LAST week, Johnny Barry, the champion of Irish recording stars for nearly a quarter of a century, celebrated his 70th birthday with a huge party in the Springhill Court hotel, Kilkenny city.
The popular KCLR 96 fm presenter was mobbed by friends, family and work colleagues at the event. Tickets were sold out well in advance of the party and the man who has 24 years of broadcasting behind him was in top form on the night. All of those who turn off the tv at night, switch on KCKR and are housebound didn’t miss out thanks to a live broadcast by KCLR.
Johnny who is on first name terms with Daniel O’Donnell, Foster and Allen, Dominic Kirwan, Margot and all the other greats of the Irish Country and Western scene took it all in his stride. He has championed the voices of many Irish singers, none more so than the late Johnny Loughrey. Johnny Barry brought him home from England for his first gig in Kilkenny at the Ennisnag lounge and after that, Johnny Loughrey never looked back. It was fitting that Mr Loughrey’s son Sean was present for the cutting of the cake. There were four MCs: Brendan Hennessy, Tom Dowling, John Kinsella and James Lakes with radio owner, John Purcell and Sue Nunn of the Sue Nunn show also present.
After leaving school Johnn Barry sold newspapers on the streets of the city and recalled that he had no soles in his shoes back then. He became and apprentice film projector operator and holds the distinction of having worked in the three old cinemas in the city.
He started at the Regent, William Street in 1958 and also had stints in the Kilkenny Theatre on Patrick Street and the Savoy (now the Watergate). He loved every minute of it but his first love was and is music and when he started on Radio Kilkenny he vowed to play only Irish artists and that’s the way he has remained and it is part of the reason for his success.
Whatever it is, Johnny Barry’s popularity has never waned and his visits to local retirement homes and hospitals are now legendary as his fame precedes him.
The main band on the night were Tony, Theresa and the Stars who sang a medley of great tunes much to the delight of the huge crowd. Addressing his army of fans, Johnny thanked one an all for their help and kindness to him over the years and said he was delighted that so many people had turned up and . He is looking forward to next year when he celebrates 25 years in broadcasting. And so are his many admirers.