When Brendan Bowyer first went to Las Vegas in the early 1970s with the Royal Showband, their promoter Bill Fuller had booked him in as an "uilleann piper from Ireland" because the union rules at the time specified that musicians couldn't take a job that an American musician could do.
Although already famous at home for The Hucklebuck, a Chubby Checker song that introduced the Twist to the burgeoning Irish ballroom scene, Bowyer was billed as 'Ireland's Elvis Presley', a ploy that would lead to success and wealth in the place he eventually called home.
"The extraordinary thing about it was that although he sang Elvis songs throughout his career, he never sounded like Elvis," said RTE presenter Ronan Collins, who knew him in the latter stage of his life.
"It influenced his style, but he was never an Elvis impersonator, he always sang in his own way."
Paddy Cole, who was bandleader with Bowyer's Big Eight band when they arrived in Las Vegas, recalled playing on a low stage in the famous Stardust theatre with Bowyer on his knees singing One Night With You to a full house. "A figure in a cloak and hat, like the Sandeman man, approached the stage and tapped him on the shoulder with a cane and said 'well done'.
"He turned and left and Brendan said, 'that was Elvis Presley' and everybody laughed ... but it was him.
"Later we went to his shows and were invited backstage to his dressing room - it was like a gym, with all this equipment, we didn't know what to make of it," said Cole.
The success of the Big Eight attracted a lot of attention from band managers in Ireland anxious to cash in on the success of Bowyer. When they appeared in Las Vegas, Fuller, a 'well-connected' Kerryman, would ply them with drink and tell them: "There's only room in this town for one of us, and it isn't you."
Born in Waterford on October 12, 1938 Brendan was the son of Stanley Bowyer, an organist, musical director of the city's choir and music teacher. Raised with operatic and classical music, he had a trained voice and "knew how to do it properly".
"When Brendan Bowyer heard Elvis, that was the end of it ... or the beginning of it," said Ronan Collins.
To the chagrin of his parents he abandoned any idea of a classical singing career and hit the road with the Royal Showband in 1957, turning out a string of hits and filling ballrooms in England and Ireland with their unique mixture of dance music and maudlin ballads.
His closest collaborator was Sean Dunphy from Tramore, counterfoil to Bowyer's exuberant style.
But it was 'rubber lips' Bowyer who gave the Royal Showband their first hits and they were so well known that the Beatles opened for them in the Pavilion Theatre in Liverpool in April, 1962, six months before their own first hit, Love Me Do.
Bowyer topped the Irish charts for seven weeks in 1963 with Kiss Me Quick, followed by The Hucklebuck in 1965 and I Ran All The Way Home.
Their manager, TJ Byrne, and Fuller decided to 'break' the band in the US and after several residencies at the Royal in Las Vegas, Bowyer and Dunphy broke away to become the Big Eight.
"I went to see the Royal in the City Hall in Armagh in 1958," says Paddy Cole.
"It was a rock and roll show, but Brendan did a ballad at the end and I realised he had a beautiful voice. I was with the Capitol but took the opportunity to join the Big Eight as bandleader. Brendan was a very dedicated musician, he always wanted the show to be perfect and he would have a post-mortem afterwards and say 'we could have done that better'."
Like many others in the entertainment world, he became a heroic drinker.
"He didn't play golf, he was away from home working most of the time and like a lot of showband stars, he didn't really have a social life," says Ronan Collins.
"He started drinking on the road, but he was never an unpleasant person. He had time for everyone and I think he was basically a very shy person - he would have a few drinks after a gig to help deal with the fans."
Eventually the alcoholism, about which he was later very open, caught up on him.
"What really saved him," said Paddy Cole, "was that he was in a clinic in California and as he was leaving when he was clean and dry, the doctor said to him on the way out: 'If you don't drink you'll live and if you do you'll die, and personally, I don't give a fuck'.
"He told me it was the best advice he ever got."
As well as his ultra-energetic standards like The Hucklebuck, Bowyer, who was a very emotional man, put huge energy into standards such as Love Me Dearest, Jerusalem and How Great Thou Art, which went down well with both Irish and American audiences. As a showband singer and solo artist, he spent 62 years on the road on both sides of the Atlantic.
In 1975, his long-time friend and collaborator Tom Dunphy, also from Waterford, was killed going to a gig, which was a hugely traumatic event for the band.
Bowyer eventually settled in Las Vegas, but returned to Ireland in the summer months. When the showband scene fizzled out, he became a fixture on the cabaret scene, most notably with a residency at Clontarf Castle.
He played his last gig almost six years ago at the Helix Theatre in Dublin with the Reeling in the Years show with Ronan Collins and a cast of characters from the heyday of the showband years.
Bowyer fell ill after the first night and retired. He died in Las Vegas last Thursday, surrounded by his wife of 53 years, Stella, and his children Brendan Jnr, Aisling and Clodagh.
"He was a guy you enjoyed meeting," said Paddy Cole. "Drink did get a hold on him - but he managed to give it up, and even when he was drinking he was always pleasant. He was a real gentleman and a perfectionist."
His family said he had hoped to get back to Ireland last year for a final visit, but due to illness was unable to make it.
One person recollected in the wake of his death that when he was first introduced formally to Elvis Presley in Las Vegas as "the greatest singer in Ireland", 'The King' held out his hand and as they shook, asked: "Well, how are things in Glockamorra?"