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Friday 20 October 2017

'We use the word legend an awful lot, but Tony was the real deal' - tributes pour in for Tony Fenton

Tony Fenton when he was inducted into the PPI Radio Awards Hall of Fame last September
Tony Fenton when he was inducted into the PPI Radio Awards Hall of Fame last September
Tony Fenton
Golden Oldies (Left to Right) Peter Collins, Jon Kenny, Tony Fenton, Ian Dempsey, Mike Ryan , The late Gerry Ryan, Bill O'Donovan, Lorcan Murray, producer Lucia Proctor and Simon Young in the 1990s
Ray D'Arcy
Tony Fenton
Ian Dempsey
Former Westlife star, presenter Nicky Byrne
DJ Tony Fenton is photographed presenting Michelle Williams, Kelly Rowland and Beyonce Knowles, members of 'Destiny's Child' with an Award to celebrate their album reaching double platinum sales in Ireland.
Tony Fenton, Rachel English and Joe Duffy in 1997

Emotional and heartfelt tributes have been paid to legendary DJ Tony Fenton, who has died following a long battle with cancer.

The broadcasting supremo, who passed away in St Vincent's Hospital Dublin yesterday morning aged 53, was remembered as a "true legend" whose positivity was "infectious".

Fenton was one of the country's best-loved DJs in an impressive career that spanned four decades and tributes poured in from colleagues Ian Dempsey and Ray D'Arcy as well as stars like Ronan Keating and Nicky Byrne.

 

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Golden Oldies (Left to Right) Peter Collins, Jon Kenny, Tony Fenton, Ian Dempsey, Mike Ryan , The late Gerry Ryan, Bill O'Donovan, Lorcan Murray, producer Lucia Proctor and Simon Young in the 1990s

Golden Oldies (Left to Right) Peter Collins, Jon Kenny, Tony Fenton, Ian Dempsey, Mike Ryan , The late Gerry Ryan, Bill O'Donovan, Lorcan Murray, producer Lucia Proctor and Simon Young in the 1990s

READ MORE: Tony last interview: 'I came home after the last exam and told my mother that I wanted to work in radio'

Thousands of heartbroken fans and colleagues flooded social media with heartfelt tributes to the man with the velvety voice. Fellow radio stalwart Ian Dempsey said he "could not believe" he had lost his close friend.

"We have known for some time that he was unwell, but we weren't expecting this - it's just a major shock. It's very upsetting."

The breakfast show host revealed one of his proudest life moments came when he showed up for work at Today FM's old Abbey Street HQ.

"I came in one day to find the whole building was covered in one of those giant signs that said 'Today FM, the home of Tony Fenton' and I just thought 'Yes! That's my friend, and here he is'. The positivity of the guy was infectious," he said.

Gift Grub star Mario Rosenstock revealed that nobody knew how to live life like the radio legend.

"He lived life like a Carlsberg ad," said the voice artist who regularly impersonated his colleague.

"He believed everything was going to go great today and magically it nearly always did for Tony."

READ MORE: 'He'll always be one of the greats,' says pal Dave Fanning

Mario remembered Tony as a mischievous and warm gentleman who "used to stand up when a woman would come near the table".

"This is a guy who would sit wide-eyed for half an hour as you would sit and talk about your life," he added.

Today FM boss Peter Canning said Tony was a "leading light" for the station and added he offered listeners a reprieve from dreary daytime radio.

RTE star and former Today FM colleague Ray D'Arcy also offered his respects to Tony during a moving on-air tribute.

"Very sad the news about Tony Fenton," he said at the start of his new show on RTE Radio One. "I knew Tony for over 25 years - 'The Tones', 'Tony Fentoni'," he told listeners.

READ MORE: Legendary DJ Tony Fenton dies after cancer battle

"We use the word 'legend' an awful lot but Tony Fenton was a true legend. He was the real deal, a real DJ.

"Others would change their persona when the red light came on... Tony lived that life. That was him."

Ray recalled attending the stars 30th birthday bash in Stillorgan where music was supplied by Aslan.

"K.I.T.A.S.B. was printed on the invitations," said Ray, "I couldn't figure it out at all.

"I said Tony what does it mean, and he said 'Keep It Tight And Sound Butch'," laughed Ray.

Like many, Ray also highlighted Tony's pure love of music. He said he would often ask him his favourite song to which Tony would reply: "It depends on what day it is."

However, the former Today FM star said one song stuck in his mind.

"So Tony Fenton. RIP. The great disco in the sky. We dedicate this to you," he said before playing Aretha Franklin's Say a Little Prayer.

Celebrities flooded Twitter with tributes for the Wall Of Sound and Hotline showman.

hotline

"My heart is aching today. Life really can be cruel sometimes. Sending all my love to the friends & family of the one & only Mr Tony Fenton" said Sile Seoige.

Westlife star turned DJ Nicky Byrne said: "He was the voice of our childhood, listening to The Hotline doing our homework."

"Tony Fenton you will be missed. There will forever be a void on Irish radio that will never be filled. #yourethewinner you always were," said Ronan Keating.

Born Anthony Fagan in 1961, the presenter grew up on Dublin's northside in Glasnevin, before moving to the southside and settling in Stillorgan.

Along with former 2fm DJ Barry Lang and fellow Today Fm star Ian Dempsey, Tony began his career at the decks in a mobile disco during his teenage years.

Aged just 17, Fenton landed his first gig with pirate radio station Alternative Radio Dublin in 1978.

He then moved on to work on Sunshine Radio and Radio Nova.

In his first national radio job, the DJ joined RTE 2fm in 1985 where he worked on many shows, including the hugely popular The Hotline.

He helmed the show for 18 years until his departure in 2003.

To the delight of his thousands of listeners, Fenton made a return to the airwaves in September 2004 on Today FM, where he continued to work until being forced to quit to receive chemotherapy to treat prostate cancer.

The Dublin native received many awards over the course of his career, including Music Broadcaster of the Year at the 2008 PPI Awards, for which he was nominated again in 2011.

After 40 years working in radio, the much-loved presenter was inducted into the PPI Radio Awards Hall of Fame last November, where he joined other broadcasting greats including Gay Byrne, Marian Finucane and Larry Gogan.

hnews@herald.ie

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