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Ottawa Valley musician Michael O'Reilly dies of cancer

O'Reilly was one half of the comedy duo Delmer and Cecil, known for bits like their song, "Meadow Muffin Blues."
Gary Perrin and Michael O'Reilly, known for their work as Delmer and Cecil. O'Reilly, right, died this week of cancer. Supplied/Delmer and Cecil Facebook page

An Ottawa Valley Country Music Hall of Fame inductee and an icon of Canadian bluegrass is being fondly remembered, after he died this week from cancer.

Michael O'Reilly passed away on Tuesday, June 1. He was 77.

"Michael was a very, very talented man," said Gary Perrin, a longtime friend. "A musician, singer, performer, emcee, an all-around nice guy."

O'Reilly had a lifelong connection to country and bluegrass music, teaching himself guitar, five-string banjo and mandolin. His bluegrass band, Cody, is regarded by many as Canada's premiere bluegrass band. 

Perrin and O'Reilly both worked at CHEZ 106, where O'Reilly was the station's first morning host. O'Reilly had heard about a character Perrin used to perform at another radio station in a different city, and asked him to reprise the role for a bit on the air.

"So we made up a new character, which was Delmer and Cecil, which are two Valley names," explained Perrin.

Delmer and Cecil went on to become fixtures on CHEZ, and the duo recorded an album. The pair even took their performances onto the stage after becoming well-known for their song, Meadow Muffin Blues.

"I said to Michael, 'I can't perform, I've never been on stage before!'" Perrin told CityNews Ottawa. "He said, 'we'll do it.'"

Perrin, who was CHEZ 106's vice president and sales manager at the time, said it was O'Reilly who taught him how to sing and to perform on stage. As Delmer and Cecil, the pair helped raise funds for charity, including the John Howard Society.

O'Reilly's music career included being selected as Entertainer of the Year eight times by the Canadian Bluegrass Society. He was inducted into the Ottawa Valley Country Music Hall of Fame in 1996.

O'Reilly leaves behind a son and a daughter, who is also a musician.

Perrin said his friend's memory and music will live on, but he'll be sorely missed.

"Delmer's still here, but Cecil's not."

Jason White

About the Author: Jason White

Jason is an award-winning reporter at CityNews Ottawa. He brings about two decades of experience in news, with stops in Halifax and Toronto.
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