Tom Gilmore introduces his new book ‘Big Tom – The King of Irish Country’

By Tina Zafeiri
In Book News
Sep 17th, 2018
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We’re delighted to welcome Tom Gilmore to the Eason blog to tell us more about his new book ‘Big Tom – The King of Irish Country’.

As teenagers in 1968, mostly country girls and boys, we first heard Big Tom McBride sing Gentle Mother on one of the sponsored programmes on Radio Eireann. Others first saw Big Tom and The Mainliners sing the song on ‘The Showband Show’ on RTE TV over a year earlier. It is probably that far back when the lengthy gestation period for this book, Big Tom – The King of Irish Country, began!

Big Tom played for us at dances in Ireland and in the UK, while some, lucky enough to have a car, might also have had the luxury of installing an 8-track (large tape machine) to play Big Tom’s tapes while travelling.

In the 70s, he had three No. 1 records in a row and sold 100,000 copies of the album Ashes of Love. The 8-track tape machines were replaced by cassette players and Big Tom replaced The Mainliners as his band with The Travellers.

In the 80s he had one of his biggest hits of all, Four Country Roads, he recorded in Nashville and he played to his biggest crowd ever – over 82,000 at the London-Irish Festival.

Spells of ill health in the 90s, and during the 00s, forced him to retire – but not for long.

He was back, with the original Mainliners and one of his biggest hits, Going Out The Same Way You Came In.

During the new millennium’s country music renaissance, Big Tom became a father figure of the genre – described by many as ‘Ireland’s Johnny Cash’.

It has been an amazing career for one entertainer, who for over half a century, remained a constant in an ever changing Ireland.

Big Tom’s fans remained constant also, with crowds of over 11,000 mourners attending his funeral and burial in April 2018. It was similar to a State funeral and President Michael D. Higgins came to pay his respects too.

An afternoon spent interviewing Big Tom some years ago, was an invaluable fulcrum around which this book revolved and evolved.

My research for the book also entailed months of trawling through countless press clippings from his half century as an entertainer. Many were kindly provided by his family, plus interviews with them, and with other relations, friends, neighbours, fans and musicians.

Excerpts from TV and radio programmes, rare photographs, newspaper and magazine stories, have also, hopefully, helped reflect the great music legacy that Big Tom – The King of Irish Country Music, has left behind.

MORE ABOUT “Big Tom – The King of Irish Country”

A tribute to Big Tom McBride, ‘the Johnny Cash of Irish country music’. From labourer to music star, the journey of the singer who brought so much joy to fans at home and to emigrants abroad over five decades. Featuring never-before-published interviews with Big Tom and the country stars who loved him, as well as exclusive family photographs, this book is full of the characteristic wit and warmth of Ireland’s greatest country music legend, Big Tom. Big Tom McBride was the original Irish country music star, who paved the way for today’s new wave of artists. His unique voice and sincere delivery earned him the title The King of Irish Country. He was held in huge affection by many thousands of devoted fans, and was greatly loved and respected by his fellow musicians. 

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