Brendon Dugan still singing at 17

Brendon Dugan and Sue Fenton will be sharing a Leap Day birthday.

It’s dangerous messing with superlatives – richest, poorest, biggest, best or rarest.

Like last week in the Weekend Sun when we featured Leap day birthday girl Ilma Shergold – she has a birthday every four years, and is turning 21, going on 84.

A one in 1461 chance we pointed out, only 4,000,000 worldwide who share a Leap day birthday. Very rare we insinuated.

That was inviting trouble. And it came, on cue, out of the blue from Bayfair, with a big, booming chocolatey smooth baritone voice from yesteryear.

“Yes, I am a Leap Day baby too,” says country singer Brendon Dugan – the man whose show business career launched aged 13 with his first recording, an album by 16, and winning the ‘New Faces’  TV talent quest about the same time.

Born in 1952, he will be celebrating his 17th real birthday on Saturday, February 29, but of course is actually 68. “I use it as an excuse for the way I behave.”

And just down the road from Brendon in Bayfair is another Leap Day baby. “Sue Fenton was born in the same Christchurch hospital an hour before me. We always catch up on the day and say: ‘gidday’ or have a drink.” Suddenly, from being a rarity last week, these Leap Day babies are everywhere.

And 55 years after that first record, Brendon Dugan is still at it, still singing, still performing, still touring.

He’s had two songs on the Australian country music charts in the past 14 months. One called ‘Honky Tonk Heroes’ went to number one for four weeks and stayed there for 29 weeks. Another called ‘Daddy was a Boxer’ is number three. “It’s weird, I am more famous in Australia than at home. But I get air time over there.”

He would prefer to talk country music but will talk birthdays. He lives off publicity.

“Being a Leap Day person has never been a bother. In fact it’s been a constant source of fun and banter.” And once it worked to his advantage. It was during the years of compulsory military training and the ballot for the call-up.

“The 28th of February came up, as did the 1st of March. Don’t know if they stuffed up or that’s the way it was.” Either way the country singer with a birthday falling on February 29 every four years slipped through the cracks. It saved him from a stint in the military and perhaps deployment to the Vietnam War. And he just carried on singing.

“Last Saturday I did the Paeroa Highland Games – it was cool.” And most weekends he has gigs, tripping in his tour coach, packing venues around the country. And Australia.

 Of course he looks older than 17 but at the other end of the spectrum, people tell him he looks young. “Music has kept me young.”

Wife Sally seized the Leap Year opportunity on live television four years ago to propose to her husband. And so they renewed their wedding vows. According to Irish tradition, every fourth year on the 366th day, it’s OK for a woman to propose to her suitor. Brendon and Sally had been married for 30 something years at that stage, so obviously Brendon is a keeper.

And they’ll be having a birthday bash on the 29th - the fine detail is a secret. “Sally tells me about half the surprise and not the rest. She’s a bloody dag.”

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