Entertainment

Daniel O’Donnell: Singer’s manager Kieran Cavanagh, who is battling cancer, helped him through difficult times

“One of my memories of that night is being thrown a bra at me, which Kieran found very funny. It was the first time that happened to me.”

The Sligo-born showbiz impresario recently received the devastating diagnosis and will begin treatment next week.

Kieran has been Daniel’s Irish promoter since the 1980s, and when the singer’s original manager Sean Reilly retired in 2015, he took on the role.

“Kieran’s diagnosis came out of the blue, so of course it was a big shock for all of us, especially his family,” says Daniel Sunday world.

“However, with his treatment starting soon, we are all confident he will benefit. And I know Kieran would appreciate your prayers at this very difficult time.”

Sean Reilly (former manager), Daniel O’Donnell, Kieran Cavanagh and Eddie Rowley

After Daniel himself suffered a health breakdown and stopped touring in early 1992, it was Kieran and Sean Reilly who persuaded the Donegal-born singer to make his comeback at the Point Depot (3Arena) in Dublin in July that year.

Daniel was concerned as no Irish country singer had ever headlined a concert at the prestigious venue.

Until then, Daniel appeared at dance events and gave concerts in hotels and theaters. The show was a sell-out and his success at The Point in 1992 would propel him into superstardom.

“I put myself in the hands of Kieran and Sean and it was a great success. For me it was the beginning of a new era,” says Daniel.

“One of my memories of that night is being thrown a bra at me, which Kieran found very funny. It was the first time that happened to me. The lady in question had written her name and address on the inside and asked me to send her a card, which I duly obliged.”

A die-hard fan of American country music, Kieran was only in his late 20s when he first brought one of his idols, Johnny Cash, to Ireland in the 1980s.

“Johnny Cash was the first big country act I ever promoted,” Kieran said on our Sunday World podcast My Country Life. “He hadn’t been to Ireland for a decade at the time, so I traveled to America with a mission to bring him back.”

Kieran flew to Nashville where he was told he would have to deal with Johnny’s manager Lou Robin in Los Angeles. “Then I quickly flew to LA, where I arrived the day there was a big earthquake,” he remembers.

Johnny Cash

“The city was closed for two days and I sat in my hotel room during curfew before I finally met Johnny’s manager.”

Kieran closed the deal to bring Johnny to Ireland – and The Man in Black sold out every venue on the tour.

His Irish success with Cash opened doors for Cavanagh in Nashville and in the decades that followed he brought us legends like Kenny Rogers (for the first time), Tammy Wynette, George Jones, Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, Buck Owens, Waylon Jennings and Glen Campbell .

In the podcast, Kieran also recalls a bizarre encounter with rock ‘n’ roll pioneer Chuck Berry, whom he also hired to perform at Dublin’s National Stadium in the 1980s.

American icon Berry, famous for hits like Johnny B. Goode, Maybellene and Roll Over Beethoven, had three clauses in his contract – with a $2,000 fine for each violation.

Kieran says: “One was the size of his bed in the hotel, which was extremely unusual. For his onstage amplification, he needed two Fender Showman amplifiers, which date back to the 1950s and are very, very difficult to obtain. The third was a self-driving S-Class Mercedes, which the landlord does not rent out.

“We had a year to plan this and when we got to the concert we thought we had done all three. Chuck Berry arrived in the country and picked up his car at the airport.

“He came to the National Stadium for his sound check and everything seemed to be going well. Then he goes to his dressing room.”

Five minutes before the show, Kieran was tapped on the shoulder and told that Berry wanted to see him in the dressing room.

Kieran says: “I went in and Chuck Berry said, ‘Mr Promoter, you’ve breached the contract.’ I said, “No, Mr. Berry, I paid you all your money before you left America… You have your S-Class Mercedes, the bed in your hotel is exactly the size you need, and you have yours both Fender Showmans.”

“He said, ‘I have, but they’re the wrong size.’ One is smaller than the other.’ On stage, one speaker enclosure was perhaps an inch or two smaller than the other, but there were 4 x 12 speakers inside each.

“He said, ‘Do you want 60 Minutes of Rock ‘n’ Roll?’ I said, “Whether I do it or not, your 2,000 fans out there who paid good money for you to see it.”

He said, “I’ll be at my hotel!”…and that’s when I realized why he wanted the self-driving car.

“He was in control. I had no control. I couldn’t tell my driver, ‘Don’t move!’ He got straight into his car and I radioed my security guards and said, ‘Close the gate!'”

As Kieran’s negotiations continued, Berry refused to accept Irish punts, which were then worth more than dollars. In the end, his manager Kieran loaned the money in dollars to pay Berry, explaining, “That’s how Chuck gets his kicks.” It’s a bit of fun.”

Kieran said it was the last time he ever worked with Berry.

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