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ONE of the legendary stalwarts of the Showband and Country music scene, Larry Cunningham, is the featured guest on the new RTE series, A Little Bit Country, on Sunday evening at 7.30pm.

The man from Granard, who fronted the Mighty Avons Show-band, left, was one of the giants of the dancehall scene in the 60s.

Larry's trademark was his low voice and his singing hero was Jim Reeves. He couldn't believe it when he was invited to share a stage with Jim Reeves in Lifford, Co Donegal during Jim's 1963 nationwide tour of Ireland.

However, Larry remembers that the piano was so bad (full of cobwebs) that Jim Reeves cut short that concert and nearly caused a riot.

Larry saved the day when he stepped up and sang a selection of Jim Reeves favourites.

In 1964, Jim Reeves died in a plane crash in Tennessee. Larry's Tribute to Jim Reeves, written by Tubbercurry solicitor Eddie Masterson, was picked up by King Records, played on Radio Caroline, and propelled Larry into the UK Top 20.

He came up with Lovely Leitrim, an old Irish ballad that his mother used to sing. Larry reckons he was the first showband star to sing an Irish ballad in this popular context. Brendan Bowyer even criticized him for it, but soon saw its huge popular appeal and started singing ballads himself with Boolavogue becoming a centre-piece and showstopper for the great man from Waterford.

Lovely Leitrim is still Larry's biggest hit and is a must-do song every night he goes on stage. Other big hits for Larry from the Country and Irish genre were Pretty Little Girl from Omagh and Among the Wicklow Hills.

In spite of major successes, Larry never really left the day job of building and carpentry. He remembers driving home from gigs at three or four in the morning, and going almost straight to work on a roof.

Larry took some part in local politics and canvassed for Albert Reynolds when he went for TD. In the year 2000, Larry had a triple bypass, so he's taking it a little easier these days, in between the odd gig and working cruise, and flooring local houses!

Sunday night's show will feature lots of archive material on Larry from over the years as well as a recent interview with the man form Granard who can spin a story with the best of them!

A Little Bit Country featuring Larry Cunningham airs on RTE 1 on Sunday night, October 29 from 7.30 to 8pm.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Oct 26, 2006
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