Michael Valentine Doonican was born in 1927 in Watford (Southern Ireland) and was the youngest of eight children. Although christened Michael the family called him Val. Val grew up in meager circumstances with a drunken father who would often squander the weekly wage at the local pub. Despite his waywardness Val and his father were very close and when he died young Val aged 15 was devastated. Although he showed potential at school (De La Salle College), Valentine left to get semi-skilled work to help support his family. In his spare time he was interested in music and learned to play the guitar as well as write some songs. With friends Val performed at the local fetes and soon was touring Ireland with Bruce Clarke (friend and fellow musician). For a short time he joined a band and played drums but left soon after to partner Bruce once again and became seaside entertainers. Niall Boden (a local TV personality) caught the duos’ act and engaged them along with a bass player to sing jingles on Radio Eierann. In 1951 Val was invited to join the Four Ramblers and moved to the UK to work on BBC Radio. Touring and performing as profession musician Val picked up many skills which would be put to good use later in his career. When on tour of the UK with Anthony Newley, the headliner soon recognised Val’s talent and encouraged him to ‘go solo.’ He worked in cabaret and clubs as well as a regular on the radio but despite this was unable to secure a recording contract. Only after Val Parnell arranged for Val Doonican to appear on ‘Sunday Night at the London Palladium in 1963 did he start recording.
Val was a country folk singer who had the velvet tones of Perry Como.
His friendly Irish demeanor meant her could move from ballad to comic song with sophisticated ease and his easy going way endeared him to a growing band of fans. Val has an amazing run of chart success in the UK during 1964 until 1973. Many of his singles took high position in the UK charts as he vied with Tom Jones and Englebert Humperdinck through the Beatles Years.
The Val Doonican Show (BBC) ran from 1964 to 1986 and was probably her last of the variety shows to be seen on UK television. Val’s easy style, including cardigans and rocking chairs appealed to the middle of the road music fans and many of his albums reached the UK charts. After the TV show came to an end and his record sales dropped Val retired from the public eye to concentrate on his golf. Occasionally he will perform live but has vowed never to return to television.
The Irish singer was immortalised in "Inro and the Outro" on the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band album Gorilla (1967). The group performed a parody of their early "trad" jazz roots on their debut album which featured some of the most deliberately inept jazz playing ever recorded. "The Intro and the Outro" was an absolute classic and featured in the lyrics a welcome to "Val Doonican as himself." [Irish voice repeats "Hello there!"]. Val Doonican died "peacefully" on 2nd July 2015 at a nursing home in Buckinghamshire.
Worth a listen
Walk Tall (1964)
The Special Years (1966)
What Would I Be (1966)
If The Whole World Stopped Loving (1967)
Paddy McGinty's Goat
O'Rafferty's Motor Car
Idle on Parade (1959)
Do you mind? (1961)
What kind of fool am I? (1963)
The Intro and the Outro (1967)