Paddy Keenan's father John came from Westmeath, his mother, Mary
Bravender, from Co. Cavan. Both Paddy's father and grandfather were
uilleann pipers and his father was a pipe-maker. Paddy's brother Johnny
was a well-known banjo player up to his death in March 2000. In 1955
the family settled in Ballyfermot, Dublin, under a government
settlement scheme. Another Traveller family to settle in Ballyfermot
around that time was the Fureys. Their father Ted was a fiddle player.
They were neighbours and friends of the Keenan's. Johnny also taught
the pipes and has been an important influenced Paddy's style. Paddy
himself took up the pipes at the age of ten and at 14 played on stage
in Dublin's Gaiety Theatre at a travellers' benefit show. .
He went on to play with the Johnny Snr and brothers Tommy and Brendan,
a whistle player, in a group called The Pavees in a regular session in
Slattery's in Dublin's Capel Street.
At 17 he travelled around Europe and England. Returning to Ireland
after a few years, he began playing around Dublin with singers Micheal
and Triona Ní Dhomhnaill. Fiddler Paddy Glackin then joined
them followed by flute player Matt Molloy. Next came accordeon player
Tony MacMahon and then Donal Lunny. They called themselves "Seachtar,"
the Irish word for "seven."
Seachtar's first major
concert was in Dublin. They played a few more gigs around the country
before Tony MacMahon left. When the rest of the band decided to turn
professional Paddy Glackin was replaced by Donegal fiddler Tommy
Peoples, (later replaced by fiddler Kevin Burke). Renamed The Bothy
Band in 1975, they became one of the most exciting traditional groups
anywhere in the Seventies. They played for the last time at the
Balisodare Festival in Co Sligo in 1979.
After the break-up of the Bothy Band, Paddy Keenan spent time in
Brittany and West Cork before eventually going to America and settling
in the Boston area in the early 1990s. In demand in the US for
festivals and coffee houses, he is also a regular visitor to Ireland
and the Continent. He has composed and arranged two pieces for the
soundtrack of the film Traveller. He also recorded
with fiddler James Kelly.
People can't help connecting Paddy's flowing, open-fingered style of
playing with that of those other great travelling pipers, Johnny and
Felix Doran, but both Paddy's father and grandfather played in the same
style. Although often compared to Doran, Paddy was 19 or 20 before he
heard a tape of Johnny Doran's playing; his own style is a direct
result of his father's teaching and influence.
Na Keen Affair, Paddy Keenan, 1996, Hot Conga
Port an Piobaire, Paddy Keenan, Gael-linn
Doublin', Paddy Glackin and Paddy Keenan,
1979, Tara, CD & LP