 at 7.30pm. It should make for interesting listening, as Roly certainly has an interesting tale to tell.

Today, he is still revered by his peers, as well as by his many thousands of fans. He sets a splendid example for all those budding stars out there who may be finding the going tough as they seek to gain a foothold on the ladder to success.

Few achieved fame from a more unlikely background than Roly, but for him the Last Waltz appears to be some way off.

Stars hit road to Irvinestown for first of our outdoor broadcasts

It's all systems go for the first of our BBC Radio Ulster summer outdoor broadcasts next Friday (July 13).

The venue will be Irvinestown in Co Fermanagh, where Derek Ryan and John McNicholl will be among my guests, with local hotelier Joe Mahon - never short of a word or two thousand - providing a bit of homespun humour and craic.

Derek Ryan has certainly been hitting the high spots lately, having performed in both France and the United States, where he created considerable excitement, as well as continuing to fulfil a hectic series of shows in this country.

One of our most capable performers, Derek is not only known for his singing ability, but he is now regarded as one of this country's leading songwriters.

Just recently, he compiled a song for Philomena Begley to mark her half-century in showbusiness - it seems to be that, if you want a song written then Carlow native Derek is your man.

John McNicholl has been progressing steadily in the country music sphere, having amended his band line-up and enhanced his stage show. He has just released his latest single, The Brightest Road, which was specially written for him by ... Derek Ryan!

John, of course, hails from Foreglen in north Derry and has been part of the fabric of the music scene here for some 15 years.

Modest and unassuming, John - one of a family of 15 - has enjoyed success in the recording sphere and, after he appears at our outside broadcast in Irvinestown, he will be hot-footing it to the Silverbirch Hotel, Omagh, where he will be performing with his band at the usual Friday night dance there.

My birthday party guests did their bit for Children in Need

When I celebrated my 65th birthday a little while ago - and, no, I won't say how long! - I decided to host a party at my home in Strabane in conjunction with BBC NI's Children in Need - a cause which has always been close to my heart.

I had invited some close personal friends, as well as some people from the country music sphere, but I was taken aback when first Nathan Carter arrived to be followed by Michael English.

While Nathan had made the relatively short hop from his base in Enniskillen, Michael made the journey all the way up from his home in Kildare and both he and Nathan were there because of their desire to help Children in Need.

I must say, their presence added considerably to the occasion, with music and song continuing until well past my bedtime.

The occasion provided further confirmation for me that Ireland's country singers are invariably willing to help a good cause.

Naturally, the services of our top acts are very much in demand - particularly nowadays, given that fundraising concerts are very much in vogue.

Of course, certain expenses have to be met, as with any function, but I know that people from the world of entertainment are always ready, willing and able to do their bit when requested.

If my 65th birthday persuaded me that I am getting no younger, it also underlined to me just how fortunate I am to possess close friends who are more than willing to help those less fortunate than themselves.

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