Jimmy Buckley is riding high atop the wave of popularity that Country & Irish music is currently enjoying across Ireland and the UK. He tells Kay Doyle about his Limerick background, how Gerry Ryan helped him shoot to fame and how even today, as one of Ireland’s top music stars, he still takes nothing for granted.
In the early 1990s a young Limerick man by the name of Jimmy Buckley entered a ‘Stars in the Their Eyes’-style competition on Gerry Ryan’s RTE variety show ‘Secrets’. At the time, karaoke was all the rage throughout Ireland. Contestants were invited to dress up as someone famous, and then sing one of their favourite songs live on TV.
When selected, Jimmy chose to portray Randy Travis and sang the country classic Forever and Ever, Amen. The judges were blown away, and victorious Jimmy returned to Limerick ‘a star’. It was the beginning of a rollercoaster ride through the Irish music business that today sees Jimmy widely regarded as one of the country’s top entertainers.
“I was brought up as one of eight children in the village of Doon in County Limerick,” he says as we enjoy a mid-summer’s evening chat ahead of a recent show in Co. Wexford.
“Up until the age of seven we lived on a farm, but then my parents bought a pub and shop on the main street in Doon. I was reared there, and developed a love for music at a very young age sparked by the many ballad sessions that would be happening in the pub.
“My late Uncle Chris was a great singer and used to play with Sam O’Doherty. They would come in and get me up to sing. Chris was one of my very early influences. The first songs I sang were Elvis Presley numbers, as I was huge fan of ‘The King’ from day one.
“I was in to Elvis, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis and all the early rock ‘n’ roll stars. Then in my mid-teens I discovered country music. I got listening to Merle Haggard, George Jones, Charley Pride, Hank Williams, Hank Locklin – all those old-type singers. That was where my love for country music began.”