Paddy Canny & Frankie Gavin




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Published on 7 Apr 2008
Two jigs played at The Crosses Of Annagh Pub, just outside Miltown Malbay,County Clare in that great east Clare style of playing.
Paddy was born in 1919 in Glendree, a townland in the parish of Tulla, County Clare. He was the youngest of three sons born to a farmer, Pat Canny, and his wife Catherine MacNamara. Traditional music was an integral part of the Canny household. Paddy first learned how to play the fiddle from his father, who taught many local children. He also learned a thing or two from Pat MacNamara, a blind fiddler who for many years would come to stay with the Cannys during the winter months. MacNamara would also give music lessons to the neighborhood kids, and to Pat Canny himself. In fact, it can be truthfully said that the very distinct style of East Clare fiddling originated in and spread from the Canny home. Let that blow your mind for just one second: this entire style and tradition can be traced back to a single household.

Paddy passed on what he had learned by taking students of his own. One of those first students was a boy named P.J. Hayes, who was just a few years younger than Paddy and lived a mile away. Paddy taught P.J. how to play the fiddle when they were both in their early teenage years. Another fiddler, Martin Nugent from Feakle, encouraged Paddy to join him in playing at dances at his uncle's house. Soon the young fiddler and his friend P.J. could be heard regularly at barn dances, weddings, and ceilis all over the area. P.J. would grow up to be a legendary fiddler in his own right.

Ask yourself: how often do you see 12 and 13 year olds teaching each other how to play musical instruments? I can't help but wonder what kind of world we would be living in if they did. I'm going to go out on a limb and speculate that it'd be a better world than the one we're living in now.

I digress.

Paddy's passion for the traditional music was great, indeed. The liner notes of Paddy's recent solo recording tell of how he would bring the fiddle out to the garden and the meadow to learn tunes written for him by other musicians, including his good friend and fellow fiddler Martin Rochford. This passion would lead him to form (with P.J. Hayes) one of Ireland's most legendary ceili bands, The Tulla Ceili band, in 1946.

"If you can't play a tune," Paddy has said, "life isn't worth living."

Paddy played with the Tulla Ceili Band for two decades. During that time, he became a bit of a superstar, travelling to Dublin to make live performances on Radio Eireann, recording 78 rpms (only a few of which are available today, most unfortunately), appearing on R.T.E. television in the 60's, and winning the senior All-Ireland fiddle championship in 1953. The irony of it all is that Paddy is notoriously shy, and even more humble. A true gentleman, he would reluctantly step into the limelight, but never muscled his way there. He didn't have to, what with passion, sincerity, and fiddle chops speaking for him.

Like his father before him, Paddy was a farmer by trade. Often his passion and vocation fought for airtime. As a boy, his meadow practice sessions would get in the way of work on the farm; as a man, so would life on the road. Eventually he would leave the Tulla Ceili Band, citing "too much travelling" as one reason. "The cows had to be milked twice daily -- that cut out the music." Today he lives on the same farm and in the same house where he first learned music as a boy, with his wife Philomena Hayes (sister of P.J.). He continues to play music, at the age of 83. He is a quintessential example of what we call a "living legend". Paddy passed away on 29th June '08 --may he rest in peace .


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