Muriel Day was the first person from Northern Ireland to represent the Republic of Ireland at the Eurovision song contest, but is perhaps best loved for her northern soul stonker Nine times out of ten.
She was born Muriel Galway on 11 January 1942 in Newtownards, County Down, in Northern Ireland.
She established herself on Ireland’s showband circuit as a member of the Saint’s Showband and the Dave Glover Showband. A petal from a faded rose remains one of her best-known tracks with the latter.
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.
She made the leap to pop singer after being spotted singing by established star Butch Moore in the Starlight Hotel in Cork, in the Republic of Ireland, in January 1969.
Moore had been Ireland’s first representative to the Eurovision song contest, in 1965, and he arranged for her to audition for the 1969 Irish final to select a song to go to Madrid, where the contest was being held that year.
She was given the uptempo The wages of love to sing, and a month later she won the Irish contest, easily seeing off competition from Moore himself and from future Eurovision winner Dana, amongst others.
She recorded the song at London’s famous Abbey Road studios and 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. Backed by girl group the Lindsays and sporting an emerald green mini-dress, she gave an eager performance but finished seventh. (Four girl singers won that year: Lulu for the UK, Salomé for Spain, Frida Boccara for France and Lenny Kuhr for the Netherlands.)
However, all was not lost. While she was in Madrid, Peter Warne, the author of Lulu’s winning Boom bang-a-bang, asked her 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 which featured Nine times out of ten on the B-side. The latter has gone on to become a favourite on Britain’s northern soul dance scene.
Muriel emigrated to Canada in 1971 and continued to perform for several years, before taking up medicine and working as a laser therapist.
She returned to Belfast in the 1990s and has been a regular on the showband revival circuit and the subject of a TV documentary.
With thanks to Ivor Lyttle of Eurosong news for additional information.