Louis Walsh is the undisputed king of the Irish pop scene. He is the man behind some of the most successful bands in pop history, masterminding the careers of Boyzone, Westlife, Samantha Mumba, Girls Aloud and Shayne Ward. The fact that he has achieved a staggering 28 number one hits is a testament to his success and is one of the reasons why Louis Walsh is one of the most respected names in the music industry today.
Walsh’s first taste of success came when he spotted an artist called Johnny Logan. Walsh was convinced that Logan could be a big hit if he was given the right break and persuaded him to sing at The Eurovision Song Contest. His gamble paid off and in 1980 Johnny Logan won the 25th Eurovision Song Contest in front of 500 million viewers. Logan’s first album sold half a million copies within three days of its release, catapulting Logan to Number 1 in eleven European countries. With a number one artist already under his belt, Walsh was ready for his next challenge.
Relying on his instincts, Walsh knew that his next hit would be with a band that would rival the success of Take That. A series of auditions followed and five unknown artists were plucked from obscurity. Ronan Keating, Stephen Gately, Keith Duffy, Shane Lynch and Mikey Graham made up the band and Boyzone was born. They achieved 16 top three singles, six of which were Number 1s and four Number 1 albums, selling over 12 million copies worldwide.
When Ronan Keating announced he wanted to take a break from Boyzone, Walsh continued to manage his career, helping him to score a Number 1 hit with ‘Life is a Rollercoaster’ in 2000. Ronan Keating’s solo album shot to Number 1 and a further two hit singles were released from the album, which went on to sell over 4.4 million copies. Walsh and Keating later decided to part company. Following on the back of this, the pair had an acrimonious falling out. Walsh reportedly told the press: “He (Keating) wasn’t the most talented one – he’s not a great singer and he’s got no personality.” Keating told Closer magazine: “That man absolutely tried to ruin me and if he thinks we can ever hug and make up he can forget it. I haven’t heard from him in three years and I wouldn’t have a problem if I never saw him again. He’s not a nice character.” The feud did not last however, with Walsh publicly reconciling with Ronan Keating on the ITV2 programme Ghosthunting with Louis Walsh and Boyzone.
Walsh’s next discovery, Westlife, proved a hit from the start. Record companies were falling over themselves to sign the band and in 1998 Simon Cowell of RCA signed them up in a multi-million pound deal. Ronan Keating also stepped in to help co-manage the band’s first few singles and albums. Their first single ‘Swear it Again’ reached Number 1 in the UK charts and their next 6 singles all followed suit. The group currently hold the record for achieving the most consecutive number 1 singles. Under Walsh’s guidance, Westlife have accumulated an overwhelming 14 UK Number 1s and six number 1 selling albums. Walsh was also the mastermind behind Lulu’s duet album featuring stars such as Paul McCartney, Sting and Elton John and the album was Lulu’s most successful release to date, reaching Number 4 in the charts.
In 2001, Walsh made his first foray into television on the Irish version of Popstars. The show made Walsh a household name in both Ireland and the UK. The following year, Walsh appeared as a judge on Popstars: The Rivals, along with Pete Waterman and Geri Halliwell. Walsh went head to head with Pete Waterman on the show, with his all girl band Girls Aloud battling it out against Pete’s boy band, One True Voice. Girls Aloud won hands down and their debut single achieved the coveted UK Christmas Number 1.
In 2004 Walsh first appeared as a judge on The X Factor, and found chart success with G4, who have since gone on to have two chart topping platinum selling albums. Walsh returned to the programme in 2005 and it was during this year that he was reported to have quit the show mid-series, alleging that he was being treated badly, particularly in reference to a contestant drenching him with water during a live recording.
His departure was short-lived and upon returning, he found success again as mentor to Shayne Ward, who went on to win The X Factor that year. Ward’s debut single ‘That’s My Goal’ became the Christmas number one in 2005 and spent four weeks at the top of the charts, with his debut album selling millions of copies to date.
His appearance on the show became an issue again in March 2007 when ITV announced that Walsh would not be returning for another series of the programme. However, this never came to pass and the prolific manager was back again as a judge on the fourth series.
Boyzone also reformed in 2007 with the intention of just touring but the band released two singles and an album, with plans to release another.
Walsh, meanwhile, found success once more in the fifth series of the programme, during which he mentored the groups, with boyband JLS coming second to Alexandra Burke. The band has since achieved success selling over 1.3 million albums worldwide, topping the charts and securing a number of awards. Walsh’s success with the groups saw him land this category once more in the sixth series of the show, with one of his chosen acts, John & Edward, dividing opinions in the country. He could not take them as far as JLS, but came close in 2010 when the last act in his over-28 category, Mary Byrne, made it to the semi final.
In October 2009, Walsh was absent from three X-factor shows due to the sudden and unexpected death of Boyzone member Stephen Gately when he was on holiday in Majorca.
He attended the funeral on 17October 2009 and said at the time: “I’m in complete shock. I was only with him on Monday at an awards ceremony.
“We don’t know much about what’s happened yet. I only heard after The X Factor and we will rally around each other this week. He was a great man.”
Walsh has now made a return to the X-Factor judging panel, which sees some new faces in the shape of Gary Barlow, Kelly Rowland and Tulisa Contostavlos for 2011. The judges find out which category they will be mentoring on the 25 September showWalsh has warned the X-Factor finalists to be “scared” as new judges Barlow and Rowland will not hold back when it comes to their comments.
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