Tuesday 23 May 2017

Family man who shunned excesses of '60s

Sam Smyth

Former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds, left, with Sean Dunphy in 2007. Arthur Carron/Collins

WHEN he came second in the 'Eurovision Song Contest in Vienna', Sean Dunphy's quiet demeanour was at odds with the revolutionary fervour sweeping the world in 1967.

All Europe held its breath as 'Puppet On A String', sung by a barefoot Sandie Shaw, beat the former carpenter from Baldoyle, Co Dublin.

On his return to Dublin as a national hero, Taoiseach Jack Lynch was among the first to offer his congratulations after 'If I Could Choose' was runner-up.

"At least the winning song was written by an Irishman, Phil Coulter," said Sean later, consoling one of the composers of his song, Wesley Burrows, who went on to write the hit RTE drama series, 'The Riordans'.

But Sean Dunphy, a happily married man living in suburbia with his wife, Lily, went on to have a string of chart-topping hits in Ireland until the early 1970s with his band the Hoedowners.

He had another huge hit with 'When The Fields Are White With Daisies', and in 1969 'The Lonely Woods of Upton' held the number one slot for nine weeks.

He was a crooner with a strong resonant voice which flattered songs like 'Two Loves' a ballad that contained the lines "One had hair of silver and grey, the other had hair of gold".

At a time when raucous rock banks dominated popular music, the melodic and patriotic ballads of Sean Dunphy and the Hoedowners filled ballrooms all over the country.

He wore a pressed suit, a dress shirt with a tie on stage, his hair was neat and his shoes were polished -- a sartorial ensemble that was at odds with the fashion of the time.

He was singing in a local quartet at nights and working as a carpenter by day when legendary band leader Earl Gill signed him as his new lead singer.

Oliver Barry, one of the most shrewd and successful in the Irish entertainment business, managed the band and promoted their hit records.

It was a country and western band that reinforced its image by installing a pair of giant bullhorns on the front of their custom-built tour bus.

Big wages followed the band's success but Sean was so laid back and relaxed, one wag said he had to open one eye to wink.

Always a family man, he never got involved in the hi-jinks and excesses that some other showbands indulged in through those heady years of the late 1960s.

As ballrooms faltered and cabaret lounges prospered, Sean Dunphy moved on to entertaining seated audiences and a more relaxed lifestyle.

Irish Independent

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