Honored February 14, 1997. R.I.P.
To musicians and dancers alike, Felix Dolan is the “Piano Man” of Irish traditional music in the New York region, perhaps the entire nation. Held by many as the best ceili band keyboard player ever, Felix is widely respected as much for his personal qualities as for his music.
Born of a button-box playing Mayo mother and a Leitrim father, Felix first played with the Bronx AOH Division 9 All-Accordian Band, but soon converted to piano with the encouragement of Jimmy Garrety and Pete McAleer.
The legend of Felix Dolan really began at the first “Night of Shamrocks,” in 1957, when Paddy O’Brien brought the 20-year-old on stage to play with himself and Paddy Killoran. From then, the performers Felix has accompanied form a litany of the greatest Irish traditional musicians in the US: Paddy Sweeney, Mike Flynn, Andy McGann, Larry Redican, Jack Coen, Paddy Reynolds, Billy McComiskey, Brian Conway, John Nolan, Joanie Madden, Joe Madden – a list too long to print!
In 1958, Felix was a founding member of the New York Ceili Band, one of the finest ever to play on either side of the water. Playing for Gaelic League ceilis in the late ‘50’s and the McNiff Dancers practices in Manhattan also led to Felix meeting and marrying Joan, still a leading ceili and set dancer.
There are some musicians, and people, whose lives just cannot be easily summarized. That Felix Dolan is easily the best ceili band keyboard player we’ve ever had the delight to enjoy, and that he well deserves a place in the Comhaltas Hall of Fame is, we’re sure, beyond argument.
For all you’ve given, in your music and as the man you are, Felix, go raibh mile maith agat, agus comhghairdeas!