Friends share their memories of promoter, manager and music business entrepreneur Derek Nally.
Derek (far right, pictured with Steve Berube, left, and Ham Sandwich), died today as a result of a heart attack.
“Derek was one of the good guys,” Hot Press Editor Niall Stokes said, after he heard the news. “Music was his passion and he gave his life to it. This is a desperately sad moment for anyone who knew Derek or worked with him. He was a gentleman through and through: honest, decent and thoroughly straightforward in everything he did. He will be hugely missed.”
Derek was the man behind the remarkable success of Tyrone-born artist Juliet Turner. Her Burn The Black Suit was released on Hear This, the label set up by Nally for the purpose. That record went multi-platinum in Ireland – and Juliet had subsequent successes with the Terry Wogan-endorsed Season Of The Hurricane, and 2008’s People Have Names.
“I know that he was especially proud of some of the shows he ran as a promoter, especially with the likes of James Burton, who had been Elvis Presley’s guitar player,” Niall Stokes said. “But I really think that his achievement with Juliet was quite remarkable. She is a very different and individual kind of talent, who doesn’t fit any of the accepted pop norms, but together they succeeded in crossing over into the mainstream in the most unpredictable way. It was, I imagine, a huge source of regret to him that he never succeeded in translating what they achieved in Ireland into international currency – but they did create something quite magical together. He had a right to feel immensely proud of that.”
A tireless champion of new Irish talent, Derek was also central to the success of Kells’ rockers Ham Sandwich. Their debut album Carry The Meek, which debuted at 23 in the Irish album charts, was released on their own label, Route 109 Record. He was in the middle of plans to get the band back on track in 2010, with a new album lined up for the autumn.
“There was very little that Derek didn’t know about early rock’n’roll, country music and soul,” Niall Stokes added. “He loved the music of people like Guy Clark, Tony Joe White, James Burton and, of course, Townes Van Zandt when he was alive – and they loved him in return. It was a mark of the impression he made on musicians that many of them refused to be promoted by anyone else. I know a lot of the guys who worked with him will be hurting and grieving deeply tonight.”
In a highly impressive career, Nally was also, for a long time, booking agent for Whelan’s and The Village and promoted his own shows around the country.
“It is the end of an era, it really is,” Stevo Berube, who worked with Derek as publicist for Whelan’s commented. “He was a link from the showband era right up to the present. Things won’t ever be the same without him.”
“He was always interested in what was going on in the world,” Niall Stokes reflected. “He was passionate about Ireland and was appalled at the way it had been brought to its knees. He had a conscience, which informed everything he did. And he was a great conversationalist. He believed that by discussion, argument and debate you could change things – or at least you could try. And he did.
“People may have forgotten this, but Derek was the man who discovered Punchestown as a venue. In 1982, Hot Press and Derek promoted a gig there together, the first rock festival ever to take place on the Kildare race track, which now hosts Oxegen. The line-up was brilliant and it should have been a huge success but The Rolling Stones announced a gig in Slane Castle within a week of it, and – as was the case all over Europe that year – it was like a steamroller had started up, crushing everything else that was happening.
“It was, in the end, a fantastic gig from a musical perspective – but it nearly broke both our hearts. We survived and remained friends. I will always remember that Derek went into that adventure with complete generosity and selflessness. It was a pleasure to work with him then, and over all of the subsequent years. He was a really nice man and a good man. It is shocking to think that it will no longer be possible to pick up the phone and talk to him. We have lost a great friend – and a totally dedicated music man.”
Derek had not been well recently, but there was nothing to suggest a deeper malaise. He was, along with so many others in the music industry, dealing with the difficulties created by the recession and finding it hard.
He is survived by his wife Dairín and their children Rachel, Sara and John.
“My heart goes out to his family and to his closest friends,” Niall Stokes said. “Their loss is incalculable. May he rest in peace.”
Tributes for the late Derek Nally:
"So very very sad. I knew and worked with Derek for over 12 years as both his promotors representative on many many shows and a co-promoter with him. I learned so much from Derek and for that i am eternally grateful. I found Derek to be one of the most honest and approachable people in the music business in Ireland. He gave of his time generously to both bands and people including my family,and his like will sorely be missed. My thoughts go out to his wife and family.
May he rest in peace in rock 'n roll heaven."
Your old friend,
Derek Nally was a man who enjoyed giving music to people. You could look in his eyes and tell he had found peace doing that. I was particularly struck when he showed up at the airport himself to pick me up, with his daughter in tow. I'm sorry his life was taken. I was looking forward to playing for him again in the future.
BOOKER T. JONES
Regards to Derek Nally and his family.
"I will really miss Derek. Derek was pretty much my very first contact in the music business. Being from Kilkenny and slightly green to the industry to say the least, he helped Saving J and myself to screen our music for potential singles, our approach in how to tackle all angles of the industry head on. He was the the kind of guy who just seemed to know every angle of the music business from folk to dance from radio to record label and never hesitated in answering a call from a band nor never looked for a penny for his time.
Derek got really excited when he heard a good track and that gave us motivation to keep on plugging away at it.
Derek you were one of a kind.
May you rest in peace."
"I've just learnt of the very sad death of Derek Nally.
Derek was a true gentleman, a man who loved music and musicians and they loved him back. Always a pleasure to deal with, always enthusiastically turning one on to new music. Simply a wonderful man. I'll miss him."
"Derek's passing is a great loss. On reflection, some of the best shows I have been to have been Derek's gigs, Booker T being the most recent example. He had a wonderful appreciation of music and that was reflected in the variety of acts he brought to Ireland. In person he was a true gent and would always come over for a chat if he spied you in Whelans. Usually he would always have some fantastic story about The Band or Warren Zevon or Springsteen's early days etc. His knowledge and passion were boundless. He will be greatly missed. RIP."
"I just wanted to say thank you for the article on Derek's passing. We are all really shocked I wasn't talking to him in about a week. I usually had a chat every second day or so I just can't believe it. Such a feeling of loss."
OLLIE - Ham Sandwich
"I first met Derek back in the seventies when he was a club DJ in Dublin. He was totally besotted with music even back then, and even later when he moved into the field of management and promoting gigs he was passionately opposed to anybody who deliberately disrespected musicians. I remember him being really upset when Sinead O'Connor was booed at the Bob Dylan 30th anniversary concert in 1992. Nor had he any time for boorish behaviour from musicians, and he was disgusted on one occasion by Art Garfunkel's dismissive treatment of his fans and other musicians after a gig in Dublin. Like many others, I enjoyed many long phone conversations with Derek over the finer points of something I'd written, especially if he disagreed with me. He was a passionate music fan, and a decent man who'll be deeply missed by everybody in Ireland who cares about music."
"Few people have done so much, so enthusiastically and so consistently for the live scene here as Derek. He was evangelical about music to the point of sometimes putting on gigs by acts that he knew were going to lose money, but wanted audiences to have the chance of seeing. Artists loved Derek because he always treated them with respect and made sure they were properly looked after. A lot of people's tastes atrophy, but Derek was forever telling me over pints at Whelan's about some new band he'd come across and wanted to bring in for dates. In an industry that has more than its fair share of bullshitters, he was one of the good guys and will be sorely, sorely missed."
"Derek Nally will be sadly missed not only for his passionate love of music but also for his approachability and affable personality. I had the pleasure of knowing him through promoting gigs and also meeting him in Whelan's. He contributed greatly to promoting live music in Ireland and he will be sadly missed. Condolences to his family."
I have just arrived home from the funeral of Derek Nally, a very unique and inspirational figure in the Irish music industry and a tireless champion of emerging Irish artists. It is a sad day for all those who knew Derek, not least his family but also all of the artists and bands who benefited immensely from his wise no-nonsense advice and support. I feel very privileged to have been on the receiving end of that advice on many many occasions and it is something that I will dearly miss on the road ahead. I first met Derek back in 2003 when I was looking for a manager armed with a two song demo CD. A friend had suggested I approach him and so I called up to Whelans and introduced myself. At first I didn’t know what to make of this tall rather strange looking character who seemed distracted, opening the post containing demo after demo. I gave him my CD and he said he would have a listen. Just before midnight that night I was in bed when my phone rang (Derek didn’t do normal business hours!), he loved the two songs I gave him and was incredibly enthusiastic and passionate in his appraisal of the music.
Very sad to think Derek will not be there anymore. He will be greatly missed by so many people. One of the good guys for sure. All I can say is thank you!
"Because I lived in the neighbourhood, I dropped into Whelan's nearly every week. Thanks to Derek's music policy, there was always something interesting to be heard. I'd chat to him regularly and was always impressed by his passion for music that bordered on a kind of missionary zeal, as well as his encyclopaedic knowledge. I hardly ever left a chat with Derek without a note of a couple of new artists he thought I might like, and he was always right!
I also appreciated him because he brought in so many of my favourite American acts, like John Prine and Patty Griffin, and I'll always be grateful that he introduced me to Guy Clark who is one of my heroes. He also had a sense of compassion for musicians in that he wanted to do whatever he could to stop the light fading from the careers of older artists. His death was particularly shocking because there was no warning, no build up through illness. He had a faith in artists, and that faith means a lot to artists like me. For me, his presence will always be around Whelan's. He'd be a hard act for any venue to replace, and I'll really miss him."