IRISH MUSIC MAGAZINE are saddened to hear the passing this evening of JOE BURKE one of the foremost Irish Button Accordion players of all time.
Born 1939 in Kilnadeema, south of Loughrea in east County Galway, he began playing at age four, and in the 1950s bought an accordion in Walton’s of Dublin for £5. He won the All-Ireland Senior Accordion Championship in Thurles in 1959 and again in 1960 in Boyle. Together with fiddler Aggie Whyte, he won the duet championship in 1962 in Gorey, Wexford.
In 1956 Joe Burke was a founding member of the Leitrim Ceili Band and he first toured in the United States in 1961 and lived mainly in New York from 1962 to 1965. During this time he formed a musical partnership with fiddler Andy McGann and pianist Felix Dolan whom he recorded an LP, A Tribute to Michael Coleman, first released in 1966 on his own Shaskeen Label and would later record again with this trio, issuing The Funny Reel LP on the Shanachie Label in 1979.
Other musical collaborators over the years have included Belfast fiddle great, Séan Maguire, piper, Michael Cooney, harper Máire Ní Chathasaigh, fiddler Kevin Burke,pianist Charlie Lennon and his wife Anne Conroy Burke whom he married in 1990.
Joe Burke’s first solo LP, Galway’s Own was released in 1971 and he also toured extensively for the next two decades, including with groups sponsored by Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann.
From 1988 to 1991, he lived in St.Louis, Missouri and had a musical residency at John D. McGurk’s Pub as well as hosting radio programmes at two stations, one of them the “Ireland in America” programme on KDHX.
Joe Burke returned to live in Kilnadeema in 1992 where he continued to teach and perform music.
An Appreciation on the Musicial Career of Joe Burke will feature in Irish Music Magazine early April.