Charlie Mulvihill

Honored posthumously, April 25, 2014 

Charlie Mulvihill was born in Manhattan on May 15, 1917, the second child of Tom Mulvihill – Miltown Malbay, Co. Clare & Mary (O’Connor), Shanagolden, Co. Limerick. He learned concertina from his father starting around the age of 9 or 10 and made the switch to accordion soon after. His father was a trolley car driver and owned a speakeasy back in the 20’s. He was my father’s best friend. Tom Mulvihill passed away in February 1953. 

He played many house parties with his dad in the 20’s and 30’s. He was drafted into the service in December 1940. He was in until discharged on Christmas day 1945. He spent most of his service in the Pentagon until the push to invade Japan in 1945 and was on Okinawa when the war ended. He did play his accordion at various Army functions. He met Noreen Fleming on the day of his discharge and they were married July 14, 1946 and lived initially in the South Bronx and had two children, Tommy in July 1947 and Geraldine in March 1951. 

His friends were his contemporary trad musicians of the day, Lad O’Beirne, Paddy Killoran, Dennis Murphy, Paddy Sweeney and Jackie Roche. These gentlemen graced each other’s apartments with many all night long music sessions. My father worked at IT&T in the Wall Street area as a teletype operator until poor health forced him to retire in 1965. On the weekends he played the Ballroom circuit (Jaeger House, Tuxedo Ballroom, Star of Munster to name a few) and work was plentiful in the 1950’s playing for dancers. 

But his musical journey was just beginning. He started to teach me all the tunes he knew and my sister and I recorded all of them on his reel to reel tape recorder. There are volumes of those, many with his original compositions. He would record all the house sessions of musicians of the 60’s and 70’s, notably Andy McGann, Larry Redican, Dennis Murphy and Paddy Reynolds. 

He would play gigs in the Catskills and the Rockaways in the summertime (Mullan’s, O’Neill House in East Durham) and house parties the rest of the year and of course, every Sunday would be at one of the Irish Traditional Musical Clubs (Paddy Killoran Club at the Irish Institute in Manhattan, Patsy Touhey Club in Brooklyn, Michael Coleman Club in the Bronx). 

He was a quiet man, beloved by his fellow musicians as a man who knew more tunes than anyone. He would have me record tunes from books that he didn’t know. I told him I could teach him to read in 15 minutes but he said NO, I learn by ear! He gave his heart to his family and his music and unfortunately passed away too young at age 58 on August 9, 1975 in the Catskill Mountains. His legacy will now live on thanks to his induction into the Hall of Fame. He would wonder what the fuss was all about!!! 

– Tommy Mulvihill