Belfast Telegraph

Hugo Duncan: 'A dander down memory lane with Brendan Quinn'

Outstanding career: Brendan Quinn during his days in the Bluebirds showband
Outstanding career: Brendan Quinn during his days in the Bluebirds showband
Brendan Quinn

By Hugo Duncan

I knew the outstretched hand and the warm smile as long-time trademarks of Brendan Quinn, long since regarded as one of Ireland's elite country singers.

When he appeared on my outside broadcast from Portstewart last week, we both availed of the opportunity to take a trip down memory lane.

Both of us could be said to be past our prime, but we discovered that our respective memory banks were still operating at full throttle.

I well remember Brendan beginning his career with Robin and the Breakaways, a promising Co Derry band that carved out their own niche at the height of the showband boom before he went on to front the Signs and then the Bluebirds.

It was with the Bluebirds, who were formed in the mid-70s, that Brendan, a native of Magherafelt, really sprang to prominence.

The hits began to flow freely, with songs such as Four In The Morning, Bandy The Rodeo Clown and Dreaming My Dreams With You keeping him very much in the limelight.

His distinctive singing voice and easy-going manner were to win him many admirers and as the Bluebirds grew in popularity Brendan found himself rubbing shoulders with the stars of the showband scene.

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At that time dances were being held in Dublin seven nights of the week, and on at least a couple of afternoons as well, which meant there was plenty of scope for bands and singers to make their mark. Brendan and I spent a lot of time in Dublin in those days and, to tell you the truth, we got to know every late night cafe in the city.

I always like to hear Brendan sing - he has always been looked upon as a singer's singer, someone who had that extra touch of class.

Music ran in his family too. His sister, Philomena, and late brother David also fronted their own bands.

During our chat last week, we reminisced on a visit I made with the BBC outside broadcast staff to his home in Fanad, in north Donegal, a couple of years ago.

I interviewed Brendan, we swapped memories and told yarns and then Brendan proved that he really was the host with the most when he treated us to the most divine spaghetti bolognese I think I have ever eaten, along with the most delicious bread.

"You should have been a cook," I told him more than once.

"You would have made a good living at it. I'm not so good at the cooking, but I'm very good at eating the food that is set in front of me."

Brendan always laughed heartily at this and although it is quite a number of years since he drifted away from the country dancing scene he is still very much in demand as a solo concert performer.

He is still kept busy and his latest CD, Tickin' Over, shows him at his best.

Tickin' Over is the title track and Brendan gave an insight into what it is about when he explained: "It's a song about the ageing process, which we all go through.

"There are 13 songs on the album and I recorded them because I like them all.

"That maybe seems a tad indulgent, but it's just the way I feel about my music."

Brendan, of course, has recorded a number of successful albums in the past and he is always trying to source new material.

"I still love recording stuff. It's always a joy to go into the studio," he told me.

Things may have moved on since we romped freely in Dublin all those years ago when the living was easy and dancing was plentiful, but now that age has slowed us down we share a view on life from a rather different perspective.

"It's good to have the health to get up on a stage and perform whether the people like us or not," I said to Brendan.

"I will say amen to that," was his response.

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