Musical Background

Bobby and his older brother Pete Bobby was reared in a house in which traditional music was loved and played. Having briefly mastered a few tunes on his mother’s German Concertina, he later switched to the melodeon/accordion, which his brother Mick was playing, and never looked back. Around 1956 he played with the Kilfenora Céilí Band prior to joining the Malachy Sweeney Band from County Armagh as a professional musician, travelling the length and breadth of Ireland.

Bobby emigrated to the USA in 1960, around the time when the old 78RPM gramophone records were coming to an end. In 1962 he was contacted by Justus O’Byrne Dewitt of Copley Records, Boston to record an accordion album which was called ‘Memories of Clare’. This LP record was lively, spontaneous and highly acclaimed.

Bobby returned to Ireland in 1970 and set up home near Burncourt, in south Tipperary. Accompanied by his wife Ann, he returned to playing music around the country often performing in his native Co. Clare where great set dancers knocked sparks off the floor in places like Kilmaley and Kilmihill. From playing the melodeon on the back of a camel at the Great Wall of China to lilting the ‘Boys of Ballysodare’ for the Sultan of Oman, Comhaltas tours have taken the Clareman to many countries.

Bobby has been associated with the music department of University College Cork for over twenty-five years as an accordion tutor in Irish traditional music. He has also been involved with music classes in both County Waterford and South Tipperary and is a regular in the Bru Boru concerts in Cashel, during the summer season.

(Excerpt from the inlay card of ‘The High Level’ – by Eamon O’Toole)