Daniel writes 'My friend Brian Coll turned down a chance of stardom in the US'
LIKE all fans of country music at home and abroad, I was saddened last weekend to hear the news that Brian Coll had died suddenly from a heart attack at the age of 79.
The much-loved star was one of those great Irish country singers that you expected to be around forever.
Brian was my personal favourite Irish male country singer. He was a super singer, as good as you'd hear anywhere in the world of country.
In fact, Brian was once asked by Charley Pride and his management to settle in America, where they promised him that he would become a major star.
Fr Brian D'Arcy, who was with him in Nashville on that occasion in 1972, says that Charley offered Brian "any money" to stay.
Ray Lynam, the other authentic voice of Irish country, got a similar offer at the time. Both singers declined the opportunity because they had families back in Ireland, and I suppose at heart they were home birds.
Brian created the Irish country scene along with stars of his era, including Big Tom, Larry Cunningham, Philomena Begley, Margaret (Margo) and Gene Stuart.
I don't think he ever dwelt upon the talent that he had. It sat lightly on his shoulders. He was such a humble man.
Brian Coll and The Buckaroos became hugely popular around Ireland. And whenever the big American country stars came in on tour, it was Brian who would be asked to support them.
He was on Charley Pride's shows many times. Charley just loved him. He was a great character. He could tell a story better than anyone you ever met in your life, and it was never told the same way twice.
Among Brian's many hits was the song, Hometown On The Foyle, which I later recorded.
One day I met him and he said, "Do you know what the world has come to now?" I said, "What's wrong?" He said, "I was doing a show last night and a young fella came up to me and said, 'Would you ever sing that Daniel O'Donnell song, Hometown On The Foyle.'
Brian added, "That's what the world has come to now, y'know!"
The young fella was of a generation who probably heard me singing it. "It'll always be your song," I told Brian that day. He laughed.
His other signature songs included These Are My Mountains, Give An Irish Girl To Me, I'll Take You Home Again Kathleen, When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold and Ireland Swings.
Brian had a singing career spanning 55 years, during which he played with bands that included The Polka Dots and The Plattermen. He formed The Buckaroos in 1968. The following year Brian Coll and The Buckaroos played New York's Carnegie Hall on a bill that included American country superstars Johnny Cash and Buck Owens.
Brian's singing style has often been compared to one of his own idols, American country great Slim Whitman.
In 1970, Brian was one of a handful of top Irish country singers who shared a stage with Whitman when he played the National Stadium in Dublin.
It was one of the many great nights in Brian's life.