by Charlton “Chuck” Stanley, Weekend Contributor
“…to say John Joe Kelly plays the bodhrán, is like saying Mount Everest is a bit of a climb” – Sidmouth Music Festival, Paul Saunders, March ’99
St. Paddy’s day is upon us, and in the spirit of the Emerald Isle, some authentic Irish music is in order. Ireland has a long history of treasuring its poets and musicians. The tambourine was the percussion instrument of choice going back into the dim mists of Irish music history. Sometime about the late 19th or early 20th century, the bodhrán as we know it now came into existence. The first recordings of the bodhrán date to the 1920s. The great Irish composer, Seán Ó Riada (John Reidy) declared the bodhrán to be the native drum of the Celts. He described them as having a musical history predating Christianity, and was a native instrument of southwest Ireland.
John Joe Kelly’s interest in percussion began early. When he was seven, borrowed his older sister’s tin whistles. Unfortunately for the whistles, he used them as drumsticks. He managed to dent them in the process. A friend of the family observed John Joe’s interest in drums and bought him a 10-inch bodhrán. A percussion legend was born.