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Tony MacMahon

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Ennis, County Clare, Ireland (1939 – present)

Tony MacMahon (b. 1939) is an Irish button-accordion player and radio and television broadcaster.

Born in Ennis, County Clare, Ireland, MacMahon’s chief early inspiration, accordionist Joe Cooley, was a frequent caller at the family home from 1949 until 1954, when Cooley emigrated to the USA. Other influences from the locality were piper Willie Clancy and fiddler Bobby Casey.

In 1957 MacMahon went to train as a teacher in Dublin, where he came into contact with accordionist Sonny Brogan and fiddler John Kelly. Travelling in North America in 1964, and in both New York and Dublin, he shared a flat with piper and singer Seamus Ennis, whom he credits as an important influence on his playing of slow airs.

MacMahon plays the accordion in the “press-and-draw” style of his mentor Joe Cooley. He is regarded as an exceptionally powerful performer, particularly of slow airs. His own attitude to his music, and his chosen instrument, can be ambivalent, however: “I wouldn’t regard my own music either as traditional or indeed anything to write home about. […] For longer than I care to remember, I have hacked my way through tunes of beauty and tenderness on stage.”

In 1974 he was a founder member of the band Seachtair, which later became The Bothy Band.

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