How we longed for The Huckleberry’s parting explosion to close the show, but rules are rules.
It was never going to be a chance to dance in the aisles, though one suspects a God who gave us Brandon Boyer would have been more than happy to ease the restrictions of the day.
If only to prove that Satan doesn’t always have the best lyrics.
While he lived in Las Vegas for most of his life, showbiz legend Boyer always said he wanted to be buried in his hometown of Waterford when his time came. He died two years ago aged 81, but the pandemic meant his family could not bring his ashes back to Ireland.
On Wednesday, after a memorial mass at the city center Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity, Boyer was finally laid to rest in his parents’ grave in the picturesque seaside village of Dunmore East.
Celebrating the occasion, Chief Brian D’Arcy described it as a day of joy and sadness. He said there was much to celebrate about Brandon’s musical and family life, but his loss was felt by the loved ones he left behind and a adoring fan base.
The old cathedral was packed with people paying their respects to an entertainer whose high-octane dancehall performances in the 1960s inspired a younger generation anxious to embrace a new, modern Ireland. What did And yet the congregation cannot really be classified as a gathering of the greats of the cheap-roaring showband era epitomized by the man who later became known in America as the “Meczyki Elvis.” happened
Most of them are now extinct. “Ah, I think this may be my last,” sighed Friar D’Arcy before the memorial service. This is probably not the first time he has said these words.
But there were still some old stagers for the gig. As are two of the three surviving members of the original Royal Show Band – Charlie Matthews and Eddie Sullivan. “It was a wonderful tribute to Brandon,” said Matthews, who was the drummer. He spent 15 years with the band before taking a job in the insurance industry.
The Dixie’s Irresistible Joe came from Ballincollig in McCork. He remembered going on a great holiday in Torremolinos with Boyer in 1966. “I’m the last of the Dixies now,” he said. “I’m kind of constantly looking over my shoulder.”
Singer Tony Kenny arrives to pay tribute to his old friend. Kenny, who looked great, is recovering from a stroke, and his wife Joan spoke on his behalf. “They had a great mutual respect for each other. They are both trained singers and Tony always admired Brandon’s unique voice. We spent a lot of time visiting him in Las Vegas and he and the family enjoyed their time together. Later, his daughter Aisling toured the States with Tony.
Among the crowd was a well-dressed man with distinctive coal-black hair and huckleberry boots.
“I’m originally from Dublin but I’ve lived in Waterford for 18 years,” Shane “Elvis” Devine told us. He said he sings himself and is known for impersonating the king.
“I’m a huge fan of Brandon Boyer. This, for me today, is almost like meeting Elvis. It’s a very emotional experience.”
John Cronin from Mallow in Cork arrived with some great collection of albums from his Showband era. “I have thousands of records at home,” he said, pulling some rare LPs out of a carrier bag. He had one from the early 1970s called The Royal Showband Story and another featuring The Big Eight Showband.
“Do you know who that is?” He asked, pointing to a young blonde woman on the album sleeve. “This is Twink.”
An old man peeked through a cover, pointing to various band members. “He’s dead, he’s dead, he’s dead…”
Time moves on. But remember and think of these actors, said Brian D’Arcy from the altar. “Stay with them and thank God that you were lucky enough to live through the best times we’ve ever had.”
The service had a nostalgic feel to it.
Men and women, big dreamers who danced in their prime to glamorous show bands, and their children who grew up hearing stories from ballrooms and now hucklebook with their own youth, and more innocent times. remember
Fr D’Arcy was Bowyer’s lifelong friend and band chaplain. He emphasized how the Royal Showband played a key role in the evolution of a young nation.
“He transformed Ireland from a dark place without electricity to an industrialized country with a vision for the future,” he said. “He was part of the Limas revolution. Shahi revolutionized everything. He gave us freedom, happiness, joy, a different outlook on life, self-confidence that we too can be a part of this success.
His evocative words echoed past days as he addressed those who came to the gathering with their own special memories.
“Do you know what to do? Don’t listen to a word I say,” she said. “Just dream: sweaty ballrooms, swirling skirts, Huckleberry boots, dancing. Brandon stood in awe as he sang old songs. Let your memories flow into them. The mineral bar and the guy who asked you to the last dance, hoping he had a car.
And they did.
On the Waterford beach there was a large picture of Bowyer leaning helplessly against the sea barrier. He was dressed in a tuxedo, with his bow tie undone, looking every inch the successful Vegas entertainer.
Bowyer’s wife, Stella, who now lives in Las Vegas, carried the wooden casket containing her husband’s ashes from the church, along with her two daughters, Clodagh and Aisling, and son, Brandon Jr. “It’s a very special day for us,” Aisling said.
Members of Waterford City and County Council, in full dress, formed a guard of honor as they left. Boyer was granted the Freedom of the City in 2011.
Fr D’Arcy reminded the congregation that Bowyer had Ireland’s first number one record with the song Kiss me Quick. He remembered the first time he saw the Royal Show Band perform.
“Elvis Presley came alive that night. The sudden freedom of music struck me and thank God it never left me.
Back outside, retired Garda Larry O’Hara from Carrick-on-Suir, but now living in Cork, said he was a huge fan.
“We followed him everywhere over the years. Oh Jesus, there will never be another entertainer like Boyer. Never.”
People lined up to pay their respects to the bereaved.
“Push there, Nanny!” urged a young woman, pushed an older woman through the crowd. “Brandon’s mother was my grandfather’s aunt, so we’re second cousins,” she explained.
The opening hymn was Boyer’s recording of the song I’ll Walk with God, and his voice echoed in Communion with Going Home.
But since it was an August afternoon, he sent them home sweating.