Paddy Keenan

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Paddy Keenan
Paddy Keenan ACF.jpg
Background information
Born (1950-01-30) 30 January 1950 (age 71)
Trim, County Meath, Ireland
Occupation(s)Musician, songwriter
InstrumentsUilleann Pipes, Tin Whistle
Years active1964 – present
Associated actsBothy Band, The Bucks, Tommy O'Sullivan

Paddy Keenan (born 30 January 1950) is an Irish player of the uilleann pipes who first gained fame as a founding member of The Bothy Band. Since that group's dissolution in the late 1970s, Keenan has released a number of solo and collaborative recordings, and continues to tour both as a soloist, and with singer/guitarist Tommy O'Sullivan.[1][2]


The early years[edit]

Paddy Keenan was born in Trim, County Meath in 1950 to John Keenan (an Irish Traveller) and Mary Bravender Keenan (of settled descent). Though the Keenan family abandoned the Traveling lifestyle early in Paddy's life, he spent much of his youth contending with discrimination, including regular physical confrontations. His father and grandfather both played the pipes, and his father spent many nights playing along with piper Johnny Doran. When he was about six years old, Keenan was introduced to the tin whistle by his brother Johnny (a notable Irish banjo player), and began playing the pipes around age nine.

Recognizing his son's interest, John Keenan tutored Paddy, along with neighbouring children, including Finbar Furey and Davy Spillane. During this period, the Keenan household was an ongoing session. At age fourteen, Keenan played his first major concert at the Gaiety Theatre, Dublin, followed by a few years of touring with a number of musicians, including his father, as "The Pavees." At seventeen, Keenan went to England in an attempt to escape the strictness of his father's household, and ended up busking around London, singing and playing blues and rock songs on guitar for most of the following four years. After nearly selling or throwing away his pipes several times, he discovered in 1971 that busking with them was far more lucrative than with the guitar, and resumed his piping career.[3][4]

Early groups and The Bothy Band[edit]

Returning to Dublin, Keenan played regularly with his brothers and father at folk clubs and various venues around Ireland. In 1975, he was part of a band called 'Seachtar', from the Irish word for 'seven people.' This band was the genesis of The Bothy Band, of which Keenan was a mainstay from its inception to its demise in 1979.

A solo career[edit]

Keenan's first (and eponymous) solo album appeared in 1975, and he also duetted with fiddler Paddy Glackin on the 1978 album Doublin. He subsequently recorded a second solo album for Gael-Linn Records, Poirt An Phiobaire, in 1983.

After rejecting the chance to join Moving Hearts in the early 1980s, Keenan's musical career went into abeyance. However, in the 1990s he relocated to North America, rediscovered his musical talents and in 1997 issued Na Keen Affair, recorded at Dadyeen Studios, St. Johns, Newfoundland, Canada. Supporting musicians include Tommy Peoples and Patrick Moran on fiddle, Arty McGlynn and Tommy O'Sullivan on guitar, as well as Newfoundland musicians. This led to an ongoing musical relationship with the London-born, Kerry-based guitarist Tommy O'Sullivan. Together, the pair issued The Long Grazing Acre in 2001, touring jointly to promote the album. According to their respective websites, Keenan and O'Sullivan have continued to perform together periodically since 2001.

The 2008 documentary Dambé: The Mali Project tells the story of his 3000-mile cross-cultural musical adventure with Liam Ó Maonlaí (Hothouse Flowers) and friends, and features performances from the Festival au Désert.[5][6]

Pipes and Pipemakers[edit]

Upon demonstrating and aptitude for, and interest in the pipes around the age of ten, John Keenan got Paddy a full set of pipes by John Clarks.[3] Six years later, in 1966, Keenan's father bought him a full set made by the Crowley family, which (with the addition of a Leo Rowsome chanter), Paddy played until 2000.[7] At that point, Keenan received a full set from maker Dave Williams of Grimsby, England, who died a few years later in a car accident.[8] This set, which was a copy of the previous Crowley set, remains Keenan's primary instrument.[9]


Solo albums[edit]

With Paddy Glackin[edit]

  • Doublin' (1978)

With Tommy O'Sullivan[edit]

As A Member of The Bucks[edit]

As A Member of Éire Japan[edit]

With Frankie Gavin and Junji Shirota (ja)

  • Éire Japan (2015) [10]


  1. ^ Seida, Linda. "Biography: Paddy Keenan". Allmusic. Retrieved 13 June 2010.
  2. ^ Grant, Pete. "Paddy Keenan California Concerts". Archived from the original on 15 July 2011. Retrieved 13 November 2010.
  3. ^ a b Lee, Zina. "Paddy Keenan King of the Pipers (interview)". Celtic Cafe. Retrieved 10 November 2010.
  4. ^ "About Paddy (official site)". Retrieved 10 November 2010.
  5. ^ Dambé: The Mali Project at IMDb
  6. ^ Dambé: The Mali Project Official website Archived 11 March 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ "Paddy's Rambles (official Paddy Keenan site)". Archived from the original on 12 November 2010. Retrieved 12 November 2010.
  8. ^ "Dave Williams Obit". BBC. Retrieved 13 November 2010.
  9. ^ Block, Melissa. "Piper Keenan Celebrates St. Paddy's (interview)". Retrieved 10 November 2010.
  10. ^ Éire Japan, retrieved 31 October 2015

Further reading[edit]

  • Colin Harper "Piper back" Folk Roots, no. 168 (June 1997), pp. 26–27

External links[edit]

Sound sample[edit]