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Arts & Entertainment folk music memories music

The Clancy Brothers: Re-Imagining Irish Folk Music


The Clancy Brothers Wore Aran Jumpers On Stage
A Little Boy Wearing an Aran Jumper

Paddy and Tom Clancy came to America intending to develop lucrative acting careers. Little did they know they were destined to succeed enormously in the music business while making a tremendous contribution to the form, awareness, and appreciation of classic Irish folk music.

After arriving in Greenwich Village in 1951, the enterprising duo quickly established themselves as successful Broadway, Off-Broadway, and television actors. During this period, the brothers also created their own theater production company which they named: “Trio Productions.” To help raise money for the new company, Tom and Paddy sang old Irish folk songs they had learned as children. They rented The Cherry Lane Theater in the Village and performed shows regularly on Saturday nights. Soon, they were joined by notable folk singers like Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, and Jean Ritchie.

Liam, the youngest of the three brothers, came to America in 1956. He joined his brothers in the singing group, along with his good friend, Tommy Makem. The group came to be known simply as “The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem.” The group distinguished themselves with their rousing style of singing Irish folk songs and ballads, while staying true to some of the slower and more mournful tunes.

The group adopted a trademark uniform after their mother, it is said, read about the inclement New York winters. She sent her boys Aran jumpers (sweaters) to keep them warm. The boys wore the sweaters for the first time at the Blue Angel nightclub in Manhattan as part of their regular winter attire. The group’s manager, Marty Erlichman, had been searching for a kind of logo-look for the group. When he saw the sweaters, he knew he had found the “special look” he was searching for. Erlichman asked the group to wear the sweaters for their first TV appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. After that appearance, the Clancy Brothers and Makem wore the sweaters whenever they performed.

The Sullivan TV appearance aired to an audience of forty million. The TV show and the group’s nightclub appearances attracted the attention of a Columbia Records executive. They signed a $100,000 recording contract (a staggering sum at the time) with Columbia and recorded seven albums with the studio. While the members of the group changed from time to time, their success and influence on modern folk music has endured. In all, the group recorded 24 albums on various labels. In 1964, their albums accounted for one third of all the record albums sold in Ireland.

I first saw the Clancy Brothers at Carnegie Hall when I was a callow lad of seventeen. I went to the concert with my best friend. He remains my best friend today, even though he is half a world away. The song I’m about to sing has two names: “Will Ye Go Lassie Go” and “The Wild Mountain Thyme.” It’s a Clancy Brothers favorite. This one’s for you, Danny Boy.

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folk guitar music parenting

Feeling The Heart


Mother And Daughter In A Field Talking About Life

“The time that’s left is yours to keep.” These words come at the end of the chorus in the song “See Here She Says” by Kate Wolf.

While I find all of the lyrics in this song beautiful, this sentence hit me smack dab in the heart. I can picture a mother teaching a child about life. She is telling the child about the importance of dreams, and to use his or her time wisely. Use it well, not only for yourself, but also for others.

Certainly, love, beauty, and a full range of human emotions come through Kate Wolf’s music. Perhaps I can feel her heart even more, now that she has passed into spirit.

Here is my cover of “See Here She Said.”

Loving Couple Laying Down After A Picnic In An Open Field
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music

Simple–Honest–Transparent–Beautiful


Young Woman Playing Acoustic Guitar

In a ten-year career tragically cut short by Leukemia, Kate Wolf wrote and performed over 200 songs. Her music is poignant, simple, honest, and transparently beautiful. She performed at venues throughout her native state of California. Since her passing in 1986 at the age of 44, Kate’s audience has grown steadily as people like me discover her music. “September Song” (recorded on Kate’s 1979 album “Safe at Anchor”) is one of my favorites.

Here’s my cover of the song.