John Mac Nally’s distinguished recording career has seen the release of a vast number of successful albums worldwide. From his first contract with CBS Records in London, through to his Nashville releases, and on to his recent signing with Polygram in Sydney, John has earned four gold and two platinum records in recognition of his achievements as an international recording artist. We are looking forward to welcoming here at Riverside for his show ‘An International Voice of Romance’ in March 2017.
We took some time to get to know John and we thought we’d share some interesting stories about him with you.
John was born in Dublin, Ireland, the youngest of six children. Although his parents weren’t professional singers, his was a very musical family. His first professional appearance was made at the age of eleven, on stage with Irish comedian Mick Heron in a town called Arglass in the north of Ireland. Despite nearly blowing up the science lab at school, John was given a day off for the occasion and was paid the princely fee of two shiny shillings by Micky on his triumphant homecoming!
Interrupted only by the fun of outdoor sports, the teenage years of John’s life were spent completely immersed in music. John took his classical music training quite seriously, learning German Leieder music, opera arias and Irish ballads at Synge Street under the expert guidance of Father Brendan Lawless, or “Benny” as he was known to all the young lads of the school. Some of their days would begin at 7:00am and end in the early hours of the next morning, breaking only for meals. As John says himself of his days at the academy, “All I wanted to do was sing – anywhere, anytime, for anyone!” John went on to win a scholarship to study music full-time in Germany, but because his mother felt that he should train for a steady career, he didn’t accept the scholarship.
There was never any question that he would continue to study voice and performing, yet John took his mother’s advice and began to study dentistry at the University of Dublin. He soon realised that dentistry wasn’t his cup of tea and began an optician’s course at the College of Technology in Dublin. John found optics much more interesting than dentistry but continued to study singing, which he still found far more fulfilling than his medical career. He used his singing to make a living while studying, giving all types of concerts – golf dinners, charity concerts and most of all, weddings and funerals. Weddings were a tremendous and reliable source of income. In the busiest months, John could sing one or two during the week and three or four cermonies each day of the weekend! It was a hectic situation, running from chapel to chapel, but of course it was very rewarding to earn a living doing what he loved.
In 1963, John passed all his exams and qualified as an ophthalmic optician. He opened his practice and his patient list grew quickly. After two years in business, John married Anne, the love of his life since he first met her at a dance on June 27th, 1959. John cites the day of their marriage as the happiest of his life. A year after they married, he received a phone call from Fred O’ Donovan, the original producer of the famed Jury’s Cabaret in Dublin. A six-month contract ensued and John went on to work at the Gaiety Theater and the Dolphin Inn, all within walking distance of Jury’s. The next two years saw John running between the three at such a pace that he expected to meet himself on the way back!
In the off-season in Dublin, John went to England to perform and it was there that he landed his first recording contract, with CBS records in London. John was ecstatic and suggested to CBS that he record a beautiful song he had been singing with the group We 4. The song was “Mary in the Morning” – it had received rave reviews in Dublin when it was performed live and CBS loved it. John recorded “Mary in the Morning” and watched it climb the charts. In Ireland and everywhere, it felt like a dream come true; every time John turned on the radio, they were playing his song. Numerous radio and television shows and even John’s own television series, “The John Mac Nally Show”, followed. In 1969, John sold his optician’s business and delved into his professional career full-time. The boy soprano had made it to the top of the charts!
Mary in the Morning,” the song that opened so many doors for John, eventually took him to the other side of the world. In 1969, after a successful show at the Tokyo Hilton, John decided to visit Australia. He was escorted by Jack Neary, who was famous for bringing some of the biggest acts in show business to Australia. Jack went right to work and booked appearances on television programmes and in several shows, including performances in the Celebrity Room in Melbourne.
In 1971 John returned to Australia for a one-week tour. This time Jack Neary got John a spot on the “Tonight Show,” a popular Saturday-night programme hosted by Simon Dee. John sang two songs on the programme, and was interviewed by Mr. Dee which went well. The following week Channel 9 called and asked John if he had any experience hosting a programme such as the “Tonight Show.” John had a lot of television experience, but had never interviewed anyone on the air. The station managers decided to take a chance and asked John to host the following Saturday night’s show. John did his research, selected the most popular songs in his repertoire, and did the show. He was asked to do it again the following week and so began John’s three-year contract as host of the “Tonight Show.” Soon after, John’s wife Anne joined him in Australia together with their two young children.
In addition to the weekly “Tonight Show” appearances, John’s first three years in Australia were filled with work in clubs, theaters, the Sydney Opera House, and on radio and television at ABC, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. He performed throughout the country, from Perth to Melbourne, down to Tasmania, and even out to the country of New Zealand. John and his family have enjoyed living in the land “down under,” with its friendly, generous people who took him into their hearts.
John and Anne now live in Sydney, Australia by the sea. There is no better way to appreciate outdoor life in beautiful Australia than walk, swim and exercise every morning by the beach and John enjoys these activities all year round. Whether at home or travelling, John spends as much time as possible playing golf. He plays off a single-figure handicap and is an honourary member of Nashville Golf and Athletic Club, which is owned and operated by his good friend Chuck Wittamore. When on a home visit to Ireland, nothing gives him greater pleasure than a game with the legendary Christy O’ Connor Snr.
Recently, John signed a 10 year contract with Polygram records. His previous releases with Polygram have earned him 2 platinum and 4 gold records. Since signing John’s latest contract, Polygram has been taken over by Universal Music and John enjoys an even more active and productive relationship with his new record label. With a busy performing schedule, John is thrilled to be fully active doing what he loves best – singing.
See him live at Riverside on Friday 3rd March at 2pm. Tickets $50 or $45 concession.