Entertainer Val Doonican was sort of an Irish Perry Como. Not terribly hip during the early days of his career in the 1960s when the world's youth were raging over the long-haired Beatles and other rock & rollers, he was still a crooner who appealed to a good segment of the market. If Doonican ever rocked, he rocked in a mellow manner, wearing knitted sweaters and singing softer songs like "If I Were a Carpenter," "Scarlet Ribbons," "He'll Have to Go," and "The Folks Who Live on the Hill," as well as such novelties as "O'Rafferty's Motor Car" and "Delaney's Donkey." Despite his un-rock-like persona, the U.K.'s music-buying and television-watching public opened their hearts to Doonican and made a spot for the Irish singer, who first got a shot at stardom in 1963 when he appeared on an ITV program called Sunday Night at the London Palladium. He was so well-received that he was soon hosting his own program. He put out more than 50 albums and continued to chart into the 1970s. His hits included "Elusive Butterfly," "What Would I Be," "The Special Years," and "Walk Tall." Doonican's hometown of Waterford and the Waterford Corporation honored him in 1997 for his half a century as an entertainer.
The crooner, who was born Michael Valentine Doonican, was the youngest child among eight siblings. When his father succumbed to mouth and throat cancer, Doonican dropped out of school to go to work. He was employed at a lumberyard and his paycheck contributed to his family's support. During his youth, however, Doonican always arranged and wrote songs. He ended up leaving the lumberyard to work as a drummer in a band, even though he had never before picked up a set of sticks. Half a year later, he was working with Bruce Clarke, this time as a guitar player, and they picked up a gig advertising sausage on the radio. By the early '50s, Doonican moved on to a gig in England with the Four Ramblers. Doonican was married to Lynnette Rae and the couple raised two daughters. He authored two autobiographies, Walking Tall and The Special Years. Val Doonican died at a nursing home in Buckinghamshire, England in July 2015; he was 88 years old. ~ Linda Seida