Michael Valentine "Val" Doonican (3 February 1927 – 1 July 2015) was an Irish singer of traditional pop, easy listening, and novelty songs, who was noted for his warm and relaxed style. From 1965 to 1986 he was a regular fixture on the BBC Television's schedule with The Val Doonican Show, which featured his own singing performances and a variety of guest artists. A notably relaxed crooner, Doonican had 5 successive Top 10 albums in the UK Albums Chart in the swinging sixties.
Doonican was the youngest of 8 children born to Agnes (née Kavanagh) and John Doonican. His father died in 1941 when Val was a teenager, so he had to leave De La Salle College, Waterford, to get factory jobs fabricating steel and making orange boxes.
He was from a musical family and started performing in his hometown and in a summer season at Courtown Harbour. He was then featured on Irish radio and appeared in Waterford's first-ever television broadcast. Val was an accomplished player of the banjo, guitar and mandolin. Then he played the drums in a band on a tour through Ireland. In 1951 he moved to England to join The Four Ramblers, who toured and performed on BBC Radio shows broadcast from factories.
He eventually went solo and had a radio show as well as performing concerts and cabaret. In 1963 he was booked to appear on Sunday Night at the London Palladium. As a result of this performance, Bill Cotton, then Assistant Head of Light Entertainment, offered him his own show on BBC television, lasting for over 20 years. It featured his relaxed crooner style performance sitting in a rocking chair, as well as a number of comic Irish songs, notably "Paddy McGinty's Goat", "Delaney's Donkey", and "O'Rafferty's Motor Car", on which he accompanied himself on acoustic guitar.
He often wore cardigans and jumpers, which became his trademark along with the rocking chairs from which he often performed, and he was sometimes compared to American singer Perry Como, though he has claimed his main influence was Bing Crosby. As it was a variety show, it gave a number of other performers early exposure, such as Dave Allen. On 31 December 1976, Doonican performed his hit song "What Would I Be" on BBC One's A Jubilee Of Music, celebrating British pop music for Queen Elizabeth II's impending Silver jubilee.
The Palladium performance also kick-started his recording career. Between 1964 and 1973 Doonican was rarely out of the UK Singles Chart, his greatest successes including the singles "Walk Tall", "The Special Years", "Elusive Butterfly", "What Would I Be", (on Decca) "If The Whole World Stopped Loving" (Pye) , and "Morning" (Philips); and the albums 13 Lucky Shades of Val Doonican (Decca), and Val Doonican Rocks, But Gently (Pye) which reached Number 1 in the UK Albums Chart in 1967. After a spell with Philips records in the seventies he also recorded for RCA. He also sang the theme song to the film Ring of Bright Water.
He was the subject of This Is Your Life in 1970 when he was surprised by Eamonn Andrews during a game of golf at the South Herts Golf Club.
In the United States, The Val Doonican Show aired on ABC Saturday nights at 8:30 (7:30 Centrsl) from June 5 to August 14, 1971. Regulars included Bernard Cribbins, Bob Todd, the Norman Maen Dancers, the Mike Sammes Singers, and Kenny Woodman's orchestra. Both American and British acts appeared on the show.
Doonican lived in Seer Green, Buckinghamshire. He stopped performing in 2009 after more than six decades in the business. He had a second home in Spain and was a keen golfer and a talented watercolour painter. Another hobby he enjoyed was cooking. In June 2011, Doonican was recognised by the Mayor of Waterford, bestowing on him "The Freedom of the City.”
During a recent interview Val said “Now I’m retired, I enjoy spending time with Lynn. I used to enjoy painting and golf but don’t do either now – mind you, I’m getting on! Until a few years ago, we’d visit the beautiful house we own in the mountains of Spain. We don’t go now and enjoy our days at home in Buckinghamshire."
Val Doonican died at a nursing home in Buckinghamshire on the evening of 1 July 2015, aged 88. He had not been ill. His daughter Sarah said "Until 87, he was as fit as a flea. It was just old age, I'm afraid — the batteries ran out. (Info mainly edited from Wikipedia)