Shortly after Brendan Bowyer died, I watched a video of him and Big 8 performing in 1988 at Clontarf Castle.
I had danced to the music of the Royal Showband in 1961, when Bowyer and other showband heroes were brought to tens of thousands, imitations of rock stars they would never see in Ireland.
Imitators’ performances are often so brilliant that it is difficult to distinguish between Irish players and the stars they emulate.
One such player is Bowyer!
His Elvis the impersonation is so brilliant in a crowded dance hall that, for seven and six pence or 10 shillings in old money – about 63 cents today – fans are treated to a dream of watching what it would have been like if the original Presley were there.
Elvis and many other international rock controllers from the early sixties never made it to Ireland.
Instead, around 700 showbands were brought to every village in Ireland by their own star versions such as Elvis, Little Richard, Fats Domino and Chuck Berry.
Ireland at that time was very backward for international stars!
Eventually, all that changed, partly because showbiz entrepreneurs abroad found that there were many viewers screaming for their stars in Ireland, and partly because outside our showroom world-class artists such as Van Morrison and Rory Gallagher appeared.
A series of other Irish international musicians followed in later years, such as U2, The Corrs, Sinead O’Connor, Cranberry and many others.
I remember once on an RTE radio show listening to the younger studio panel members who rejected the role played by the showo.
One panelist, in particular an Irish audience that counted good hunger until Phil Lottzy Thin Lizzy and Bob Geldof’s Boomtown rat became famous in the 70s.
Sitting beside me in the studio is one of the biggest, Paddy Cole. Paddy, Butch Moore, and other Capitol Showband members – great rivals to Brendan Bowyer and Royal – are astonishing players.
I was very annoyed by the indifferent attitude of the young panelists, that I made a kind of nagging and reminded him that Paddy Cole and others in the showband era entertained Irish audiences and brought dreams to them for years before he was born.
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Part of Paddy’s career was when he joined Bowyer at Big 8 and played in Las Vegas where he remembered Elvis making a personal approach to congratulating Brendan.
Bowyer spent most of his 62-year career in the entertainment world in Las Vegas, returning to Ireland for summer performances.
In a strange way, rightly the man known as Elvis Ireland died in Las Vegas, home to the stars of the entertainment world.
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