Kay Doyle talks to one of Ireland’s best loved performers as he looks back on over fifty years of showbusiness.
“I’m not going to get another 50 years out of it that’s for sure,” laughs Johnny McEvoy as we discuss his latest tour which celebrates five decades of the legendary singer/songwriter.
In fact, Johnny McEvoy points out that it was in 1963 when he first sang to an audience, which means he has been in the public eye for some 56 years now. Back when Muirsheen Durkin went to number one, Johnny was told to enjoy it as he’d only get six months in the music business. “They’ve been a long six months,” he laughs.
We last met three years ago, reminiscing over coffee in a Greystones cafe. At the time, he was about to embark on some festival gigs in America and he also explained this idea he had for a book which would put his songs, his stories and his life into words.
Ever the straight-talker, that book was published last year and My Songs, My Stories, My Life In Music is a fine collection of important aspects of Johnny’s five decades in music.
“It was something I wanted to do for a while,” he says. “It started in a book shop when I found a pocket song book, The Black Songbook by Leonard Cohen, with all his songs and chords, and I thought maybe I’d try it. As I put it together I had Philp O’Duffy, who was my guitar player (since passed), to write out the music and then I thought I’d explain what the songs were about and so it grew from a pocket book to a coffee table book.”
Writing the book became a form of therapy for Johnny, who would spend time at it while his wife late wife Odette was ill. Sadly Odette died of ovarian cancer five years ago.
“You just never forget,” he says. “Every single day. It gets a bit easier as time goes on but in the beginning there was a lot of anger as to why it happened. Things like Christmas, birthdays and anniversaries can bring it all back. But life takes over and if you’re going to go down the road of sitting in, looking at television, not eating properly, not looking after yourself, it will get you in the end and it’s not the best way to go.”
“When Odette was dying I stopped working and stopped touring but then after a while I got back into it. I do a spring and autumn tour and a few festivals during the year now and it’s great at this stage of my life that I don’t have to be going out and slogging it on the road like I used to.”
Johnny recalls those tougher earlier days in the beginning ‘slogging’ it to practically empty pubs and ballrooms. However, his determination and sheer love for the music guided him towards a long and successful career.