Paddy Cronin – Copley recordings

Ellen O’Byrne, born about 1875 in Co. Leitrim, emigrated to New York City at only 15 years of age. There she married Dutch immigrant Justus DeWitt and they opened a real estate and travel agent business together in 1900. Ellen was evidently an irrepressible fan of her native music, and the travel agency soon began to retail sheet music, instruments (including high-quality Italian-constructed accordions made by Paolo Soprani and Baldoni but rebranded under the O’Byrne DeWitt name,) and the few recordings of Irish music then available. In 1916, Ellen O’Byrne persuaded Columbia Records to start producing more authentic Irish recordings, starting with Eddie Herborn and John Wheeler, accordion and banjo. In doing so, she is considered to have essentially created the Irish-American recording industry. Soon, the O’Byrne DeWitt shop started offering Irish recordings on their own label.

After Ellen’s death in 1926, one son, James, inherited the New York store, and another son, Justus Jr., moved to Boston to open his own enterprise under the O’Byrne Dewitt name at 51 Warren Street, Roxbury. The O’Byrne DeWitt business flourished in Boston as it had in New York: an unlikely hybrid of travel agent/music shop. Under a new label, Copley, he soon began recording some of the local talent, and in the early 1950s, Paddy Cronin recorded a number of sides (solo fiddle with piano except for a few duets with flute player Frank Neylon) that became very popular and were essential in creating his worldwide reputation as a musician of note.

Here’s a sample — Paddy Cronin plays The Doon reel and Quinn’s reel:

Note: A number of these discs are labeled with names other than the ones in common use today, and others are entirely mislabeled. I’ve tried to use the correct names on the mp3 files, but can’t make any guarantees!

 

Paddy and the boys in the recording studio:
Paddy and the boys

Download the complete Paddy Cronin Copley recordings here.

Thanks to the members of the Irish Traditional Music at 78 RPM Facebook group for info and resources!

Paddy Cronin on Radio Éireann, 1949

In 1949 Séamus Ennis was working for Radio Éireann making field recordings of traditional musicians and singers. He recorded Paddy Cronin in a farmer’s house in nearby Ballyvourney. It’s said that Paddy never heard these recordings broadcast as he emigrated to America soon after. These tracks document his playing in his “purest” Sliabh Luachra style. He sounds very much like his neighbor Denis Murphy here, especially in the reel playing. Contrast with his recordings made after he arrived in America and began to incorporate the Sligo style which was prevalent among his peers there.

SAMPLE: Paddy tears through two reels: The Dairymaid and The Morning Star:

Note: It’s possible that not all of the tracks linked here are from the Ballyvourney session in 1949, but some of them were unlabeled when I received them and as they all have a similar sound and style, I’ve lumped them together. If they are mis-attributed, I apologize.

Download the Paddy Cronin 1949 recordings here.

Traditional Music from the Kingdom of Kerry

Jimmy Doyle (button accordion)

Dan O’Leary (fiddle)

Shanachie 29007 – 1977

A lovely recording of very traditional playing by two musicians from Gib, near Killarney, made in 1977, and sadly still unavailable on CD. There are no reels at all, and only one set of double jigs – the rest of the album consists almost exclusively of Kerry slides and polkas played with the strong rhythmic emphasis on the backbeat characteristic of the Sliabh Luachra region. It is very clear from their sparse, unobscured style that these musicians are of that generation whose music was played, at least publicly, for purposes of dancing, rather than for simply the pleasure of listening. — Robert Ryan

(Also a close runner-up behind The Star Above the Garter for Most Psychedelic Sliabh Luachra Album Cover Art)

Jimmy Doyle and Dan O'Leary front and back

The liner notes have more than the usual sprinkling of non sequiturs and misinformation, but if you have a pinch of salt handy, you can read them here.

SAMPLE: Some classic polkas to give you an idea

Full track listing and other info: https://www.irishtune.info/album/KoKerry/

Download this out-of-print album: http://ceolalainn.breqwas.net/download/Jimmy%20Doyle%20%26%20Dan%20O%27Leary.zip

The Star of Munster Trio

Julia Clifford (fiddle)

John Clifford (piano accordion)

Billy Clifford (flute)

Topic – 12TS310 – 1977

Recorded between 1964 and 1976 this album features fiddler Julia Clifford, sister of Denis Murphy, her husband John on accordion, and their son Billy on flute. Much of it was recorded around a single microphone in Eric and Lucy Farr’s kitchen, so the sound quality isn’t brilliant, but the quality of the music shines through, and Julia Clifford’s playing is, as always, a thing of beauty. — Robert Ryan

SAMPLE: Though the full trio’s sound has its qualities, Julia’s solo tracks are really something special. Here she glides through two gorgeous polkas:

There’s some pretty in-depth notes by Alan Ward starting on page 26 of his Topic booklet here.

julia john and billy clifford - star of munster trio front and back

Download this hard-to-find album:
http://ceolalainn.breqwas.net/download/Julia%2c%20John%20%26%20Billy%20Clifford.zip

The Humours of Lisheen

Julia Clifford (fiddle)

John Clifford (piano accordion)

Reg Hall (piano)

Topic – 12TS311 – 1977

This is the third installment of Topic’s Music from Sliabh Luachra series, and features the playing of husband and wife John and Julia Clifford, accompanied on piano by Reg Hall. It was recorded between 1975 and 1976, and most of the tracks were put down on two separate occasions in London, apart from track 10, which was recorded at Jack Lyons’ Bar, Scartaglin, and track 20, recorded at Dan Connell’s Bar, Knocknagree. The tunes on this album were all familiar to the Cliffords before they left Lisheen, Co. Kerry, with the exception of ‘Tap the Barrel’, a reel they picked up whilst living in Newcastle West, Co. Limerick, between 1953 and 1958. So, unlike The Star of Munster Trio, which consists almost entirely of tunes well-known on the London Irish music scene in the 1970s, this album gives an insight into the repertoire of the Sliabh Luachra region as it was played in the 1930s. As is to be expected, a number of tunes are associated with the Sliabh Luachra fiddle master, Pádraig O’Keeffe, from whom both Julia and her brother, Denis Murphy, learned their music. The production on the album is very basic, and the playing is fresh and unrehearsed, but the casual brilliance of Julia Clifford’s playing is an absolute joy to behold. — Robert Ryan

There’s some pretty in-depth notes by Alan Ward starting on page 28 of his Topic booklet here.

SAMPLE: The aforementioned Tap the Barrel set:

Track listing and more info: https://www.irishtune.info/album/HmrLshn/

Download this out-of-print album:
http://ceolalainn.breqwas.net/download/John%20%26%20Julia%20Clifford.zip

Kerry’s Own

Paddy Cronin (fiddle, flute)

Shea Walker (guitar)

Gogey McCullough (bodhrán)

Outlet – OAS 3002 – 1977

I’ll probably think of something to say about this excellent, if in some ways problematic, recording. At some point.

SAMPLE: Paddy gives us his take on Jenny’s Welcome to Charlie:

Download a bodhran-less version of this hard-to-find album: http://ceolalainn.breqwas.net/download/Paddy%20Cronin.zip

The Rakish Paddy

Paddy Cronin (fiddle, flute)

Mary Irwin (piano)

Fiddler Records – FRLP 002 – 1975

Recorded by Frank H. Ferrel in September 1975, this is an exceptionally rare recording of the famous Sliabh Luachra fiddler and flute player Paddy Cronin. He is joined on the record by Mary Irwin, who provides unexceptional vamped piano accompaniment, in accordance with the standards of the day. Nonetheless, it’s a nice record, with solid fiddling from an exceptional player. The highlight of the album for me is probably Paddy Cronin’s unique rendition of the Maid Behind the Bar, which he calls the Haymaker Reel. It’s closely related to the variant of the Maid commonly played in C major, which is known as Jimmy McBride’s. — Robert Ryan

Some interesting reminiscences from Frank Ferrel, found on thesession.org:

“Stationed in Boston during my stint in the Navy back in the mid-1960’s, I had occasion to frequent some of the music venues, not the least of which was the Greenville Tap in Dudley Square, then on its last legs as the demographics were rapidly changing and the predominantly Irish culture was moving to the suburbs. One of the frequent players there was Paddy Cronin. I watched and listened, and didn’t make his acquaintance until ten years later visiting Boston again with my wife and her family. Having developed a keen interest in the fiddle mix of New England, I got together with Mark Wilson and Bill Nowlan at Rounder Records, then in its infancy, borrowed a Revox reel-to-reel tape recorder from Bill, and Mark and I approached both Paddy and Franco-American fiddler Tommy Doucet about recording them. We set up in Paddy’s living room in West Roxbury, contacted local pianist, Mary Irwin, and set about recording Paddy. This was in 1974, well before internet forums, cell phones, or digital recording. Paddy insisted on including some home recordings of him playing flute. I remember we had a bit of a discussion about that, as I thought the difference in recording quality might detract from the overall sound, but Paddy persisted and we included his flute recordings in the final mix.

“Regarding the pianist, Mary Irwin, she was a staple of the Boston Gaelic community, originally from Cape Breton, she was a regular at both Irish and Canadian sessions. Her son, Eddie Irwin, was also a great player and can be heard on a number of recordings by Boston-based Cape Breton fiddler, Joe Cormier. I remember that she wouldn’t so the recording with Paddy unless we had his piano tuned. She was a perfectionist in that regard. A great example of her blending the Cape Breton style of melody doubling can be heard on their version of Tobin’s Jig, which is essentially a fiddle and piano duet.

“To take issue with “[…]’s” previous comment that the typos were probably not intentional, I included the tune titles as provided by Paddy – and once again, not being as fully immersed in the genre as some at the time, I trusted the source for grammar. It is wonderful that we now have the web to provide countless resources and forums for ethnomusicologists, both professional and amateur, who can comment, correct, and speculate as to spelling, sources, and folklore. As for myself, I’m content to simply play the fiddle these days, and leave the recording to others. Fiddler Records was an ill-fated hope and dream which I realized would take much more time and money than I could invest at the time. Fiddler 001 was Tommy Doucet, “The Down East Star,” and Fiddler 002 was the aforementioned Rakish Paddy. I’ve continued to produce a few recordings over the years, but always on some existing label.”
Submitted by Frank Ferrel.

SAMPLE: Here’s that Haymaker:

PC TRP front and back

Download this out-of-print album:
http://ceolalainn.breqwas.net/download/Paddy%20Cronin.zip