Julie Felix obituary

Folk singer whose TV appearances on The Frost Report in the 1960s made her a household name

Julie Felix performing at Westminster Abbey in London in 1966.

In 1966, at the height of the folk music boom in Britain, David Frost’s satirical television show The Frost Report featured a young American folk singer whose thoughtful songs, strong voice, charm and good looks endeared her to audiences, turning her into a household name. Within a year, Julie Felix, who has died aged 81, was hosting her own television series, with an impressive list of special guests.

Having landed in England in 1964, Felix performed in folk clubs in London, including the famous Troubadour in Earls Court, and on the strength of a tape of her singing that was sent to Decca, she was signed to the record label. Living on the third floor of a Chelsea block of flats, she was on her way to her debut album’s launch when she met Frost, a fifth floor resident, in the lift. Frost tagged along and, impressed by her singing, persuaded the BBC to engage her for his forthcoming television series.

In the meantime, Felix appeared on the Eamonn Andrews Show to sing the single Someday Soon from her eponymous first album; this was so popular with the television audience that she was invited back the following week. Taking a brief time out as a humanitarian ambassador for Christian Aid in Lebanon, Jordan and East Africa, Felix returned to London to appear at a sell-out solo concert at the Royal Albert Hall.

Two more albums followed quickly, leading the Times to call her “Britain’s first lady of folk”, thus ignoring her American origins. In 1967 Brian Epstein engaged Felix to perform with Georgie Fame: the Fame & Felix concerts were so successful that the weeklong run was extended to two weeks. Cat Stevens was the support.

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Actor and comedian Niall Tóibín dies aged 89

Stage and screen figure known for roles in Ryan’s Daughter, Bracken and Ballykissangel

Actor and comedian Niall Tóibín died in Dublin on Wednesday after a long illness. His death occurred just over a week before his 90th birthday.

A well-known stage and screen performer in both straight and comic roles, he was familiar from Ryan’s Daughter, Bracken, The Ballroom of Romance, The Irish RM, Caught in a Free State, Ballykissangel, Far and Away, and Veronica Guerin. He also played Brendan Behan at the Abbey and on Broadway [ . . . ]

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‘The audience knew they were in the hands of a master’

A musical number, a chat with a Hollywood star. A debate on the ‘burning issue’ of the day followed by a poem from the woman in the third row, a wave from the man in the fourth and then something for, well, everyone in the audience.

His work ethic was legendary, at the height of his career he was producing and presenting the Late Late, as well as presenting a daily radio show on RTÉ Radio 1.

And that wasn’t all – in the 1980s, while most of the country was enjoying the last days of summer, Gaybo had already started his autumn term, presenting the Rose of Tralee live from the Dome in the Kerry capital.

Add in the ‘Calor Gas Housewife of the Year’ competition and it was no wonder he was known as ‘Uncle Gaybo’ – for some he was as familiar a presence in the home as members of their own families.

Despite his ubiquity however Gay never became complacent about his work and both his television and radio shows broke new ground.

The Gay Byrne Hour, which became the Gay Byrne Show on RTÉ Radio 1, pioneered listener engagement, with listeners writing in and later phoning Gay about the issues of the day or problems close to their hearts.

“Consumer issues, recipes for fruit cake, relationship woes – in the days before social media Gay Byrne was the conduit for all kinds of discussion and debates”

One of the show’s most memorable broadcasts featured letters inspired by the death in childbirth of teenager Anne Lovett in Granard, Co Longford, in 1984.

When news of the tragedy broke, Irish men and women from all around the country wrote to the show with their own stories of abandonment, neglect and fear, stories from the heart which were broadcast to the nation. Continue reading