Bowyer 'stunned' at death of showband star Cunningham
SHOWBAND legend Brendan Bowyer has spoken of his great sadness at the death of singer Larry Cunningham. The pair were due to appear on the same bill last week .
However, 74-year-old Cunningham passed away in St Vincent's Hospital in Dublin on Friday night after a battle with cancer. His funeral takes place tomorrow.
He had been due to perform a series of concerts with Bowyer in Portugal.
"I really thought Larry would make it over because he'd been sick last year, but still managed to do the same concerts. I'm really stunned to hear of his passing," Bowyer told the Irish Independent. One of the biggest stars in a golden age of Irish showbusiness, which lasted through the 1960s and 1970s, he had been the first Irish performer to chart in the UK with hit single 'Tribute to Jim Reeves' in 1964.
With his former backing band The Mighty Avons, the entertainer and his group were the first Irish showband to play at New York's famous Carnegie Hall.
Bowyer said Cunningham paved the way for Irish country stars from Big Tom to Daniel O'Donnell.
"Larry wasn't trying to sound American in a big hat. He sang in his own voice and set up what is now the country scene in Ireland. If there are people dancing in pubs and clubs around Ireland to country music, they have Larry to thank," said Bowyer.
President Michael D Higgins led the tributes to the legendary showband singer.
Speaking to Galway Bay FM, he said: "Larry Cunningham made a real contribution to Irish life, music and culture, both at home and abroad.
"People like Larry Cunningham were right up there among their favourites because they sang of abandoned homesteads, and it might have been a romantic version, but the other part of it was that it was music you could move to and highly melodic," said Mr Higgins.
Last March Cunningham revealed to the Irish Independent that he was undergoing treatment in St Vincent's Hospital in Dublin.
Since then the father of four had received messages from fans around the world who had learnt of his illness. He is survived by his wife Beatrice, and children Regina, Sinead, Lorcan and Barry and two grandchildren Molly and Peter.
Cunningham's remains will lay in repose at the Manor opposite Edgeworthstown Church between 2-6pm today before removal at St Columba's Church at 7pm at Mullinalaghta, outside Granard in Co Longford.
The funeral Mass will take place tomorrow at midday.