Michael Valentine Doonican (3 February 1927 – 1 July 2015)
was an Irish singer of traditional pop, easy listening, and novelty
songs, who was noted for his warm and relaxed style. A crooner, he
found popular success, especially in the United Kingdom where he had
five successive Top 10 albums in the 1960s as well as several hits on
the UK Singles Chart, including "If the Whole World Stopped Lovin'",
"Walk Tall" and "Elusive Butterfly". The
Val Doonican Show, which
featured his singing and a variety of guests, had a long and
successful run on
BBC Television from 1965 to 1986 and Doonican won
the Variety Club of Great Britain's BBC-TV Personality of the Year
award three times.
1 Early life and career
2 Career in Britain
3 Personal life
4 Death and tributes
5 In popular culture
6.1 Chart singles
8 Other sources
9 External links
Early life and career
Doonican was born on 3 February 1927 in Waterford, Ireland, the
youngest of the eight children of Agnes (née Kavanagh) and John
Doonican. He was from a musical family and played in his school band
from the age of six. In 1941 when he was a teenager his father
died, so he had to leave De La Salle College Waterford, to get factory
jobs fabricating steel and making orange and grapefruit boxes. He
began to perform in his hometown, often with his friend Bruce Clarke,
and they had their first professional engagement as a duo in 1947.
Doonican appeared in a summer season at
Courtown Harbour, County
Wexford. He soon featured on Irish radio, sometimes with Clarke, and
appeared in Waterford's first-ever television broadcast. Then he
played the drums in a band on a tour through Ireland.
Career in Britain
In 1951 Doonican moved to Britain to join the Four Ramblers, who
toured and performed on
BBC Radio shows broadcast from factories, and
on the Riders of the Range serials. He also began performing at
United States Air Force
United States Air Force bases. Doonican met dancer Lynnette Rae
when both she and the Ramblers supported
Anthony Newley on tour; they
married in 1962. Recognising his talent and potential as a solo
act, Newley persuaded him to leave the singing group and go solo. He
was auditioned for radio as a solo act, and appeared on the radio show
Variety Bandbox. Soon after his solo career started, he had his own
radio show as well as performing in concerts and cabaret.[citation
After seeing him in cabaret in London in 1963, impresario Val Parnell
booked him to appear on Sunday Night at the Palladium. As a result
of his performance, Bill Cotton, then Assistant Head of Light
Entertainment at BBC Television, offered Doonican his own regular
show. The TV shows were produced by
Yvonne Littlewood and lasted for
over 20 years. At their peak the shows attracted audiences of some 19
million viewers. The shows featured his relaxed crooner style,
sitting in a rocking chair wearing cardigans or jumpers, sometimes
performing comedic Irish songs including "Paddy McGinty's Goat",
"Delaney's Donkey" and "O'Rafferty's Motor Car" as well as easy
listening and country material on which he accompanied himself on
acoustic guitar. Doonican's songs about O'Rafferty were popular enough
for the BBC to publish a book,
Val Doonican Tells The Adventures of
O'Rafferty, which retold five of the tales, in 1969. As his were
variety shows, his TV programmes gave a number of other performers,
such as Dave Allen, early exposure. Regular guests included Bernard
Cribbins, Bob Todd, the
Norman Maen Dancers, the
Mike Sammes Singers,
and the Kenny Woodman Orchestra. At its height The
Val Doonican Show,
which featured both American and British acts, had 20 million
viewers. In the United States, The
Val Doonican Show aired on ABC
on Saturday evenings at 8:30 p.m. (7:30 p.m. Central) from 5
June to 14 August 1971.
The Palladium performance also kick-started his recording career.
Between 1964 and 1973 Doonican was rarely out of the UK Singles Chart,
his greatest successes including the singles "Walk Tall", "The Special
Years", "Elusive Butterfly", "What Would I Be", (on Decca) "If The
Whole World Stopped Loving" (Pye), and "Morning" (Philips); and the
albums 13 Lucky Shades of
Val Doonican (Decca), and Val Doonican
Rocks, But Gently (Pye) which reached Number 1 in the UK Albums Chart
in 1968 and knocked the Beatles' Sgt Pepper off the top of the
chart. The 1966 single release "Elusive Butterfly" reached a UK
chart peak of #5 and #3 in Ireland. In all, he recorded over 50
albums. After a spell with Philips records in the seventies he also
recorded for RCA. He also sang the theme song to the film Ring of
Behind the scenes, Doonican was described as "a perfectionist who knew
his limitations but always aimed to be 'the best Val Doonican
possible.'" He was sometimes compared to American singer Perry
Como, though he claimed his main influence was Bing Crosby. He
appeared in three Royal Variety Performances. On 31 December 1976,
Doonican performed his hit song "What Would I Be" on BBC One's A
Jubilee of Music, celebrating British pop music for Queen Elizabeth
II's impending Silver Jubilee.
Doonican won the
BBC Television Personality of the Year award in
1966. He was the subject of This Is Your Life in 1970. Eamonn
Andrews met him at the 18th green of the South Herts Golf Club as
Doonican played a round of golf. He wrote two volumes of
Special Years (1980) and Walking Tall (1985)
Doonican and Lynette Rae married in 1962. They had two daughters,
Sarah and Fiona, and two grandchildren, Bethany and Scott. In later
years they lived at
Knotty Green in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire.
Doonican officially retired in 1990 but was still performing in
2009. He had a second home in Spain and was a keen golfer and a
talented watercolour painter. Another hobby he enjoyed was
cooking. In June 2011, he was recognised by the Mayor of Waterford
bestowing on him "The Freedom of the City".
Death and tributes
Doonican died at a nursing home in
Buckinghamshire on 1 July 2015,
aged 88. His daughter Sarah told The Guardian: "Until 87, he was as
fit as a flea. It was just old age, I'm afraid — the batteries
ran out." Leading tributes to Doonican, fellow entertainer Bruce
Forsyth said, "It is very sad. He was always a lovely man to work
with ... He was a very warm person, and number one in his field.
He brought a lovely warmth with his personality and was a very popular
Elaine Paige commented on Twitter, "Sad to hear of Val
Doonican's passing ... RIP Val", while BBC disc-jockey Tony
Blackburn said "So sad to hear that
Val Doonican has passed away. He
was a lovely man and a true professional who I worked with on several
TV shows R.I.P."
In popular culture
He appears as himself in the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band's "The Intro and
the Outro", saying "hello there" over the general hubbub.
Doonican's 1965 song, "I'm Gonna Get There Somehow", has been used in
adverts for Irish toy store Smyths.
Since 2006 his name has also been used by the
band the Bar-Steward Sons of Val Doonican.
"I'm Gonna Get There Somehow"
"What Would I Be"
"If The Whole World Stopped Loving"
"Memories Are Made of This"
"You're The Only One"
"If I Knew Then What I Know Now"
"Ring of Bright Water"
"Too Many Times"
"Heaven Is My Woman's Love"
Lucky 13 Shades of
Val Doonican (Decca, 1964, UK album chart #2)
Gentle Shades of
Val Doonican (Decca, 1966, UK album chart #5)
Val Doonican Rocks, But Gently
Val Doonican Rocks, But Gently (Pye, 1967, UK album chart #1)
Val (Pye, 1968, UK album chart #6)
The World of
Val Doonican (Decca, 1969, UK album chart #2)
Sounds Gentle (Pye, 1969, UK album chart #22)
Especially For You (Contour, 1970)
If The Whole World Stopped Loving (Contour, 1970)
Gentle On My Mind (Contour, 1970)
The Blue And The Grey – Songs From The American Civil War (with the
George Mitchell Singers, World Record Club, 1970)
The Magic of
Val Doonican (Philips, 1970, UK album chart #34)
Val Doonican (Philips, 1971, UK album chart #40)
This Is Val Doonican, Vol.2 (Philips, 1971)
Just A Sittin' And A Rockin' (Philips 1971)
Morning In The Country (Philips, 1972)
Morning Has Broken (Philips, 1972)
Rocking Chair Favourites (Philips, 1973)
I Love Country Music (Philips, 1975, UK album chart #37)
Life Can Be Beautiful (Philips, 1976)
Some of My Best Friends Are Songs (Philips, 1977, UK album chart #29)
Mr. Music Man (Pickwick, 1981)
Quiet Moments (RCA, 1981)
Val Sings Bing (RCA, 1982)
Songs From My Sketchbook (Parkfield, 1990, UK album chart #33)
The Very Best of
Val Doonican (UMTV, 2008, UK album chart #33)
^ a b c Colin Larkin (2011), "Doonican, Val", The Encyclopedia of
Popular Music, ISBN 9780857125958
^ a b c d e f g h i j Dennis Barker, "Val Doonican: obituary", The
Guardian, 2 July 2015. Retrieved 3 July 2015
^ a b c "
Val Doonican Biography". Valdoonican.com. Archived from the
original on 7 February 2013. Retrieved 5 February 2013.
^ a b c Heather Saul, "Val Doonican: Irish singer and entertainer dies
aged 88", The Independent, 2 July 2015.
^ a b c d Furness, Hannah. "
Val Doonican dies age 88". The Daily
Telegraph. Retrieved 2 July 2015.
^ General Publication (PDF). BBC Yearbook. 1969. p. 215.
Retrieved 24 July 2014. (PDF)
BBC Radio 2 -
Val Doonican - Rocking... But Gently, Episode 1".
Bbc.co.uk. 3 January 2011. Retrieved 4 July 2015.
^ "Programming" (PDF). Broadcasting. 29 March 1971: 76. Retrieved 24
July 2014. [permanent dead link] (PDF)
^ Val Doonican, "Elusive Butterfly" UK chart position. Retrieved 9 May
^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.).
London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 166.
^ Val Doonican: The
^ "This Is Your Life-Val Doonican". bigredbook.com. 6 May 1970.
Retrieved 24 July 2014.
^ Abell, Jack (2 July 2015). "
Val Doonican dies".
get bucks. Archived from the original on 2 July 2015. Retrieved 2 July
^ Webber, Richard (21 December 2013). "Val Doonican, Irish singer and
TV favourite retired, had two daughters". Daily Express. London, UK.
Retrieved 4 July 2015.
Val Doonican Biography". Valdoonican.com. Archived from the
original on 13 July 2015. Retrieved 4 July 2015.
^ "'The likes of
Val Doonican is unlikely to be seen again'".
Irishpost.co.uk. Archived from the original on 4 July 2015. Retrieved
4 July 2015.
^ "Freedom of Waterford". Valdoonican.com. 17 June 2011. Archived from
the original on 23 May 2015. Retrieved 4 July 2015.
^ "Brucie leads tributes to Doonican". The Belfast Telegraph.
Retrieved 2 July 2015.
^ Major to Minor: The Rise and Fall of the Songwriter, 2000,
p. 293, ISBN 9781860743160
^ "HOME – The Bar-Steward Sons of Val Doonican".
Thebarstewardsons.com. Retrieved 2 July 2015.
^ "The Bar-Stewards Sons Of
Val Doonican at The Acoustic Festival of
Britain". Acousticfestival.co.uk. 1 June 2014. Retrieved 2 July
^ Martin Roach (ed.), The Virgin Book of British Hit Albums, Virgin
Books, 2009, ISBN 9780753517000, p.94
^ Val Doonican: Albums, Discogs.com. Retrieved 2 July 2015
Legends – Val Doonican, (BBC Four), December 2007
Brooks, T. and Marsh, E. The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network
and Cable TV Shows (1998)
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Val Doonican.
Val Doonican on IMDb
Val Doonican's appearance on This Is Your Life
Val Doonican biography at AllMusic
ISNI: 0000 0001 1876 8032