Tribute To The Late Derek McCormack
The sad news, that Derek McCormack died on a cruise out of Florida
earlier this year almost passed unnoticed .
But if you knew Derek you would undersdand that is the way he would
have liked it .
Derek was a humble man with a big talent and paceked huge audiences
wherever he played .
At approx 9.30pm Irish time Friday 30th January 2005 big Derek passed
Surrounded by those who admired him and played with him Derek made his
final bow and made his exit .
Growing up as a lad Derek lifes was always centered around his family
His Mother was a great singer she also played the drums . His brother
Roy showed him the first chords on the guitar .
Roy was a very good guitarist . Actually it was Dereks uncle who taught
Roy the guitar and then Roy taught Derek .
There was only the two boys in the family . Derek and Roy . When Derek
was very young Roy was on already on the stage .
In the very early days of Dereks musical career the Mc Cormack family
learnt together new standards .
They loved to play together at different venues . Derek grew up with
the showbands and when he was 18 he joined up with Dermot O'Brien and
The Clubmen .That experience was a little awesome for him but he
learned a lot back then .
After 12 years in the trio with Dermot on the Cabaret circuit he
returned to his folk roots where he became the front man of the new
Barleycorn . The famous Barleycorn had found some fortune and fame from
about 1970 or so and in 1982 when Brian Mc Cormack left the band to do
his own thing the lads asked Derek to take over and he was very happy
to do it .
Then in 1988 Barleycorn toured the world . They arrived in Australia
for the very first time then .
Derek was first heard on Australian Radio when one of the most popular
producers in the country picked up a song called Roisin
that Derek had performed . The song was an instant hit with many of the
listeners to the national radio program called ,
" Australia All Over " that is presented by a fella by the name of
Macca . After Macca played Roisin on his radio show he was
bombarded with weekly requests to play more of Derek Mc Cormack. The
demand was so great that the ABC , i.e. The Australian Broadcasting
Corporation released a compilation album that included Roisin by Derek
Mc Cormack on it . The CD was a big seller and another big result for
Derek was an immediate gathering in of new fans all over the country
In 1995 after seven very successful albums the other members of
Barleycorn decided to go separate ways .
The next project for Derek was a three piece band called Nickelodeon
Two old friends of Dereks from years back in the showbands , Ronnie
Kennedy and Billy Condon where both worked with Daniel O'Donnell
.Nickelodeon cut a CD and did a few shows . Things went a lot better
than Derek really he expected with Nickelodeon .
Due to Dereks new committments with The Fureys and Daniel O'Donnell
call on Ronnie and Billy the popular band
Nickelodeon folded . It was just too hard to keep it going and they
couldn't find the time do the stuff with Nickelodeon ,
which was a shame because the band had a great sound .
After many years of touring with the Furey's and as the voice of
Barleycorn, Derek toured extensively in the USA featuring regularly at
major Irish festivals such as Milwaukee and Cleveland and had regularly
performed on Cruise ships out of Florida in recent years. Probably that
was the last project of Dereks .
Performing on board the cruise ship every January in the Carribean
An Irish cruise where Derek had loads of fun meeting a lot of Irish
entertainers both from Ireland and from U.S.
It was a really big get together and Derek loved to perform there
I remember he told me once that it was the perfect venue for him .as
the people had to listen to his songs ,
because they had nowhere else to go , unless they'd like to swim all
the way back to the pier .
That is the sort of Craic you'd get from big Derek who was always very
humble about his great gift .
Derek was the typical romantic . A wonderful package of voice and song
wrapped up with Irishness .
What Derek loved about the cruise was feedback from other artists and
words of support .
This gig gave Derek great motivation and grounding to continue alomg
with his music .
In 2000 Derek had realised a lifetime ambition to record and release a
solo album entitled , " 'Never Too Far From My Mind'
which was to be his only solo album . Derek possessed one of the most
beautiful Irish voices of recent times.
One of the most popular songs on Dereks solo album is entitled "Will
You Dance with Me " . This particular song never actually was on the
final cut of the Dereks album and when some people asked why it was
excluded Derek began to think about puting the song on his album .Then
a very talented singer from Ireland called Frances Black who was there
with her sister Mary and all the brothers encouraged Derek to put the
song on the album . So that was enough for Derek and he added it on to
the album .
After his shows there was always a long list of people who stood in
line to speak with him .
I found him a quietly spoken man who is very content with life .
He told me he lives near enough to Dundalk to be happy and as far from
Dublin to be comfortable with .
Derek will be missed by all his fans worldwide , but his songs will be
with us forever.
By Paul McCann