Irish country music said farewell to one of its best loved stars, Gene Stuart, in the past week
Gene, who in 1969 took over from Larry Cunningham as lead singer of the legendary Irish showband The Mighty Avons, died aged 72 at home in Dungannon after a long illness.
He later sang with The Homesteaders and enjoyed a solo career.
Ireland’s ‘Queen of Country Music’ Philomena Begley sung at his graveside at his funeral at Kileeshil Church in Dungannon last Sunday 14 February.
At his funeral Philomena Begley, surrounded by mourners and accompanied by a traditional band, gave a heart-felt rendition of The Way Old Friends Do.
Mourners at St Patrick’s Church, Aughnagar joined in and he was laid to rest to the sound of guitars and fiddles.
The father of three released twenty successful albums including one recorded in Nashville, and many singles including an Irish top ten hit.
An active parishioner, he would regularly do the readings at his local church and perform concerts to raise money for his local community.
In London, keyboardist Billy Faughnan who was a member of former Avon Larry Cunningham’s Country Blue Boys, supported Gene when he played here in later years.
‘My early memories are of him with the Mighty Avons in the 1970s and I remember him coming to play at the Forum, where we were the resident band, with his band Sean and the Sounds. We always used to look forward to not just his performances but the jamming sessions afterwards where both bands would play together.
“He was always the life and soul of the party and what a great singer and even though he was quite famous by then he was always such a down to earth and lovely man. My condolences would go out to Breege and his family,” said Mr. Faughnan.
Seamus Moore booked Gene to perform at several of the venues he ran or owned over the years.
“I would have known Gene since he started with the Mighty Avons in the early 70s and brought him over to play in the Castle and at Conways 3. He was remarkable, he was one of the great ones, he was unique,” he said.
“There was no-one like him, he was a great country singer,” he said.
Irish World publisher Paddy Cowan, said he knew him well: “He was truly one of the greats and a lovely, lovely man. Now we’ve lost him and Larry Cunningham in the space of just a couple of years, it’s so sad. My condolences to Breege and the family.”