Early American scene

Early American scene

On the Blarney Pilgrims podcast John Carty was talking about the session developing in the 50s and 60s (London primarily, but probably simultaneously in other places too) by Irish expats who would get together and share tunes and keep the music going. And that beforehand the music lived in house dances and then, as the clergy wanted to get people out of the houses and into more controlled environments, ceili bands.

So what about in America? Where, for example, was Francis O’Neil hearing the tunes he collected? Are we still talking about house dances, or early examples of sessions, or what?

Directions to references and resources as well as answers appreciated.

Re: Early American scene

O’Neill apparently used his zillion community connections to find Irish musicians to collect tunes. He was the top cop in Chicago, whose turn of the century police force had a lot of Irish in it. The Irish (like every other immigrant group) maintained close ties so it wasn’t hard for him to meet newcomers with tunes (btw "Sergeant Early’s Dream" is named after one of O’Neill’s proteges).

I know that in New York and Boston, many Irish played in ceilidh and other dance bands, which is how they would have gotten to know each other and had tunes mostly at each others’ houses.

The session as we know it really got going in the 1960s when musicians at the fleadh would gang up and play tunes in pubs together after their performances or competitions. Pub owners liked the entertainment (brought customers in for the mere price of buying the musos a few pints) and this was the 1960s, when the folk renaissance all over the West was happening so loads of young ppl excited to play and socialise. Back then you had to know ppl and pubs personally (no Internet etc0, and there were way fewer recordings of ITM, and Ireland was incredibly poor, so ppl had to network and play together…hence the session.

Re: Early American scene

New York, Boston and Chicago were the big 3 for ITM in the States. Those 3 influenced probably more than any other locales. I would bet that any city/town that hosted any of the Irish immigrants in large enough numbers, would have had groups of musicians that gathered every now and then to play for their own and other’s enjoyment. It would require a bit of research to see if there was an outlet for them to play at (a pub, bar or dance hall that catered to the immigrants). My bailiwick on the Front Range has a pub that was founded right after WW 1 and catered to the Irish that came here to work in the steel mill. It’s changed owners many times over the years, so finding out if they hosted sessions or ceilidhs would require looking back through old newspapers to see if mention was ever made.
Not an impossible task, but a lengthy bit of sleuthing would be required.