A good place to start in my story, would be to give you a quick insight as to where I came from. I was born and raised in Manchester, England. My parents, John and Mary Loughrey, left their native Ireland in the 1960's. They met each other in England after both settling down in the city and finding work. They married and started a family shortly after. My sister Michelle was first, followed by myself and then my younger sister Paula.
Dad was born and raised in Newtownstewart, County Tyrone and my mum Mary hailed from the West of Ireland, born in Kilvine and raised near Irishtown, County Mayo. My first taste of Ireland was on our annual summer holidays back home, where we would spend a week in Mayo followed by a week in the North. These were some of the happiest times of my life, we spent the days playing with an endless stream of cousins and friends and we were always heartbroken when we had to return home to Manchester.
My father as many of you are probably aware, was a very popular and successful Country and Irish singer. Dad was singing in the pubs and clubs of England long before I was born. In fact, he was playing in the Boatmans Home at the hour of my birth and apparently he announced it from the stage. Little did he know that thirty years later his newborn son would be on stage following in his father's footsteps.
13th April 2005
On April 13th 2005, my father lost a very brave and courageous fight against cancer. Two months later my wonderful and beautiful mother too, lost her battle with that terrible disease. This time was the most traumatic and emotionally draining period of my life. I cannot begin to tell you what we as a family went through at this terrible time. What I will say is that I am very blessed to have the most wonderful family and group of friends. Throughout this period they never left our side and virtually carried us through to the very end. During this time we also received an incredible number of goodwill messages and prayers from mum and dad's many very special friends they had met through the years on their travels. Unbeknown to me at this time I would have an opportunity to meet these wonderful people and thank them personally for their support and friendship.
Enter Kevin McCooey
During this period a true gentleman by the name of Kevin McCooey began to take a large part in my life. Kevin was dads manager at the time, as well as some of Irelands biggest Irish country stars, such as the giant himself Big Tom, Patrick Feeney, Barry Doyle and the outlaws. Kevin had casually said to me in passing that had I ever thought about singing myself. My response at the time was that you never know and maybe one day. But to be honest with you all, it was an off the cuff remark and never in my wildest dreams did I believe that I would be able to pursue a career on the stage.
Shaun Attends Wedding And Takes To The Stage
In July of 2005 I attended a family wedding in Tyrone, Ireland. My uncle Willie Loughrey alias Rock Stewart, a very successful rock and country singer in his own right was playing with his band at the wedding reception. He called me up to the stage at the end of the evening and asked me would I sing a song. My reply was that I only know one song and I had never sang with a band before. He assured me that it would be fine and told me to just relax, nobody would be expecting too much. I was the son of Johnny Loughrey and he tells me they wouldn't be expecting too much. The room went deafly quiet as I started my rendition of the Marty Robbins number " You gave me a mountain". The room was full of my family and friends and to there total amazement I did a reasonable job on the song. They all rushed up to hug me, as they knew it must have been very tough for me to sing considering all that had gone on so recently. They all wanted to know if I knew anymore songs, which to their disappointment, I answered "no". Well that was the start of a chain of events that nobody in their right mind could have predicted, except maybe Mr Kevin McCooey.
The following Wednesday my phone rang and to my delight it was Kevin. I had been trying to contact Kevin for some time regarding dad's wonderful charity single " Mother of God ave Maria ". To my surprise Kevin had other things on his mind. " HOW DO YOU FANCY FRONTING YOUR DAD'S BAND", well my jaw nearly hit the floor. " WHAT ME ". Well you can imagine my surprise, he had never heard me sing before and I knew the words to only one song. When I asked Kevin the time scale he had in mind, he said," August". To which I replied, "what ,2006?". He said "no, next month". Well my jaw did hit the floor this time. Believe it or not we actually agreed that we would aim for late September early October. This of course was on the condition that I came over to Ireland to do some studio work. to see if I had what it took to make the grade.
Enter Marty Pollock
This brought into my life the wonderfully talented, musically driven, Mr Marty Pollock. Marty was dad's band leader in the final years of his career and he was Kevin's partner on this new venture with the, as yet untried, Shaun Loughrey. Marty had been sent to test my mettle in the studio. Kevin would arrive later to check on the outcome. We arrived at Gerard Doran's wonderful studio near Ballynahinch county Down. I was secretly confident, but also very nervous, that they were perhaps in, for a pleasant surprise. As I was to find out later, Marty really put me through my paces, testing me on a number of things. But most importantly of all, my timing. Kevin arrived and stood in the doorway as I began a version of dad's self penned song " love is all that matters". Kevin's reaction was one of total shock and disbelief. He swears blind to this day, for a split second he thought that he was listening to dad singing. Well they were delighted with the days work and plans were launched to put a band together and arrange a suitable dance program.
Enter Noel Cassidy
The gathering of the band began with a drummer, enter Noel Cassidy.
Noel played with dad for four and a half years and is one of the finest drummers on the circuit and a wonderful character. Marty had arranged with two other gents to join the band and because of problems out of our control we were restricted to three days rehearsals. The rehearsals took another knock when Marty had come to the conclusion that the two guys, first considered, weren't exactly what we needed. Marty knows what he wants from a band and if it is not perfect, he wont be happy until it is. This left us with myself, Marty on keyboards and Noel on drums and a frantic search where we were left searching for a lead guitar player, not to mention a bass player.
Enter Stevie Kirk
Stevie was a young lad like myself and had not a great deal of experience in the band scene. But he was a very gifted guitar player albeit very raw. We had four hours rehearsals before we set of to Scotland for our undercover, first three gigs. I had spent the previous ten weeks learning nearly thirty songs. My three daughters Sophie, Grace and Hope were nearly ruined by their dad's insistence on singing Irish country songs morning, noon and night throughout the house. Even though I had worked very hard at learning all these songs, with the best will in the world. It is virtually impossible to remember them all off by heart, especially under the pressure cooker atmosphere of my first night on the stage, doing a two hour show. We were all exhausted by the time we arrived in Brechin Scotland for our first show. We had travelled a long way from early in the morning and were all beat.
The boys relaxed and tried to get an hours sleep before the gig. I also tried but as you can well imagine it was nigh on impossible with the sheer dread and panic that engulfed me. We had launched my first single, Love Is All That Matters, three weeks earlier, to a fantastic response. People from all over Ireland were ringing into the radio stations, wishing me well and remarking on how alike I sounded to my father. The single had also reached the Scottish shores and I think the crowd that night weren't quite aware of the story of how the band had evolved and what we had been through, just to arrive at this point. Marty was playing keyboards with his right hand and bass with his left. He was coaching Noel a small bit through some of the songs he wasn't too familiar with and giving Stevie the nod for all his solos and intros. But, most importantly of all, he was keeping an eye on me out at the front of the stage in case I collapsed in a heap, which I can assure you, nearly happened on a number of occasions. How we got through that night I will never know, but we did and to our credit we never stopped a song. There were plenty of mistakes, but nothing that major apart from me missing an entire chorus of 'Going back to Ireland Again'. This happened when Marty shouted for the boys to join in with the chorus, at which point I thought he was telling me to stop singing, which I did. We still laugh about that night.
Marty's verdict on the night was I should smile more and remember to put the mic back in the stand when I wasn't singing and that was it. Well, I could think of a few places for that mic and the stand wasn't one of them. I had been through one of the most harrowing and challenging episodes of my life and all Marty could say was smile more. I was livid. I was ready to jump into my car and head down to Manchester and call the whole thing off. It is only now that I realise how important it was for him to adopt that approach with me in order to get me and the band to where we are today in such a short space of time. The rest of the Scotland trip went well enough and on the Sunday night we had our first returning customers. They had enjoyed the show that much on the Saturday night, they travelled seventy miles to see us on the Sunday night. Wow, I still cant get over it, wonderful people.
We Hit Ireland
We then hit Ireland the following week. We had a temporary bass player in and we had a fantastic night in dad's hometown of Newtownstewart. There was a huge crowd and their support was fantastic. My family had flown over to support me and nearly all my relations from the north of Ireland were in attendance. Kevin had arranged some fantastic gigs for the band. None more so than supporting Big Tom and the Mainliners at the great Northern hotel in Bundoran county Donegal. This was Mickey Clerkens first night with the band, a fabulous bass player and a wonderful singer himself. He let me into a secret the other day when he told me he was as nervous as a kitten that night himself and he had been playing in bands for years. There were close to eighteen hundred people there that night and as many outside trying to get in. I had never seen so many people in the one room. It was a fantastic night and went without a hitch. With the added bonus of getting to watch Big Tom and the band perform to an adoring crowd. It was a truly memorable night.
Highland Radio And The Country Stars
Another highlight was my first (and hopefully not my last) Highland radio concert. What a fabulous show. I got the opportunity to meet some of Ireland's biggest country stars and the build up that the legendary Highland radio dj, Mr Pio McCann gave me was unreal. I stood behind stage thinking, is he talking about me? He also spoke about the courage I had shown in coming this far and about the recent tragedies in my life. Well by the time I walked out on that stage, I was an emotional wreck. The capacity crowd were fantastic and gave me a standing ovation. I know that the crowds response was for my dad as well and it was there way of showing me what they thought of him. I can only thank them from the bottom of my heart and look forward to seeing them all again.
Trip To The Hospital
It was not all plain sailing though. On the run up to a Show in Ardra, Co Donegal, I had become decidedly unwell. When I arrived in the hotel room where the boys were getting changed, the colour drained from Marty's face when he could see how much pain I was In. How I got through that show, I will never know. Immediately after the show I was rushed to hospital where I was admitted for an emergency operation. We had to cancel the next four shows and looking back now, maybe we came back a little bit too early, as I struggled to recover post-op for a good while.
On a brighter note I have picked up two prestigious awards in the eight months on the road and am deeply honoured to have received them. At the Glencairn Hotel, Irish Country Awards, I was presented with most promising newcomer award for 2005 and at the Irish Country Entertainment Magazine Awards night in Dublin, I was awarded with the 'Best Male Newcomer' for 2005. These awards are beyond my wildest expectations and I can only thank the people who voted for me and the organisers of these great events.
Kevin Does a Great Job
Kevin, as the band's manager has done a wonderful job in arranging gigs for us accross the length and breadth of Ireland and over in the U.K, places where, as a young band so to speak, we were privileged to have the opportunity to showcase our talents. I believe we have improved immensely as a band in the first eight months and we still have a long way to go. We have met some truly wonderful people along the way - too many to mention here, but they know who they are and they will always hold a very special place in my heart.
A Word Of Thanks
To tie up this little piece about myself (your thinking, thank God its over, if this is what he calls little I'd hate to see a long piece), there are a few 'thank you's' I would like to say. Firstly I would like to thank all the wonderful people I have met so far and thank them for their wonderful support; All the lads in the band and my management team for doing such a great job; My wonderful family and friends for all their support and encouragement and my three beautiful daughters for their patience and understanding. I must give a special mention to my Aunty Goretti, dad's sister. She has taken care of me like her own son while I have been up and down the length and breadth of Ireland. She has provided me with a place to stay, feeds me up, washes and irons all my clothes, follows me around nearly all my gigs and lends me her ear when I am down or feeling low. She says she does it because she loves country music but I know she does it because she loves her family and we love her just as much in return.
I will end for now with a quick apology for the length of this biography. If you managed to make it this far, please forgive me for rambling on. I must have Rambling Fever, ha ha. Although I lost two of the most important people in my life just over a year ago now. I keep myself positive by thinking about what they would want me to do. They would want me to be happy and to live life to the full and enjoy it, because it can be all too short. I hope they would be proud of how I have coped and what I have achieved so far. I am so proud of who and what they were and owe every little bit of my life too them. I am enjoying the music scene more and more with each passing show and hope that one day I can sit down with them once again and compare notes. For as I am sure anyone who knew dad, will tell you. Dad would have given me lots of advice on how to cope with life on the road.
God bless always,