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louis walsh 'Gay took a big gamble - Boyzone had only been put together the day before and had no rehearsal'

A shambolic routine by the newly formed Boyzone on the Late Late is now the stuff of legend, writes Eddie Rowley

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Hilarious: An under-rehearsed Boyzone failed to impress that night

Hilarious: An under-rehearsed Boyzone failed to impress that night

Hilarious: An under-rehearsed Boyzone failed to impress that night

LOUIS Walsh has enjoyed a phenomenal career in the super league of show business thanks to his talent for spotting performers who have The X Factor.

Whatever magic ingredient that is, the Mayo-born music mogul says that Gay Byrne had it in abundance.

The high-powered showbiz agent from Kiltimagh reckons that Gaybo also had what it takes to be king of the chat shows in America.

“Gay could have been Johnny Carson,” Louis tells the Sunday World, referring to the legendary American chat show host who reigned for three decades.

“There is nobody like Gay and there never will be. Nobody could ever fill his shoes in RTE. They can try all they want, but they will never find anybody as good as him. He was amazing.

“Gay was up there with Johnny Carson. He really was world-class and I admired him since I was a kid. I was a fan from an early age growing up in Kiltimagh.

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The 50th anniversary of The Late Late Show

The 50th anniversary of The Late Late Show

The 50th anniversary of The Late Late Show

“The Late Late was a show you’d never miss every Friday. It was the best show, and one of the great things about it is that you never knew who was going to turn up on it because they never told you in advance.

“It was the only show that had everything on it – music, art, culture, arguments… everything. It was the most controversial talked-about show of the week. And that was all down to its genius ringmaster Gay Byrne.”

When Walsh moved to Dublin and forged his own career in the live music scene, working with Linda Martin and Chips and Johnny Logan, he finally met his TV idol in the flesh.

Louis remembers being nervous on that first encounter. “Gay was the biggest man on TV and I was in awe of him,” he says.

“My job was to try and get people on the show. If you got somebody on the show it was the best promotion for any artist working on the Irish circuit. I would go on to meet Gay loads of times.”

Louis says that the Late Late’s special assistant Maura Connolly was a buffer for the famous presenter.

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Gaybo with a young Louis Walsh

Gaybo with a young Louis Walsh

Gaybo with a young Louis Walsh

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“Maura used to keep everyone at bay,” he says. “I would also be dealing with Tony Boland, who booked the Late Late Show acts at the time.”

For many entertainers who hit the big time, it all started on The Late Late Show.

And when Walsh hatched a plan to launch an Irish version of British boyband sensation Take That, he knew that a Late Late slot for the group that became Boyzone was essential.

It was the show’s researcher Brigid Ruane who pitched Louis’ act to Gay – and the host and producer took a gamble with them.

And a gamble it was. “They had only been put together the day before and they had no rehearsal,” Louis says.

This quickly became evident thanks to a shambolic dance routine that the boys performed live that night in a slice of hilarious TV that is now the stuff of legend.

“Brigid Ruane took a chance, she convinced Gay to take a chance and it turned out to be great telly,” Louis says today.

“It was their first time on RTE and it was so fresh and different for Ireland. They were a pop group, they had great personalities, they looked good and it was reality TV at its best. When they were described as the new Take That nobody believed it, not even me.

“We were innocent and that’s what was so good about it. We just went for it. And where would Boyzone be without it?

“They went on to prove that anyone can make it. It probably helped that we were innocent and naïve about what lay ahead.”

What kind of a man was Gay? “He was very shrewd,” Louis says. “He always knew exactly what he was doing. He was a master of his craft and he was able to read people so well.”

Thanks to his success with Boyzone and Westlife, Louis went on to become a major player in the music business, not just in Ireland but on the international scene, earning millions in the process.

"From being a backroom manager pitching acts to the Late Late, Walsh was now a major personality in his own right and ended up sitting on the chat show’s famous couch being interviewed by the great man.

“Gay had me on and I was nervous,” Louis admits, adding that while watching the show in his teenage years he never imagined himself appearing on it as a guest.

He feels that Gay had a soft spot for him. “I think Gay liked what I did and he admired the fact that I came from a small town and through hard work, dedication and a genuine passion for what I was doing, I had achieved so much.

“I certainly admired Gay, and I liked him and respected him as a professional. He was simply the greatest.”

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