Barney McKenna RIP
I’ve just been told that Barney McKenna, the legendary Dubliners member, has died.
I’ve just been told that Barney McKenna, the legendary Dubliners member, has died.
A fantastic musician and a legend to the country. I always loved his unique style of picking on the banjo, such as this:
Won’t be forgotten, and we are in debt to what he has done for traditional Irish music. R.I.P. Barney
The last of the original lineup. I’ll drop into O’Donoghues later. May he rest in peace.
A true pioneer
The end of an era - May he rest in peace
I’m sad to hear of this. The Dubs were what they were, but I remember watching them at Cambridge Festival in (I think) 2002 and Barney was playing a solo that brought a tear to my eye as I wondered if I would ever see him playing live again. I never did.
At a time when Ebeneezer Goode was all the rage, I used to put down the car windows, turn up the radio, and drive round town with Barney playing The High Reel at full volume.
I shall have to put a Dubliners cd or, better yet, an album on tonight and reminisce…
Really sad news. What a great character and likeable guy he was too.
Suddenly according to the radio.. he was having a cup of tea and chat this morning and then took a turn. I never saw the Dubliners live but I did see Barney play with Tony MacMahon in a concert a few years ago in Leighlinbridge - it was a good night..
My first experience of the Dubliners was before I was even born. My parents went to watch them at Birmingham Town Hall when my mom was 8 months pregnant. She recalls me kicking and jumping around in the womb to the sound of The Dubliners. Somehow, I don’t think that’s an exaggeration, either.
The Dubliners were my first foray into traditional irish music. As I tried to fumble my way through their jigs and reels, I realised a passion like I’d never felt before.
For the last three St Patrick’s Days, I’ve seen the Dubliners live. The first year, I thought Barney seemed quite bad, the second year the same. But I saw him just two and a half weeks ago, and he seemed better than ever. I was sitting directly at his feet, and felt in the presence of a very special man. Even when someone started mouthing off at Barney for his renowned rambling, the whole crowd was behind him, shouting down the heckle. Hearing this now, I’m genuinely shocked, and very upset.
Were it not for Barney, and The Dubliner’s influence, I wouldn’t be playing this music now, I wouldn’t have met many great friends, and my liver would probably be a lot healthier.
RIP Barney. You were a true legend, and will never be forgotten. I’ll have a good few tunes and drinks tonight in your memory.
Rest easy Barney.
Very sad news that Barney, the great legend and my favourite Irish musician, has passed away..
It’s because of his amazing playing that I took up playing Irish music and I’m very grateful for that and I will definitely play some tunes in his memory on my tenor banjo today.
May he rest in peace!
Some great clips on RTEs site…..
I was actually watching one of them when i heard the news (a bit spooky)
First Earl Scruggs, now Barney. It’s been a bad week for banjo.
When learning to play guitar in high school and getting back to realizing Dad’s music was actually pretty good, I came across his version of My Love is in America. I didn’t know what the instrument was, but I knew I wanted in. The sound of him on the banjo brings up many memories and emotions.
Go on, Barney!
It was his playing of Chief O’Neill’s favourite that got me playing this music forty years ago.
He will be greatly missed but never forgotten.
Go on Boy!
What about the way he sang Fiddler’s Green!
I picked up the banjo because I wanted to play the Mason’s Apron the way Barney did; I still do! I met him just once, in their dressing room after a gig in Huddersfield back in the early seventies. He took time to talk banjos with a star struck teenage me, even though the rest of the Dubs were getting stuck into the gargle.
His playing had something I haven’t heard in any other banjo players, even the fine crop that are around nowadays. May he rest in peace, or rather, have a rare old time with his old band mates in wherever banjo players end up.
When legends die it brings up fond memories. But with Barney it not only brings up fond memories but also fond emotions.
Remembering how his fast and technical reels could stir up passion, happyness and pleasure.
How his slow airs on the banjo could stir powerfull emotions
And how his singing (i’m thinking in particular of ‘Someone to love you’) could articulate lonelyness, desire and longing.
It is not only a pleasure to have lived in his era - it’s an honor
Ar dheis Dé, go raibh a hanam uasail
i sang it for him tonight
The is a general ignorance amongst the general pubic concerning the various types of banjo: tenor banjo, 5-string banjo, ukelele banjo etc.
Every tried to expain to a non-musician exactly what a tenor banjo is? You can talk about the tuning, the fingering, the number of strings, the playing style etc . - but you’ll mostly just get a blank look of non comprehension.
However, if you just say: "Like the banjo that Barney McKenna of the Dubliners plays", you’ll generally be understood.
That’s the measure of his fame and influence that he had.
My favourite Barney McKenna clip:
Kitty Come down from Limerick:
Yesterday afternoon I picked up a tenor banjo in a market, tuned it up, and played a reel. Coincidence ? I think not !
I do have to say that there’s good tenor banjoists, and bad tenor banjoists, likewise for their instruments, and I’ve come across too many of the latter in both cases to be a fan. But obviously Barney was an inspiration to many.
If there is a god, he must really love banjos, Barney and Earl within a week, and if there is a heaven, he’s up there now playing along with Ronnie, Luke and Ciaron.
"The last of the original lineup. I’ll drop into O’Donoghues later. May he rest in peace"
Agree he was a fine man and excellent musician.If I was in Dublin O’Donoghues would be a good place to be for a few pints of the black stuff to his memory. RIP
My grandmother gave me a Dubliners album on my 14th birthday. Being a sand-for-brains California knuckle-head at the time, I was initially disappointed since I was hoping she’d gotten me the latest Ted Nugent, Aerosmith or AC/DC LP. However, Barney’s playing caught my ear immediately. I fell in love with the sound of it. His playing and Luke’s voice are what really got me hooked on the stuff.
RIP Barney.Fair play to Barney ,he got me into the music originally before i heard of the Gerry O Connors and Enda Scahills of the tradition.I owe him and they owe him bigtime
My father tells a story of seeing Barney sitting playing under a tree at a Fleadh in Monaghan (or possibly Cavan) when he was about ten tears old; which made Barney about twenty. Dad remembers this as the first time he (or possibly anyone really) heard banjo in Irish music.
raymond, the earliest recordings of tenor banjo playing Irish tunes are from 1916, so by the time your dad heard Barney, it was old hat.
Sad news indeed. What an inspiration to so many. for me so many of The Dubliners’ instrumental recordings hang out there, and none less than Barney’s.
@will, not everyone has had the access to recording machines, and it’s quite possible that raymond’s dad never heard a banjo being played live.
Here in Tasmania a dear friend is trying to sort out some thingy for me so that I can listen to lots of recordings.
I don’t know what it might or might not do for my playing, but even in this age, not everybody is welded to some form of recording/playback device.
All the best
Brian, I wasn’t remarking on his dad’s experience, but rather this: "…the first time he ***(or possibly anyone really)*** heard banjo in Irish music." [my emphasis added]
I’m simply pointing out that lots of people had heard this music played on banjo well before Barney ever picked a string.
I see the Telegraph says McKenna "almost singlehandedly introduced the tenor banjo to the forefront of Irish music."
That overstates it by miles. What McKenna did was popularize the GDAE tuning on tenor. A generation of players before McKenna played the tunes on banjo, including top notch players like James Wheeler and Mike Flanagan. The instrument was common in ceili bands long before the Dubliners ever set foot on stage.
I don’t mean to demean McKenna’s talent and contribution to the music. Just giving other musicians their due.
That Telegraph statement, Will, would perhaps be more valid if you added the words "…in Ireland". And maybe not "introduced", but undoubtedly "popularised".
He was certainly the first musician I heard playing traditional Irish music on banjo, through my parents records of "The Dubliners".
RIP, Barney, and thanks for the music.
As an aside, Where can one hear recordings of James Wheeler or Mike Flanagan ?
Wheeler and Eddie Herborn were supposedly the first people to record Irish music on 78 rpm. Mike Flanagan extensively recorded with the brothers.
Mike Gaffney could be mentioned as an early banjo player (with John McKenna) although maybe not a tenor banjo one.
Non of them should be hard to find.
The story goes that Ellen O’Byrne de Witt sent her son Justus to scout for musicians in Gaelic Park in the Bronx, and he found Eddie Herborn and James Wheeler playing there.
The result was that a deal was struck with Columbia and a recording of ‘The Rocky Road to Dublin’ and ‘The Stack of Barley’ was made in 1915.
There seems to be a recurring statement that Herborn "accompanied" wheeler on the box. Here is the recording - IMO Wheeler is backing Herborn:
I can’t find any concrete evidence that Wheeler was playing the tenor banjo. It seems to be disputed. Anyone got evidence?
Anyway, it’s a far cry from Barney’s approach.
Not that it really matters but the Rocky Road 78 rpm was actually their last one, from 1917. I always thought Miss Dalton (=Thornton) was their first but apparently that was wrong too, The Maid behind the Bar and the Rambler were their first sides, from 15 september 1916.
So the Columbia listings appear to indicate, Prof.
The story I related came from Mick Moloney’s sleeve notes on ‘Irish Music From the East Coast of America".
I have a recording of The Flanagan Brothers featuring tenor banjo, they were playing in the USA in the 20s ? but is anyone in any doubt that 99.99% of todays players were inspired by one man, Barney Mckenna.
Thanks for the music Barney R I P
There’s a very moving account of Barney’s burial at http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2012/0410/1224314567526.html.
Long live Barneyland.