Friday, June 26, 2009


After some years away from performing, I'm excited to be getting out there again.

Liz and I spent this winter brushing up on the music I loved as a teenager when I first learned to play the guitar. And Liz has become a great bodhrán player! (Her favorite things in kindergarten were the little percussion instruments in music class.)

My cousin Paddy taught me how to play the guitar when I was 16 and we spent hours and hours -- and hours! -- playing songs by Bob Dylan; Pete Seeger; The Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem; Peter, Paul & Mary; the Beatles and others. One of our first public performances (other than Sunday Folk Masses at Holy Cross Church in Harrison) was in his high school's variety show. We played a couple of Mamas and Papas songs and they went over very well.

During my college years, I played at a lot of campus coffee houses. The music at that time was perfectly suited for a voice and a guitar. When I was 19, my sister Sheila arranged for an audition with Joe Finn. I played for Joe at a friend's house and he liked what he heard. He asked me to come right over to the McCann Hotel's "Silver Edge Bar" in Belmar, where he was headlining, to play for the crowd there. It went OK and Joe offered me a job playing there. (I was under-age so I had to be bonded to be able to play in a place for over-21-year-olds.) I then played at the Vailsburg Inn in Newark, the Norwood Hotel in Avon, and other places around the State. When I started teaching, I dropped out of the music scene for some years till I was offered a spot playing and singing in Ed Finn's country western band, "Firewater." That gig lasted for more than 20 years!

Last summer, Tommy Makem died and it really saddened me. He was one of my lifetime musical heroes and I knew I would miss his being in the world. I wrote to Liam Clancy expressing my sadness -- and my appreciation for their music over the years. Then, in November, Joe Finn passed away. When I had learned about the seriousness of his illness, I emailed him to thank him for his gift of music and for all he had done for me personally. He very kindly thanked me for my message. I was more motivated than ever to return to Irish music -- partly as a tribute to Joe and his music.

So, Liz and I have started approaching restaurants and pubs in the area that have "Irish Nights." We're also interested in playing for private parties -- no late hours, though! ("Been there; done that!") We'll see how it goes. Wish us luck!

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