In the town of Clifden, County Galway, the ancient folk traditions of Ireland were very much alive during the boyhood of William F. (Bill) Sullivan. Born in 1909, he grew up immersed in the folk music and culture which pervade that land. When he emigrated to the United States in 1927, he brought with him his love of Irish folk music
In New York City, Bill became part of the extensive Irish community which spreads throughout its five boroughs. With no formal training, but with an impeccable ear for tunes, he played the button accordion with legendary musicians like Larry Redican, Louis Quinn, Jackie Roach, and Pete Conlon. To satisfy an insatiable appetite for new tunes, he often had his wife, Rose, listen to radio broadcasts while he was at work and whistle the tunes for him when he came home.
The tunes, however, are only the starting point for an Irish folk musician; at the heart of this music is a love of complex ornamentation. Bill developed a rich personal style of ornamentation which is his signature as an artist. This recording offers an opportunity to hear a range of tunes, many of them rarely documented, in the inimitable style of a man whose artistic heritage is rooted deeply in Ireland’s past. This music, which has been at the very core of his life, exudes authenticity and raw energy. The improvisational feeling of an Irish session has been captured with the technology of the digital recording studio. The characteristic clicks and sighs of his custom decorated Baldoni and Bartoli 10-button accordion, made in 1930, punctuate this small sampling of William Sullivan’s extensive repertory.
William Sullivan died at his home in Sayfeville New Jersey, in August, 1989. We are pleased to reissue this recording on compact disc and to include four additional selections of his solo playing. This recording, as well as the accomanying tunebook, can be found at www.samplerfolkmusic.com.
William Sullivan – button accordion
Mitzie Collins – hammered dulcimer & piano