Like most people I was deeply saddened by the death of the well-known personality, Tony Weldon, who passed away in the early hours of Sunday morning last. Tony was ‘old Waterford’ and in the days when the city was a much smaller and neighbourly place he would have been known by absolutely everybody from the top of the town down to the small number of newer estates on the fringes of the city such as the Cork Road, St John’s Park and Rockenham in Ferrybank.

He was, first and foremost, a singer and musician who had been blessed with a beautiful, extremely tuneful, light baritone voice that lent itself ideally to the great popular songs of the 1950s and 1960s. An older generation will remember him fondly as the featured singer with the Frankie King Orchestra that played regularly in the ballrooms of the day such as The Olympia in Parnell Street and The Arundel in Arundel Square. Later, especially in the 1970s, he played with people like Frankie King and the piano and keyboard maestro, Bernie Flanagan, in smaller, cabaret line-ups. He also spent many years as the resident vocalist in The Maryland lounge on the corner of The Mall and Catherine Street.

Then, in the twilight of his singing career, he became more famous than ever and a household name as a broadcaster and music presenter with WLRfm. His fame spread throughout the entire county and wherever the WLR signal could be picked up in parts of Kilkenny, Tipperary, East Cork and Wexford. In particular, his Sunday morning, easy listening slot was a ‘must’ for most people and not just the older generation because younger listeners absolutely loved his programmes. His delivery was gentle, funny and irreverent in the nicest possible way. Tony was also devoid of affectations and I think that, apart from the music he played, was one of the reasons for his popularity. He was one of our own, talking like one of our own and his audience sensed that and liked him all the more for it. That was in the days before the station could be picked up on the world wide web and his programme was recorded on cassette in many, many homes each week and posted with love to relatives in England and beyond where it was replayed and replayed.

In the late 1970s, I had a small record label called Eiram and a little recording studio here in Waterford that was extremely primitive by today’s standards and in 1978 I produced a single for The Tony Weldon Dance Band with ‘Let Us Be Sweethearts Again’ as the A side and ‘South of the Border’ as the B side. The line-up on that live session was Tony on vocals, Frankie King on trumpet, Michael Dalton on sax, Larry Cosgrave on organ and Michael Cahill on drums. I listened to the record on Sunday last for the first time in many years and, while it was definitely a product of its time, the quality of Tony’s excellent voice shone through. Also to be heard clearly was the distinctive trumpet style of Frankie King and, as far as I know, that recording is the only one they made.

To Tony’s loved ones, I tender my deepest sympathies on their great loss. If there is a heaven, and I hope there is, it will have many orchestras and all the band-leaders will be seeking Tony’s services but I would like to think he is back singing with Frankie King and his many other Waterford pals who have also gone to their eternal reward.

Goodbye to Michael Jackson

Dead also at the young age of 50 years is Michael Jackson. By all accounts it is likely that prescription drugs will be seen as his undoing although the results of the autopsy won’t be revealed for some weeks or even months. When poor old Elvis died, traces of no less than fourteen prescription drugs were found in his system, ten of which were present in high doses. Even though it was his heart that gave out, several experts put his death down to ‘polypharmacy’. I’m only guessing here but there must have been an element of ‘it happens to other people but couldn’t affect me’ about both of them.

Michael Jackson was a true world star, an exotic individual whose name and character were seriously dented by allegations of child abuse although he always strenuously denied any wrongdoing. Paul McCartney knew him well as they had written and recorded together and I thought his affectionate description of him as a ‘boy-man’ was very apt. The former Beatle is nobody’s fool and I don’t think he would have been so generous in his praise if he believed the abuse allegations. Whatever the truth about it, there was no doubt that Michael Jackson was an immense talent and, I think, that’s what most people will dwell on.

Nude naturists could be big money spinners

News this week that naturists are claiming the ban on nude bathing off the country’s beaches is costing a significant amount of money in lost revenue.

Prior to the local elections, the Irish Naturist Association sent letters to some county managers calling for the creation of nudist beaches. According to the society, naturists have been using secluded parts of certain beaches for many years anyway but they are now seeking official status.

INA President, Pat Gallagher, said the creation of naturist areas would be worth a fortune to the tourism economy. He said naturist tourism generated billions of euro each year across Europe and was one of the fastest growing tourism segments worldwide. Less than one-thousand yards in many long beaches were being used by the general public and it would be reasonable to ask that a portion of such strands be designated as ‘clothing optional’.

Mr. Gallagher said his Association received numerous enquiries each year from naturists who would like to come to this country but were not prepared to come on the basis of a nod and wink, they needed to know that they would be legally entitled to take off their clothes. Technically, nude bathers could be prosecuted under the 1934 Criminal Law Act and, in this day and age, people were not prepared to spend a lot of money on their holiday while that threat hung over them.

Confusing pillow talk

A Tramore couple were lying in bed together on the morning of their tenth wedding anniversary when the wife said: “Darling, as this is such a special occasion, I think that it’s time I made a confession. Before we were married I was a hooker for many years.”

Her husband pondered for a moment and then looked into his wife’s eyes and said: “OK, Georgina, I’m shocked but, look here, you have been a perfect wife to me for ten years and I can’t hold your past against you. In fact, maybe you could show me a few tricks of the trade and spice up our sex life a bit.”

“Darling, I don’t think you understand”, replied his wife, “I wasn’t that kind of hooker. My name was George and I played rugby with Waterpark.”