Terry Wogan made Eva Cassidy a star

The huge response to Eva’s music was down to Terry Wogan’s (1938 – 2016) support for her. However, the first song by Eva that Wogan played was not ‘Over The Rainbow’, as most would assume, but ‘Autumn Leaves’ during the last week of August 1998. The following week he played ‘Over The Rainbow’ followed by ‘Fields Of Gold’ two days later.

Terry Wogan

Terry Wogan

Paul Walters, a BBC radio and TV producer, is noted for his work on Wogan’s BBC Radio 2 breakfast show Wake Up To Wogan. Terry Wogan nicknamed him Paulie Walters, and he is known to millions as Dr Wally Poultry. Paul was one of Bramwell’s first ports of call: “Dear Paul, I know you are a busy man, but you should really pay attention to this particular record. Cheers, Tony.”

Paul Walters

Paul Walters

Personal relationships are valuable, especially in the highly commercialised world of the record industry and radio. Paul Walters received dozens of albums a day from hopefuls desperate to make their debut on the airwaves. If Paul had only the Songbird album cover to go on – a rather unattractive brown design with an out-of-focus Polaroid photo of an unknown girl-next-door – he might never have listened to it. But Paul knew Tony Bramwell, and if he had given up retirement to promote this new artist then she was certainly worth a listen.

Paul emailed Tony, promising to listen to ‘Over The Rainbow’, the track he’d particularly pushed. Tony’s response was quick and to the point: “No, I’d like you to listen to it this very moment.” Paul could not put off such a request. He listened to the song and it was immediately obvious that Tony hadn’t been exaggerating. “This is bloody brilliant,” he replied. “We are going with it tomorrow!”

songbird(1998)

songbird(1998)

Terry Wogan also had complete trust in Tony and he played ‘Over The Rainbow’ on his show the next day. “This is one Paul brought this morning by a lady called Eva Cassidy. Hope you like it!” At that moment, of course, neither had any inkling that Eva had passed away two years earlier. Wogan was enchanted by Eva’s voice and quickly scanned the liner notes while the song was playing. As it faded out, he said: “That was Eva Cassidy, who it seems is tragically no longer with us.”

Listeners responded in droves, more than 100 sending e-mails within 10 minutes of the song being played. The BBC’s phone lines were jammed and letters and faxes poured in over the next few days. ‘Over The Rainbow’ might have been an old song but Eva’s version had given it a timelessness that had clearly hit a chord with the public.

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  1. Kay Kennedy

    Very simply there will never be anyone close to Eva Cassidy in her angelic spiritually beautiful renditions of the songs that were exclusively chosen songs of her heart. I place her high above anyone of today’s female artists of song including Adelle. She was gifted by the heavens and taken from us so early. But never will I forget her soft beautiful way of presenting God’s gifts of music and art to all of us while she was here. Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth. I know she must know that looking down at the love we have for who she was. <3
    Kay Kennedy