| 16.1°C Dublin

nightmare Country singer Sandy Kelly says finding out her old manager died was 'the best news anybody could have given me'

Sandy feared for her life over manager threats


Sandy reveals all in her autobiography.

Sandy reveals all in her autobiography.

Sandy reveals all in her autobiography.

Irish country music legend Sandy Kelly has revealed her nightmare when she was caught up in a legal tangle with a high-powered American manager.

Like the storyline of a movie thriller, the Sligo woman tells how she feared for her life, was forced to book into hotels under false names, travelled with an armed driver and lost her career after a US promoter was warned that his theatre would be burnt to the ground if he employed her.

Currently writing her autobiography due out next year, Sandy (67) tells the Sunday World that she rues the day she met the late Jerry Purcell, a showbiz impresario who had worked with some of the biggest stars in America.

Sandy says she would later discover that Purcell had Mafia connections.

In the early 1990s, the Irish entertainer was befriended by Johnny Cash, who became her mentor and opened doors for her in the States after hearing her version of the Patsy Cline hit Crazy on the radio. He was touring in Ireland at the time.

Sandy won the hearts of Cash, Willie Nelson and Glen Campbell and went on to have the honour of recording with all three of them.

While working in America, she met Eddy Arnold, a country superstar.


Sandy with Johnny Cash.

Sandy with Johnny Cash.

Sandy with Johnny Cash.

“I didn’t know who Eddy Arnold was at first; he was like a grandfather type of person who used to come in and listen to me singing in the recording studio,” Sandy says.

“Then we became great friends. He asked Harold Bradley, who was working with me on the recordings, for two of my CDs. Eddy then gave them to his manager… Jerry Purcell.

“Later, Purcell flew to Ireland with contract in hand, when I was doing my RTÉ television series. My gut feeling was really bad, so I didn’t have anything to do with him at the time. It wasn’t until a year later that I actually signed with him.

“It was only afterwards I discovered that he was part of the Mafia, and once he became my manager that was it, I was never going to be leaving. It’s like the line in the Eagles song, Hotel California; ‘you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.’”

Sandy says her relationship with Purcell took a sinister turn after she brought him to court.

“The court case was over a contract that I was doing in America,” she explains. “It was a 10-month working contract in a theatre. I had done the first four months when the theatre went into liquidation. There was a court case that I didn’t know about, and Purcell got my $100,000. I went to court in New York to get my money from him, but I lost the case and the costs were also awarded against me.

Sunday World Newsletter

Sign up for the latest news and updates

This field is required This field is required

“I stood up to everything he did and said to me, and looking back it was ignorance and stubbornness on my part. Purcell sent me home with nothing.

“When I went back to America, after being offered a job in Branson, Missouri, the driver that came to the airport to pick me up had a revolver under the front seat of his car for security.

“Mel Tillis, who passed away two years ago, was the guy who was bringing me there to work in his theatre. Purcell told Mel that he would burn his theatre to the ground if he employed me. I was collected at the airport, brought to the hotel under a different name, and told not to open the door to anybody.”

Sandy, who will tell the full story in her autobiography, says she felt a sense of relief in 2003 when she heard that Purcell had died.

“He was threatening everybody around me, and he came after my house in Sligo as well,” she explains. “When I heard he’d died it was the best news anybody could have given me.

“I’m not bitter over any of it, and I never was,” she says.

“I’m not going to be settling scores in my book. It will be bluntly honest, but there’s a lot of humour in it as well.”

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices