Born in Trim, County Meath, son of John Keenan, a skilled piper and flute/banjo player, from Westmeath and banjo/accordion player Mary Bravender >from County Cavan. John’s father was also a piper. The family eventually settled in Ballyfermot in Dublin city. One of Paddy’s neighbours growing up was fiddler Ted Furey and his family, among them Finbar and Eddie. John Keenan played music for a living and all the children subsequently played. Paddy started on the whistle but moved on to the pipes, taught by his father, working his way from a Matt Kiernan practice set to a full John Clarke set and at age 12 a new Rowsome set, the chanter of which he still plays.
Felix Doran was a regular visitor to the house and Paddy played with Finbar Furey growing up. He busked with his brother Johnny(banjo:1947-2000)before forming a band with singer Liam Weldon and singer/guitarist Liam Flood. Along with his father, they made up the ‘house’ band for the Pavees Club which operated out of Slattery’s in Capel Street during the 1960’s. Paddy moved to London and played guitar in a skiffle band called The Blacksmiths who recorded an album. He also made his first solo album around this time with Gael Linn. Paddy joined the group Seachtair in Dublin which developed into The Bothy Band with Matt Molloy, Donal Lunny, Micheal and Mairead Ni Dhomhnaill and later Tommy Peoples and Kevin Burke. The band lasted 4 years, made 4 albums and had a huge impact, especially on a younger generation who became interested in traditional music. Paddy got together with Paddy Glackin to record "Doublin’" in 1978, also known as "the two Paddies" and considered a classic. Another solo "Poirt na Phiobaire" followed in 1983.
Paddy subsequently spent time in Brittany, Clonakilty, Co. Cork and finally the U.S. where he has lived since 1991, based in Massachusetts.
The solo CD "Na Keen Affair" was released in 1997 and put Paddy firmly back in the limelight.
Described variously(and generally to his discomfort) as wild, energetic, charismatic, independent, "Johnny Doran incarnate", "King of the pipers", "the piper’s piper", "the Jimi Hendrix of the uilleann pipes", he is genuinely regarded as one of Irelands best uilleann pipers, and by many as it’s best. His style is described as a blend of fast-paced, tight fingering on the chanter, in the Doran ‘open’ style, with harmonic accompaniment on the regulators and innovative touches.
His latest cd, "The Long Grazing Acre" is with singer and guitar player Tommy O’Sullivan(Sliabh Notes). Paddy remains in constant demand for concert performance, recording and teaching and is a regular visitor back to Ireland.
Biography (Courtesy of the Artist's site, 2005).
Paddy Keenan was born in Trim, Co. Meath, to John Keenan, Sr. of Westmeath and the former Mary Bravender of Co. Cavan. The Keenans were a Travelling family steeped in traditional music; both Paddy's father and grandfather were uilleann pipers. Paddy himself took up the pipes at the age of ten, playing his first major concert at the Gaiety Theatre, Dublin, when he was 14. He later played with the rest of his family in a group called The Pavees.
At 17, having fallen in love with the blues, Paddy left Ireland for England and Europe, where he played blues and rock. Returning to Ireland after a few years, he began playing around Dublin with singer/keyboardist Triona Ni Dhomhnaill and singer/guitarist Micheal O Dhomhnaill. Fiddler Paddy Glackin then joined the three, and they asked flute player Matt Mollov to play with them shortly thereafter. Next accordion player Tony MacMahon joined the group, and then guitarist Donal Lunny was asked to listen to the six. Liking what he heard, he joined as well, and the loosely-knit band began calling itself "Seachtar," the Irish word for "seven."
Seachtar's first major concert was in Dublin. They played a few more gigs around the country, but circumstances soon forced Tony MacMahon to drop out. When the rest of the band decided to turn professional Paddy Glackin left as well; he was replaced by Donegal fiddler Tommy Peoples who was later replaced by fiddler Kevin Burke). All the group needed now was a name.
Micheal O' Dhomhnaill had recently returned from Scotland, where he happened across a photograph taken in the 1890s of a group of tattered musicians. "The Bothy Band," it was titled, in reference to the migrant Irish laborers who worked in England and Scotland and were housed in stone huts known as "bothies." Micheal suggested that the band take this name, and the others agreed. Thus was born one of the most influential bands of the 1970s, The Bothy Band.
The Bothy Band forever changed the face of Irish traditional music, merging a driving rhythm section with traditional Irish tunes in ways that had never been heard before. Those fortunate enough to have seen the band live have never forgotten the impression they made -- one reviewer likened the experience to "being in a jet when it suddenly whipped into full throttle along the runway." Paddy was one of the band's founding members, and his virtuosity on the pipes combined with the ferocity of his playing made him, in the opinion of many, its driving force. Bothy Band-mate Donal Lunny once described Paddy as "the Jimi Hendrix of the pipes"; more recently, due to his genius for improvisation and counter-melody, he has been compared to jazz great John Coltrane.
Paddy's flowing, open-fingered style of playing can be traced directly from the style of such great Travelling pipers as Johnny Doran; both Paddy's father and grandfather played in the same style. Although often compared to Doran, Paddy was 19 or 20 when he first heard a tape of Doran's playing; his own style is a direct result of his father's tutelage and influence.
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