O'Keeffe was born in Glountane, Castleisland, County Kerry,into a large family where his father was the local national school headmaster. He was reared by his maternal grandparents. The area, part of the Sliabh Luachra region, was well-versed in music and Padraig was taught to play the fiddle by his uncle, Cal. He went to Dublin to train as a national school teacher and on qualifying returned to teach in his father's old school in 1915. He was not happy in the job and left about 1920. The remainder of his life was spent teaching and playing the fiddle in his distinctive style. He also composed a number of tunes including Johhny Cope, a six-part variation on a traditional Celtic melody. He frequently played in Jack Lyon's pub in Scartaglen. Among his pupils were Denis Murphy, his sister Julia Clifford and Johnny O'Leary. His music was collected in 1947-49 by Seamus Ennis and later by Seamus MacMathuna. These recordings were broadcast on Radio Éireann (RTÉ), and later re-used by the BBC in 1952, bringing him wide fame. The 1940s recordings were later issued on a CD "Padraig O'Keeffe: The Sliabh Luachra Fiddle Master" in 1993. He is considered the most influential player of the Munster style in the 20th century.
Since 1993 the "Patrick O'Keeffe Traditional Music Festival" has been held in Castleisland in Kerry. There is no great consistency in the spelling of the anglicised version of his name. For example Topic issued "Kerry Fiddles" (1993) by Padraig O'Keefe, Denis Murphy and Julia Clifford (one "f"). RTÉ issued "The Sliabh Luachra Fiddle Master" by Padraig O'Keeffe (two "f"s).
- Padraig O'Keeffe, the man and his music, Dermot Hanafin