Honored posthumously, February 3, 1995
Sean McGlynn was born and raised in Tynagh County Galway, an area sandwiched in between two districts long famous for the musicians they have produced; Ballinakill and Aughrim Slopes. When once asked how he learned the music, Sean replied, "I grew up in the middle of it." According to Sean’s theory, the music just sort of “rubbed off.” The first instrument he learned to play was the fiddle and his teacher was a Kathleen Keavaney. He later moved over onto the button accordian and he was quick to point out that the late Paddy O’Brien and Joe Cooley were two of the players who influenced his style the most. Before emigrating to the United States, Sean had played with the Leitrim, Killimor and Ballinakill Ceili Bands, all famous traditional dance bands in Ireland at that time.
Sean came to the United States in 1959 and settled in Boston. While living in Boston, he continued playing the music he loved. Along with Mike McHale (Longford-flute), Eamon Flynn (Abbeyfeale-fiddel), George Stanley (Balinasloe-drums), Des Regan (Moycullen-accordian), Frank Neylon (Claire-flute), and Paddy Cronin (Kerry-fiddle), they formed The New State Ceili Band. This group was the resident band at Bill Fullers New State Ballroom for some time. While in Boston, he met a young, gentle, and warm hearted East Galway girl named Maura Connaughton. After about four years in Boston, Sean and Maura moved to New York and were married in Astoria, Queens. They lived in Queens until they moved to Mineola, Long Island in 1968.
Sean was somewhat of an institution among Irish musicians on the East Coast. He played the music the way he felt it should be played. His easy going charm and marvelous good nature made him a natural favorite with all who knew and played with him. He was a gentleman in every sense of the word, and as an accordian player, he was second to none, especially in a session. His playing was simply the driving force behind any session he took part in.
Like many other top musicians, he was adverse to competition playing and so never entered the All-Ireland competitions. He was nevertheless recognized as one of the finest button accordian players in America. From 1976, when he appeared at the Bicentennial American Folklife festival in Washington, until the time of his death, Sean was a magnificent ambassador for Irish music in the United States. He played concerts and festivals all over the land and was the Kingpin of two national tours of Irish musicians sponsored by the National Endowment of the Arts. He attracted a vast number of followers and friends everywhere he went, whether they were master musicians, beginners, enthusiasts, or just people who were curious. Sean had time for them all.
Sean was cut down in his prime by an unknown assailant’s bullet on a Queens street on January 15, 1983. And as we gather here tonight to honor his memory, we can say thank God we knew him for he left us with a host of happy memories to treasure.
Go nDeanfadh Dia trocaire ar a anam.