Rockin' Rowley: Big Tom is still the king
In the annals of Irish country music, Big Tom will appear under a chapter called 'The King.' The gentle giant from Castleblayney has been singing with The Mainliners since 1966.
Many up-and-coming young country singers would love to know the secret of Big Tom's enduring appeal. McBride says he's still baffled by it himself as he celebrates his golden jubilee in the music business.
"I was astonished…and a bit scared," Tom admits as he recalls the early fanmania that greeted him. "I didn't start out as the lead singer, but the song that people were looking for was 'Gentle Mother' and that pushed me out front to sing it. I wasn't a happy man (being in the spotlight). It took me a long time to get used to that."
The moniker 'Big Tom' came from his young days as a footballer with his local club, Oram.
"There was a footballer in Cavan called Big Tom O'Reilly and our football manager, John McCormack, thought it was a good name for me," he reveals. "There was a lot of strategy in that. It's an easy name to remember and people cling to it."
Tom grew up on a farm and later he bought his own land with the proceeds of a successful music career. One of his passions today is vintage tractors, and he has several models on his farm. "I have a few of them around the place and I make them all work," he points out.
Still humble about all that he has achieved, Tom gets embarrassed when referred to as a 'Living Legend.' He likes Willie Nelson's answer to that term. "It's the 'living' bit I like," Willie said.
Happy anniversary Tom