Tom Carmody, Accordion & Fiddle Player, Kerry & New York

Tom Carmody, Accordion & Fiddle Player, Kerry & New York

Now playing: Billy Brocker, reel / Tom Carmody, fiddle
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  1. Billy Brocker, reel / Tom Carmody, fiddle
  2. Crowley’s, reel / Tom Carmody, fiddle
  3. Untitled, reel / Tom Carmody, fiddle
  4. Untitled, reel / Tom Carmody, accordion
  5. Hand me down the tackle, reel / Tom Carmody, fiddle
  6. The fisherman’s daughter, reel / Tom Carmody, fiddle
  7. Tom Carthy’s jig / Tom Carmody, accordion
  8. Grandpa Tommy’s céilí band, reel / Tom Carmody, fiddle

Tom Carmody, Accordion & Fiddle Player, Kerry & New York

Accordion and fiddle player Tom Carmody (1893–1986) from near Listowel, Co Kerry, was a prominent professional musician in New York from the 1920s to the late 1950s. Through his musician father Maurice ('Moss') he had inherited music of a local blind fiddle teacher Jeremiah Breen, and had initially learned on fiddle and melodeon. In 1925 he emigrated to New York, and in the 1930s came to prominence as a member of Sligo fiddle player James Morrison’s instrumental quartet, which recorded for the Columbia label. He was a virtuosic exponent of the two-row accordion system in the Irish tradition that is sometimes known among players as the ‘outside-in’ system, a system that is now virtually obsolete. Carmody later played for other dance-bands including the Harp of Erin Irish Radio Orchestra and the Leitrim House Entertainers. In 1959 he retired with his wife to Ballybunnion, Co Kerry, and in his final year, when he was still playing at the age of 92, he was featured on an RTÉ Radio 1 programme in the Irish Phonograph series.

Tom Carmody’s last accordion, a two-row D/C# Iorio New York instrument, is currently played by a relative, Danny O’Mahony. He is speaking on Carmody and playing his accordion at a Na Píobairí Uilleann lecture-recital currently available from NPU. Columbia recordings of the James Morrison Instrumental Quartet in New York in 1935 and 1936 are to be heard on a double cassette The Professor issued by Harry Bradshaw (Viva Voce, Dublin, 1989).

The recordings of Tom Carmody presented here were made at an unknown date, probably in his home in Ballybunnion, by Breandán Breathnach. Carmody was obviously advanced in age at the time, but he played some unusual tunes that may be from his earliest days. Two of the tunes (4 & 8) are his own compositions, and two (6 & 9) are later compositions by a younger accordion player, Martin Mulhaire, an indication that Carmody was continuing to add tunes to his store.

For a selection of tunes from a tutor for Carmody's accordion system, see here.

With thanks to the Breathnach family, Danny O’Mahony, Charlie Harris, and Na Píobairí Uilleann.

NC, JS & DD, 1 October 2013