Thursday, November 04, 2021

THROWBACK THURSDAY: Happy Birthday Tommy Makem


On this day 89 years ago, Tommy Makem, who with his pals The Clancy Brothers helped popularize traditional Irish music in the U.S. during the 1950s and '60s, was born in County Armagh in Northern Ireland.

Happy birthday, Bard of Armagh!

Makem, whose parents both were musicians, emigrated to these United States in 1955, first going to Dover, New Hampshire 

According to his obituary in The New York Times:

His uncle took him to New York in 1956 for the St. Patrick’s Day parade, at which he met two of the Clancy brothers, Paddy and Tom. He already knew Liam Clancy, who soon returned from Ireland and joined the group. After one of their first appearances, Pete Seeger, the folk singer, and Alan Lomax, the folklorist and musicologist, encouraged them. Bob Dylan, in the early days of his career, solicited songwriting tips from Mr. Makem.

Tommy, who played banjo, tin whistle and other instruments, began recording with the Clancy boys as a group for Tradition Records. Their first release together was titled The Rising of The Moon: Irish Songs of Rebellion. After an appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1961, the group signed with Columbia Records.

Makem left the Clancys in the late '60s to pursue a solo career, but he always was best known as the Clancy Brother who wasn't really a Clancy Brother. In 1975 he teamed up with his old bandmate Liam Clancy to form a duo that lasted 13 years.

He died in 2007 at the age of 74.

So let's get on with the music.

Here's Tommy with the Clancys on Ed Sullivan in 1961:

Here Tommy & The Clancys perform "We Want No Irish Here" at a 1963 White House event for President John F. Kennedy:

Here's Tommy & The Clancy Brothers in 1965 on the very first episode of Pete Seeger's  television show Rainbow Quest on WNJU-TV (Channel 47), a New York City-based UHF station . Tommy sang lead on "Butcher Boy":

Finally, here's Tommy in his later years singing "Four Green Fields."

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