Honored February 21, 2009
Born and raised in the Bronx, John Nolan’s first introduction to Irish music was listening to his father play a Baldoni D/C# button accordion. He learned the fundamentals of the B/C box from John Glynn, learned the music from Martin Mulvihill and learned to play from Billy McComiskey. From the very beginning, the music created a special bond that has led to great, personal & lifelong friendships.
While attending Fordham University in the mid 70’s, John’s favorite house for traditional Irish music was the Bunratty Pub on Kingsbridge Ave. There he met and played with the best that Irish music had to offer from near and far. Some of the regular “characters” were Johnny Cronin, Andy McGann, Joe Madden & both Joe (accordion) & Joe (banjo) Burke – to name a few. Banjo Burke very kindly included “John Nolan”with Billy McComiskey and a great friend & mentor, Sean McGlynn, in his song entitled “The Old Bunratty Crew.”
In 1982, John journeyed to Listowel, Co. Kerry, to compete in the All Ireland Fleadh Cheoil Na hEireann and became the first American to win the Senior All Ireland Championship on both the two and three row button accordions. This fateful trip led to the birth of Rent-A-Crowd; a wonderful group of musicians and dancers that were and are ready to initiate, join or crash a party to make it a huge success. This also led to a resurgence of traditional music sessions and parties in the Catskills for the next several years!! Based on the success of the Catskills, John and his long-time friend & musical partner—Pat Keogh, released A Taste for the Traditional. Besides the music of this top notch New York duo, this recording also featured Jimmy Kelly on the drums and a host of relatively unknown artists such as Keith Sammut, John Reynolds, Jerry O’Sullivan, Mary Coogan and Joanie Madden as well as Tom Bermingham on vocals and guitar.
In 1989, John married Mary Lehane. The wedding was a gala celebration of traditional music & dance. As a wedding gift, Mary presented John with the Paolo Soprani “Gray Box” A few years later, in collaboration with the late Jim Coogan, John introduced the “Boxeen” line of button accordions. But to this day, the “Gray Box” is still his first and only choice.
A few other highlights of John’s career; John was invited & performed at the Aonach Paddy O’Brien in Neenagh, Co. Tipperary — a festival honoring the late, great accordion player and composer Paddy O’Brien. Occasionally, he is invited to perform with Joanie Madden & Cherish the Ladies when they perform with a symphony orchestra. In January of 2000, John released his solo recording A Rake of Reels which was met with great success. He is also highly sought after to back up balladeers on stage and in the studio. To date, he has been on over a dozen recordings with such great singers as Dermot Henry, Michael “Jesse” Owens & Carl Corcoran.
John’s other musical pursuits include teaching, composing and a highly respected tuning & accordion repair shop from his home in Rockland County, where he lives with his wife Mary; daughter Maura and son Brendan.