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Brendan Dugan

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At 67, Brendan Dugan has been singing for 51 years. His voice is still as deep and booming as it ever was when he was a star on the New Zealand country music scene in the 1970s and 1980s, and he does lots of gigs on the RSA and club circuits, tolerating being away from home a lot.  Brendan started his career at 16, in 1968, after winning the Studio One - New Faces competition but he was singing for years before that.  Annette recalls driving 4000km with her four toddlers across the United States to see her brother perform a show in what she suspects was 1985.  She still has the T-shirt which bore the slogan 'Brendan Dugan is my brother'.  For Brendan, performing at the prestigious Grand Ole Opry in Nashville was a very special career highlight, with a little bit on the wall with Brendan's name on it there still.  Brendan muses that it's only small but it's there.  His career has taken him around the world - from the United States to the Philippines and back, but he didn't leave town until he'd seen the country.

   

A day before the opening show of his Johnny Cash tribute tour, Brendan Dugan was en route from his Papamoa home to the South Island for his first full rehearsal.  Still, he wasn’t too worried about the prospect of being underdone.  Having performed for more than four decades, the singer was both confident and relaxed in his ability and that of his fellow musicians.  A nine-date tour of the South Island, entitled "Dugan Sings Cash" and featuring Canadian-born singer Tami Neilson, opened in Nelson on Wednesday and takes in southern venues next week.  "I never thought I’d do a tribute show, but it’s Johnny Cash so it’s great," Dugan said via cellphone earlier this week, a few minutes before boarding a plane at Wellington airport.  Cash’s more recent American Recording series material will not be covered, Dugan instead preferring classics such as I Walk The Line, Folsom Prison Blues, Guess Things Happen That Way and the Kris Kristofferson-penned Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down.  "The biggest thing with doing Cash, of course, is singing songs that New Zealand people know. He’s recorded 500 songs and even I look at those and 80 to 90% I wouldn’t know myself," Dugan said.  "We did a little bit of this on the "Legends" tour a year ago and it just killed them, so we expanded it from that ..... It’s good fun.  "Of course, we do the duets with Tami, so that’s going to be interesting. I’ve never sung with Tami before. There will be three or four duets with Tami, maybe five. I’ll tell you tonight after we’ve done the rehearsal. It’ll be fine; she has a great voice.  "We’ve done nothing yet. It’s a bit scary really, but when you’ve done 40 years in the business you just relax.  I know most of the musicians anyway; I know what they’re like and how confident they are."  It is 40 years since Brendan got his big break by winning the televised music contest, New Faces in 1968. Born in 1952, a leap year, he celebrated his 14th birthday yesterday. He "semi-retired" three years ago, but has found himself back on stage.  "You never get away from it," he enthused, adding he was looking forward to hitting the road again.  "There is something about that Cash’s music that people just seem to hook into.  I’m amazed by the young people who come to me and say, "Hey, I love Johnny Cash’. And I’m talking 17 or 18-year-olds."