Larry Cunningham,
a legend in the Showband era has died.
A native of Granard, Co Longford the 74-year-old singer was one of
the best known performers of the showband era  had his first number one
single 'Lovely Leitrim' in the mid-1960s.

He was also the first Irish-based artist to reach the British pop charts
with his 'Tribute to Jim Reeves' in 1964.

He died Sep 29th  2012 at St Vincent's Hospital in Dublin after an illness
. Our sympathies go out to his widow Beatrice,entire Family , Fans and
Friends,  Larry,  May your soul Rest in Peace."
                                                 John Baird


The Mighty Avons:
L-R. Paddy Smith (Trumpet)Jerry Walshe (Bass) Brian Finlay (Drums)
Peter Smith (Sax/ Clar.) Jimmy Smith (Bandleader (Trombone)
Micky Brady (Lead Guitar), Ronnie Griffiths (Piano)
and Larry Cunningham  (Vocals / Baritone (Sax)

 LARRY Cunningham and the Mighty Avons walked tall across the showbiz scene in Ireland in the 1960s.
They were in the top league of attractions, packing dance hall and marquees all over the country. It was the golden era of the showbands and they loved every minute of it.
From Granard in County Longford, Larry Cunningham had a total of
24 chart entries in the Irish Top 20 between 1965 and 1976.
The Eddie Masterson composition, Tribute to Jim Reeves, gave him his first Top 10 success,
a song that also charted in Britain, catapulting Larry and the Avons into household names.

When Jim Reeves caused such a stir by walking out of the Orchid Ballroom in Lifford during a
performance there in the early 1960,s  little did he know that he was to create a legend on the Irish dancing scene The relief Band was Larry Cunningham and the Mighty Avons and from that instance the Granard man was to go to the top. Three brothers ,Paddy Peter and Jimmy Smith from Ballyhaise Co. Cavan, Paddy and Peter played with the Des Jenkins Band , and Jimmy, who was with the St Bridgets Ceili Band,were joined by Mickey Brady from the Silver Sextette,, Brian Finlay , Gerry Walshe, Ronnie Griffiths who was playing with the Clipper Aces from Emyvale ,  and lead vocalist Larry  Cunningham from the Grafton Showband from Gowna, to create one of the first “country “ Showbands  specializing in C/W music but also producing a varied dancing programme of, Pop ballads and instrumental numbers, until they called it a day in 1969 , when Larry left to form his own band
“The Country Blueboys”. The “Avons” as they were affectionately known under the guidance of their astute manager Charlie Mc Brien continued to entertain us at home and abroad and were household names here in Donegal especially when they played the Fiesta.


This Photo  Courtesy Jimmy Smith ex bandleader of the Mighty Avons
The lad 2nd, from left is Patsy Sexton , he was in the band before
Ronnie Griffiths (Amercian Pie) joined

On St Patricks night 1968,  6,500 jammed the Galtymore , in Cricklewood  London to hear them , a record never broken. And in December 1964 they became the first Irish Showband to enter the British Charts with the
Eddie Masterson penned “A Tribute to Jim Reeves”. But it was a ballad “Lovely Leitrim , that will always be associated with this band,staying in the Irish Charts at No. I for 4 consecutive weeks..
They made many TV appearances on RTE AND UTV . and played  Carnegie Hall , New York  and London,s Royal Albert Hall on many occasions.
When the original band folded the name was carried on and the band was fronted by
Gene Stuart , Brendan Quinn and Hugh McLean at different intervals,

 Sadly from the original band , Paddy Smith, Brian Finlay and Jerry Walshe and Larry Cunningham have passed away The remainder are still involved in the music business and Larry Cunningham continues to record and had success with a recent CD on which he recorded “From Nowhere at All” originally recorded by the late Shay Hutchinson still does  the odd concert here in Donegal. Long may he continue.
By John Baird



The Mighty Avons as they lined out when they were formed in 1960
Mighty Avons 1966 L to R.
Ronnie Griffiths, (American Pie and Driftwood)
Paddy Smith, Larry Cunningham
Mickey Brady, Jimmy Smith, Brian Finlay,
Peter Smith,  Gerry Walshe

The Mighty Avons
 The Mighty Avons formed at Easter 1960 and were a big hit during that decade.
Larry Cunningham, Jimmy Smith, Peter Smith, Brian Finlay, Gerry Walsh,
Ronnie Griffith, Mickey Brady and the late Paddy Smith were all members
of the original Mighty Avons with Gene Stuart coming on the scene in 1969.

The bands first hit was "The Tribute to Jim Reeves" which went to number 28 in the English charts which was a first for Ireland and a great accomplishment for the band.
A year later the band had a massive hit in England and Ireland with the popular and catchy song 'Lovely Leitrim'
which was written by an American policeman and Irish descendant.
The Mighty Avons are also to be associated with songs such as 'Wicklow Hills' and 'Pretty little girl from Omagh
Larry later formed The Country Blue Boys

Brian Harkin  from Derry also vocalist with The Plainsmen.
(RIP) Jan 28, 1991)
                                                                        Link to Hugh McLean
Picture's
From John Bairds collection
bairdart@iol.ie

Read This Article about the Band
Story of the Mighty Avons
 By John Baird

         Brendan Quinn and The Mighty Avons
Breakaways Cades County The Blue Birds
The Mighty Avons and
Gene Stewart Gene replaced 
Larry Cunningham in 1969


Gene Stewart left the
Mighty Avons to form The Homesteaders.

LARRY Cunningham and the original Mighty Avons, consisting of band leader Jimmy Smith,
Peter Smith, Ronnie Griffith, Gerry Walsh, Brian Finlay and guitar man Mickey Brady
The Mighty Avons, were the most popular country and western group on the ballroon scene during the 1960s and enjoyed consistent chart success with a mixture of Jim Reeves covers and original songs. Cunningham's resording of 'Lovely Leitrim' sold over a quarter of a million copies in Ireland and the UK.
Larry Cunningham  became on of the first Irish singers to record in Nashville.


Mighty Avons Reunion 1976
Sent by Hugh McLean
badtempered@utvinternet.com


This Photo  Courtesy Jimmy Smith


The Mighty Avons Ist Comeback Tour

From Ann Fahy  Collection

Larry Cunningham, one of the great survivors of the showband era.
During the past couple of years, the friendly Longford man underwent
a heart by-pass operation, as well as surgery to deal with a throat problem.
He died Sep 29th 2012

Gerry Walshe and Brian Finlay have passed away  (RIP)


Copies Can be obtained by writing to Peter Smith at:
Carrickmore Ballyhaise Co. Cavan Ireland
Telephone: 049 433 8119

 Sadly, recent years has seen the passing of three of the original members of the band.
Paddy Smith died in 1999, the first break in the chain.

Gerry Walsh, also a native of Ballyhaise, died suddenly October 2001.

Brian Finlay, drummer with the band, died suddenly
while playing a round of golf at Cavan Golf club.


My name is Geraldine McDonnell and I am Paddy Smiths Daughter.
I love the site you have Produced for the Mighty Avons , it’s great.
Myself, my sister and three friends have a harmony singing group called
Song Sisters a continuation of the Musical tradition.
We don’t have our own website yet but it’s in progress but I do have pictures and we
Are on YouTube under song sisters from cavan .
My sister Paula and I along with Deirdre who is not in song sisters
Sang some of the tracks on Peters Smiths Album.
Band Members
Geraldine McDonnell,  Paula Gormley,    Carmel O’Donohoe,
Geraldine McGrath,    Eileen Tackney
 

 
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