Joe Burke


Born in Kilnadeema, Loughrea, County Galway where his mother played accordion. He first started playing on his Uncle Pat Burke’s accordion at age 4 and as he grew listened to and learned from such as Michael Grogan(accordion) and Micheal Coleman the Sligo fiddle legend. Early influences locally were the Downey brothers who played respectively flute, fiddle and accordion and Martin Grace, accordion, who visited the house during threshing. There was also the Ballinakill influence not too far away and the Moloney and White families.

His accordion mentors included Paddy O’Brien (of Nenagh, Co. Tipperary), Joe Cooley and Kevin Keegan. He has also been influenced by the fiddle masters including Micheal Coleman and Paddy Kiloran and fiddler/composers Paddy Fahy, Paddy Kelly and Sean Ryan. Joe also came under the spell of pipers such as Seamus Ennis, Leo Rowsome, Tommy Reck and Wexford’s Larry Grogan. Joe got his first B/C accordion at age 15, B/C after hearing Paddy O’Brien who had a huge impact on all accordion players from the 1950’s on. Joe himself is now regarded as one of, if not the top exponent of the B/C style of playing accordion. Joe originally played a Paolo Soprano box but in later years went for a custom made model by Frenchman Bertrand Gaillard. He led the Leitrim Ceili Band who won the All-Ireland Céilí Band title in 1959 and won the Senior button accordion title that year as well as the following. Joe also recorded some 78s for Gael Linn in 1959.

He lived in the U.S. from 1962 to 1965 where he played with Andy McGann (with whom he and Felix Doran recorded “A tribute to Michael Coleman”), Catherine Brennan Grant, Larry Redican and Paddy Kiloran. Joe played with Sean Maguire when he came back to Ireland and they recorded “Two Champions” in 1971. “Galway’s Own”, his first solo cd, was made that year also.

In 1973 he released the first of his recordings with Charlie Lennon, “traditional music of Ireland”, came back with McGann and Dolan in 1979 with “The Funny reel”, followed by another solo “The tailor’s choice” this time on flute in 1983. In 1986 he released “Happy to meet sorry to part” with Michael Cooney and Terry Corcoran followed in 1992 by “the leg of the duck” and “the bucks of Oranmore”(with Lennon), his last solo in 1996. He was back in the U.S.(St. Louis) from 1988 to 1992.

His home is now in Kilnadeema with his wife, accordion and guitar player,Anne Conroy from where they both play and teach musicJoe remains in pretty constant demand for teaching and concertperformance all over the world, a tribute to his playing and his character.(JS/FV/NL)Joe Burke is among the greatest exponents of Traditional Irish Music. Hissheer musical brilliance, his knowledge and love of his land, its music, andculture has earned him an immortal place in the history of Irish Music andFolklore.

His technical virtuosity is unique, but that is just part of his great artistry.Joe traces the so urces and melodic forms of Irish Music back to therhythms and cadences of Irish speech and language, and feels that theyhave an intimate relationship with each other.To him the music is expressive and emotional, evoking the Irishcountryside and the varying humor of the people.From East Galway, Joe Burke is widely regarded as the masteraccordionist who started the huge revival of interest in the instrument.A legend in his own time, many of the younger generation, now famousplayers themselves, have been inspired by his style and technique. He hastraveled all over the world, and his recordings have been widely acclaimed.His live performances, as well as his own charm and wit have made him afavorite with all lovers of Irish Music.

Joe Burke gave his first public performance in November 1955. He hasbeen performing Irish Traditional Music for forty years and has made manyrecordings for various companies including Gael Linn, Outlet, Shanachie,Shaskeen, Green Linnet and New Century Music.His first recordings for Gael Linn were released on 78rpm discs. They werethe last 78s ever released in Europe.His recording career has spanned five decades and all the formats from78s to CDs. His classic solo albums have sold world wide and the earlyones are considered “Collectors Items”.

Apart from his solo albums Joe has recorded with many musical greatsincluding Andy McCann and Felix Dolan, Sean Maguire and JosephineKeegan, Michael Cooney and Terry Corcoran, Charlie Lennon, FrankieGavin, Kevin Burke, Brian Conway, Noreen O’Donoghue and MikeRafferty.

He has recorded an album of traditional airs from Ireland on which he plays concert flute and is joined by harpist Maire Ní Chathsaigh. Joe Burke’s music has taken him from country halls and pubs in rural Ireland to the most prestigious Concert Halls world wide. He has performed solo at Carnegie Hall, New York; The Royal Albert Hall, London; Unuesque Hall, Paris; and The Great American Music Hall, San Francisco. Joe has played at all the major festivals at home and abroad and has given Master Classes and Workshops on the accordion from Drumshambo, Co. Leitrim, Ireland to Paris, France, to Dallas, Texas, and as far afield as the logging and fishing towns in Alaska. His trips and music classes in Paris (early 1980s), and his association with some of the great French players has influenced musicians such as Mark Perone to expand his repertoire and include Irish traditional music in many of his performance