Artists > Tom Doherty

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Take the Bull by the Horns

Here is a display of single-row button accordion playing which will stagger you with its vitality and energy. Tom Doherty is well into his ninth decade, and plays with all of the verve of anyone one-third his age. He reveals his Donegal roots in a variety of highlands and mazurkas, which a...more

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ABOUT TOM DOHERTY

Tom Doherty, born in Mountcharles, Co. Donegal, in 1913, was one of the last of the great melodeon players in America who played in the old-country style long since vanished from the Irish traditional music mainstream.

Both of Tom’s parents were musicians; his mother played the fiddle and his father, who was a farmer, played the single-row melodeon. His area of Donegal was filled with music, particularly fiddle and accordian. People would get together for music and singing at house parties during the winter and during the summer the musicians would play for crossroads dancing.

Doherty started on the fiddle but was much more successful with the melodeon. He never had any formal lessons on the instrument, but picked it up on his own, putting in long hours of practice, and from listening to other players. In 1948, Tom emigrated to New York City because there was no work in Donegal. He got a full-time job in the cold storage business and on weekends played music, often appearing at some of the famous Irish dance hall in New York. In 1952, Tom married Mary Philbin, from Castlebar, Co. Mayo, and they settled in Brooklyn where he lived until he passed away.

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