Country legend Big Tom McBride passes away aged 81

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The death was announced earlier this morning (Tuesday, April 17) of iconic country music singer "Big Tom" McBride.

In a statement released this morning, his family said: "It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our dear father Big Tom McBride (RIP) this morning".

His family say he passed away peacefully this morning and will be sadly missed by all who new him.

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. "He was the first to break into the main stream music business and appeared on many United Kingdom music shows before any other Irish country music stars". "He was the greatest". He meant so much to people and so much to the country singers in Ireland. It's just so sad. He and his late wife Rose formed a strong team in their household and in the wider community. Maybe for him, it's a gift from God. I am sure his family are devastated at his passing.

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Speaking about this year's Country Music special Tubridy said: "This is the third year of our Country Specials and it has really established itself as one of the audience's favourite Late Late Shows. He appealed to people and people knew looking at the show on stage that he was a nice man". I'm shocked more than anything.

The Monaghan native, full name Tom McBride, began his musical career in 1966 and was best known for fronting the showband Big Tom and the Mainliners, who had toured up until recent years. Success came when he returned to Ireland and started to play with the band with whom he would become synonymous, The Mainliners.

Big Tom was known for hits including Four Country Roads, Back To Castleblayney and The Old Rustic Bridge.