“Dad was such a big presence in our family and we feel like the last few years when he wasn’t singing were really a gift to us”
The Hucklebuck singer, who died last May in Las Vegas, was on tour in Ireland at the time when he got the news.
In an interview with the Sunday World on his first anniversary, Brendan’s actress daughter Clodagh recalls: “There was a period of time where we’d be going over to Ireland for six months of the year, and then returning to Vegas where we lived for six months.
“This was when my dad had a six-month residency in a Las Vegas hotel owned by the Mafia, who ran Vegas at the time.
“Just as he was due to come back to take up his residency in Vegas after this particular trip to Ireland, the Mafia guys who hired him were jailed. Dad didn’t have the contract any more because they were gone.
“Dad then stayed on in Ireland for what turned out to be two years. That’s where the work was until he got another residency in Vegas. While he was working on the next Vegas contract he was able to get an abundance of work in Ireland and send money back to us. He would also come back on holiday to visit us until eventually he did get another contract and went on to work there for another 20 years.”
Bowyer, who became an Irish superstar in the 1960s with The Royal Showband, was one of our best-loved entertainers and fans were deeply saddened when he died a year ago last Friday.
Due to the pandemic, Brendan’s family were unable to bring his ashes back to Ireland for a funeral service in his native Dunmore East, Co Waterford, and burial in his parents’ grave.
However, Clodagh tells how her mum, Stella, who is originally from Galway, received lots of correspondence from the Irish public.
“It’s so unusual to lose a partner of 56 years and not have the general communities around you, that come in weekly to see you, and not be able to go to church even. These things were stripped away,” she says.
“I think my mum, though, really felt this outpouring of love from Ireland when my dad passed. That was so helpful to her. She literally got thousands of letters, which was incredible. There were so many stories shared. I think reading those letters and stories really helped her in quiet months after Dad died.
“Last Sunday was her birthday, and she had nine hours of phone calls from Ireland. This was her first birthday without Dad.
“Mum has been really well supported by phone calls in the last year. My brother Brendan and sister Aisling have been paying visits to her. I’m in Los Angeles, and I’ve been to visit with my two children — her grandchildren Liam and Nora Stella. This weekend she is with us for Dad’s anniversary.
“Dad was such a big presence in our family and we feel like the last few years when he wasn’t singing were really a gift to us. We had a lot of good quality family time with him because he wasn’t on the road.
“God was pulling some strings for us that we got to have these last few years together, and more family time. We got to have him still singing around the tree at Christmas, and his voice was always just velvet, it was beautiful. But he just wouldn’t have had the pipes to sustain those notes in the big venues back in Ireland.
“My mum and dad were really grateful that he did get to sing for over 60 years. Dad would go back to perform in Ireland and have these paid holidays, as they called them.
“He’d always go over at Christmas for a month or two, and then he would tour for the summers. Mum and Dad would rent an apartment in the west of Ireland, most of the time in Galway.”
Looking back on her life with her iconic father growing up in Las Vegas, Clodagh says Bowyer never flaunted his success.
“Sometimes I tell my own children about him, but he didn’t do that to me when I was growing up,” Clodagh says. “He never said, ‘Did you know that I did this?’ There was none of that. I had to kind of find out on my own.
“While singing in Las Vegas, he’d have a lot of big nights on The Strip, but there was no discussion of, ‘Guess who I met last night?’ He might have met Kim Basinger or Gabriel Byrne, but he never told us the stories the next morning. He’d be more interested in what is going on in school with us.”
Clodagh reveals that many legendary Irish entertainers gravitated towards her father whenever they were in Las Vegas, including Bono, Bob Geldof, Gabriel Byrne, Liam Neeson and Colm Meaney.
“Bono once said in a TV interview that it was a highlight of one of his American tours that he got to meet my dad,” she says.
The Bowyer family will hold a memorial service for the showband icon in Dunmore East when the various pandemic restrictions are lifted.
“It will be very healing for all of us to come together and tell stories and celebrate his life as well as mourn his loss,” Clodagh adds.