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Muriel Day - A Brand New Day

From the Belfast Telegraph, October 11, 2009

The 68-year-old, whose vocal skills once put her in the elite group of stars including Petula Clarke, Cilla Black and the legendary Dusty Springfield, has been back to the recording studio and just released her first major single since those heady early years after Eurovision.

"This has been a long time coming," says Muriel. "I've done a lot of things in my life since the days of Eurovision but it's taken me this long to truly realise that music is where my heart really lies.

"There's something amazing that words can't describe when you get on stage and see people smiling and enjoying the performance you're giving.

"A single was the natural thing to do. I've worked with some amazing musicians and producers and when I heard the track for the first time I thought to myself 'This is something I should have done a long time ago'.

"The support from everyone who has followed me over the years has given me the drive to do this and I hope people who have never heard of me can enjoy the single and have as much pleasure listening to it as I have had making it."

Muriel hopes Shut Up and Drive, which she describes as a mix of "contemporary country and pop scenes", will appeal to fans and new listeners alike.

The new single will be a return to form for Muriel after a life that has taken her in many new directions.

Most of the last 40 years have been spent in Canada where, after touring extensively with her own band, she worked as a real estate agent and set up a laser therapy clinic.

A series of coincidences have influenced many of the twists and turns of a fascinating life for the Newtownards woman who started singing as a child in her church choir.

"When I was in my teens I was touring with a band called The Saints, performing in small concerts in local parochial halls," she recalls.

"We got the chance to perform at a BBC Radio recording in the Arcadia, which was a big concert hall in Portrush.

"I was contacted by BBC Radio in Northern Ireland after it and asked to sing on the radio. I was 18 at the time and it was a very big deal for me."

She had another brief brush with fame when she appeared in the classic British film Billy Liar in 1963, miming to the song Twisterella after stepping in to fill the shoes of the original singer who had fallen pregnant and was unable to fulfil her obligations.

Muriel then joined the well-known Dave Glover Showband.

She toured extensively around Ireland with the band for several years before romance blossomed and she became Mrs Dave Glover.

She made the leap to pop singer after being spotted singing by established star Butch Moore in the Starlight Hotel in Cork in January 1969.

Moore had been Ireland's first representative to the Eurovision song contest, in 1965, and he arranged for Muriel to audition for the 1969 Irish final to select a song to go to Madrid, where the contest was being held.

Muriel recalls: "Butch Moore was on his way to America and his plane was delayed by bad weather and he had to stop over in Cork.

"He decided to go along to our concert and afterwards approached me and asked if I would attend an audition for Eurovision if he set it up.

"Of course, I said yes and just a few days later I got a call to go to Dublin, where I had to perform in front of a panel of 12 judges."

She passed her audition and was given the uptempo The Wages of Love to sing at the Irish contest a month later. She won, easily beating off competition from Moore himself and from future Eurovision winner Dana, among others.

Muriel enjoyed a huge hit with it in Ireland, reaching number one and even keeping Marvin Gaye's classic I Heard It Through the Grapevine off the top spot.

However, she was unable to repeat this success at the Eurovision in which Lulu was also taking part that year.

Backed by girl group, The Lindsays, and sporting an emerald green mini-dress, she gave a fabulous performance (which you can still catch today on YouTube), but finished seventh.

It didn't matter to her many fans, who gave her a hero's welcome on her return to Ireland after the contest.

"The competition itself was amazing," says Muriel. "It was a fantastic feeling to be performing in front of millions and millions of people.

"Nothing that I did before or have done since could come close to topping the reception I got when I returned to Cork after Eurovision.

"Cork was always one of my favourite places to perform and people were lined up for two miles outside the city to welcome me.

"I was scheduled to sing but when I got into the ballroom it was so packed that gardai had to pass me over the heads of the crowds to get me to the stage. It was really amazing."

While she was in Madrid, Peter Warne, the author of Lulu's winning Boom Bang-a-Bang, asked Muriel to record some material with him.

The recording session, held several months later, spawned a single, Optimistic Fool, which was issued on the Page One label and featured Nine Times Out of Ten on the B-side.

The song has gone on to become a favourite on Britain's Northern soul dance scene and a signature tune for Muriel.

In 1971, Muriel emigrated to Canada and continued to perform for several years before working as a laser therapist. She returned to Belfast in the 1990s and has been a regular on the showband revival circuit.

No one is more pleased and excited than Muriel to return to her first love of music.

"I was asked to perform again in 1997 when David Hull organised the showband revival Do You Come Here Often?" she says.

"It made me realise how much I had enjoyed performing and how much I missed it.

"Friends and family were very encouraging and so I just decided I might as well get out there and do it, so I recorded the single. It would be great to see it doing well and to be able to follow it up with an album and a tour.

"That's where I want to be. That's where the buzz is. Standing on a stage singing to a live audience is what I enjoy most and, providing I still have my health and my voice, I hope to be back there for some years to come."

Muriel's new single Shut Up and Drive can be downloaded from iTunes or ordered by post by sending a cheque for Pounds 3, made payable to Muriel McCann, to: Malcolm McDowell, 3 Halcombe Street, Belfast BT6 8BE. For further details, tel: 07747 083906 or email malcolmmcdowell@hotmail.co.uk

CAPTION: DAY IN THE LIFE: From above, Muriel with her band in the Seventies; her Eurovision song, The Wages of Love, became a number one hit; she beat Dana to represent Ireland in the Eurovision after being encouraged by Butch Moore to audition for the contestIn 1969 she beat Dana to become the toast of Ireland as the first ever female to represent the island in the Eurovision song contest. Now 40 years -- and a lifetime of experiences -- later, Co Down's Muriel Day has come back to her roots and the music she was so famous for.

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