Louis Walsh is one of the most successful music managers of all time
Born Michael Louis Walsh in County Mayo on the 5th August 1952, Walsh moved to Dublin in his 20’s to get started in the music industry. Walsh’s first taste of success came relatively late 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 and within three days of its release had catapulted to Number One 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. Boyzone was born, they achieved 16 top 3 singles -6 reached Number One- and four Number One 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 One hit with ‘Life is a Rollercoaster’ in 2000. Ronan Keating’s solo album shot to Number One 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 and acrimoniously fell 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 One in the UK charts and their next six singles all followed suit -the group currently hold the record for achieving the most consecutive Number One singles. Under Walsh’s guidance, Westlife have a total of fourteen UK Number Ones and six Number One selling albums. Walsh was also the mastermind behind Lulu’s duet album featuring stars such as Paul McCartney, Sting and Elton John and her most successful release to date, reaching Number Four 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 One.
In 2004 Walsh first appeared as a judge on ‘The X Factor’, and found chart success with G4, who went on to have two chart-topping platinum-selling albums. Walsh returned to the programme in 2005 but 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, 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 in droves.
Walsh’s appearance on the show became an issue again. In March 2007, ITV announced that Walsh would not be returning for another series, however, this never came to pass and he completed the fourth series without incident.
In the same year Boyzone reformed 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 X Factor’ during which he mentored boyband JLS, they came second to Alexandra Burke. Nonetheless, the band enjoyed chart success selling over 1.3 million albums worldwide, topping the charts and securing a number of awards.
In the sixth series of the show one of his chosen acts, John & Edward, inspired a love/hate rift in the public imagination. He could not take them as far as JLS but another artist came close in 2010. Mary Byrne, the last act in his over-28 category, 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. Walsh was very effected by the death of Gately, who died in his sleep of a pulmonary edema, and was quite quiet on the showbiz front for a while.
In June 2011a man falsely accused Walsh of groping him in a nightclub after a Westlife concert. The man was later imprisoned for in September 2011 and Walsh successfully sued The Sun newspaper for allegedly directing the incident.
In the same year Walsh returned to the X-Factor judging panel alongside Gary Barlow, Kelly Rowland and Tulisa Contostavlos.
In 2012 Walsh featured in an ITV documentary ‘The Talent Show’, in which he discussed his time as a judge on ‘The X Factor’ and ‘Popstars: The Rivals.’ In the same year he appeared on panel show ‘Mad Mad World.’
Most recently he’s popped up on US Version of the show whilst managing six acts, Ronan Keating, Shayne Ward, Shane Filan, Union J, Myles and Connor and, lately, Hometown.