When Johnny Met Bowie 2019-07-09T17:06:46+01:00

Where Johnny Doherty Met David Bowie

Legends Sessions

Sunday 4th August 12.30pm
Bridgeend Bar

It is with great pleasure that this year’s Festival presents a tribute to two musical giants in their lifetimes who have become legends in the years since they died.

Sadly both legends have now gone to the big session in the sky and we try to create this one in their honour. Featuring Seamie O Dowd in the role of Johnny Doherty and Mark Langan as David Bowie this promises to be one memorable session. Admission is free but again do come early.

In the third of the series of LEGEND SESSIONS Ballyshannon Folk Festival is delighted to host a tribute session to two musical giants in their lifetimes who have become legends since they died, Donegal fiddler Johnny Doherty who died in the Rock Hospital in Ballyshannon in 1980 and enigmatic performer David Bowie who went to the great festival in the sky in 2016.

John Doherty was an explorer of his own country and its music. He roamed around the North West, playing music and an integral part of the rich cultural of the area.

David Bowie was also an explorer who pushed the boundaries of his world, his talent, his music and his art, his creativity, his spirituality and sexuality to the limits and demystified many oddities along the way.

They shared 33 years in this life and now hopefully will share musical eternity together.

They both were oddities in their own way and both have had an enormous and long-lasting influence on the music of the people, both folk and traditional, irrespective of the boxes which we try to put our musical traditions into.

The Ballyshannon Legend Sessions also aim to push boundaries and explore what might happen where two legends from different genres come together through time and space for a session in the environment of the Ballyshannon Folk and Traditional music festival. The journey is to a session which might have taken place in Ballyshannon at one of the many sessions that are part of the Folk Festival

This musical conversation between these legends will be facilitated by modern day legends Seamie O Dowd, a renowned traditional, rock and blues performer and Mark Bowie Langan a lifelong admirer of David Bowie. Together they will create a musical oddity so “Lets Dance”.

The session will kick off in the Bridgend Bar on Sunday August 4th at 12.30 p.m. Space is limited so make sure to come early. (admission is free)


John Doherty was born in 1900 in Ardara, County Donegal. He came from a famous clan of Irish Travellers who worked as tinsmiths and horse traders. His birth certificate was uncovered in recent years by researcher Caomhin MacAoidh, confirming that his actual date of birth was 1900, rather than 1895, which has been recorded in error in several publications. His father Mickey ‘Mor’ Doherty was a fiddler as were a number of

his brothers and sisters. Mickey Mor married Mary McConnell, a singer (whose brothers Alec and Mickey were well-known musicians in south Donegal). Together they had nine children and John was the youngest. In an interview in the 1970s he said that he had to practice in the barn as a teenager, and was not allowed to play fiddle in the company of his parents until he had mastered “Bonny Kate”. He heard recordings of James Scott Skinner and imitated his style.

From the late 40s to the 1970s John was sought out by collectors. The Floating Bow contains recordings made between 1968 and 1974 by Professor Evans in the town-land of Glenconwell. This collection arguably comprises the most extensive collection of his music, and was made at a time when Johnny was at his peak as a musician. He played with much ornamentation, including bowed and slurred triplets, rolls, ‘cuts’, mordents (particularly on long ‘first-finger’ notes), doublestopping (based on standard western music principles, normally highlighting the tonic and third of a particular chord).

Heavily influenced by the Scottish bagpiping tradition Johnny often replicated the sound of the pipes’ drones by either retuning the fiddle to an open tuning (‘scordatura’), or by maintaining the fourth finger on the string below the pitch of the melody. According to Alex Monaghan in the magazine, “The Living Tradition”, he was a significant influence on the fiddle playing of The Chieftains and Altan.

John Doherty was also a story-teller, and some of his tales appear on the sleeve notes to “The Floating Bow”.

Sometimes he did not carry a fiddle with him on his travels because he knew that, if needed, he was always likely to be provided with one when he visited “house dances”. The Floating Bow was played on a borrowed fiddle (owned by Professor Evans).

John was first recorded in 1945 by The Irish Folklore Commission during one of his trips to Teelin in Southwest Donegal and later by the BBC (Peter Kennedy) in Belfast in 1953. 10 of these 1953 recordings were issued on Traditional Dance Music of Ireland (various artists). Kennedy’s recordings were later issued in three volumes on the Folktrax label, the first of which was Pedlar’s Pack (1964). These recordings are available from Topic Records who now own the copyright.

Regarded as the last of the travelling fiddlers Johnny Doherty died in the Rock Hospital in Ballyshannon in 1980, may he rest in peace

David Robert Jones

(8 January 1947 – 10 January 2016)

David Bowie was born David Robert Jones on 8 January 1947 in Brixton, London. His mother, Margaret Mary “Peggy” (née Burns; 1913–2001), was born near Cheriton Kent. Her paternal grandparents were Irish immigrants who had settled in Manchester. The family lived at 40 Stansfield Road, on the boundary between Brixton and Stockwell in the south London borough of Lambeth.

He was a leading figure in the music industry and is considered one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century, acclaimed by critics and musicians, particularly for his innovative work during the 1970s. His career was marked by reinvention and visual presentation, with his music and stagecraft having a significant impact on popular music. During his lifetime, his record sales, estimated at 140 million albums worldwide, made him one of the world’s best selling music artists. In the UK, he was awarded ten platinum albums, eleven gold and eight silver, and released eleven number one albums. In the US, he received five platinum and nine gold albums. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.

Bowie developed an interest in music as a child, eventually studying art, music and design before embarking on a professional career as a musician in 1963. “Space Oddity” became his first top-five entry on the UK Singles Chart after its release in July 1969. After a period of experimentation, he re-emerged in 1972 during the era with his flamboyant and androgynous alter ego Ziggy Stardust. In 1975, Bowie’s style shifted radically towards a sound he characterised as ‘plastic soul”, initially alienating many of his UK devotees but garnering him his first major US crossover success with the number-one single ‘Fame’ and the album Young Americans. In 1976, Bowie starred in the cult film The Man who Fell to Earth, and released Station to Station. The following year, he further confounded musical expectations with the electronic-inflected album, the first of three collaborations with Brian Eno that came to be known as the ‘Berlin Trilogy”.

After uneven commercial success in the late 1970s, Bowie had UK number ones with the 1980 single “Ashes to Ashes”, its parent album Scary Monsters and “ Under Pressure”, a 1981 collaboration with Queen.

He reached his commercial peak in 1983 with Lets Dance; Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, Bowie continued to experiment with musical styles. He also continued acting; his roles included Major Jack Celliers in Merry Christmas Mister Lawrence(1983), Jarety the Goblin King in Labyrinth (1986), Pontius Pilot in The Last Temptation of Jesus (1988)

He stopped touring after 2004 and his last live performance was at a charity event in 2006. In 2013, Bowie returned from a decade-long recording hiatus. He remained musically active until he died two days after the release of his final album,

In addition to the guitar, Bowie also played a variety of keyboards, including piano and synthesizers; harmonica; alto and baritone saxophone; stylophone viola; Koto; Thumb Piano; drums and various percussion instruments.


In 1962, Bowie formed his first band at the age of 15, named the Konrads. Playing guitar-based rock and roll. When Bowie left the technical school the following year, he informed his parents of his intention to become a pop star. Bowie left the Konrads and joined another band, the King Bees.

His debut single ‘Liza Jane”, credited to Davie Jones with the King Bees, was not commercially successful. Dissatisfied with the King Bees Bowie quit the band to join the Mannish Boys, another blues outfit, who incorporated folk and soul

Their cover of “I Pity the Fool” was no more successful than “Liza Jane”, and Bowie soon moved on again to join the Lower Third, a blues trio strongly influenced by The Who. His new manager, Ralph Horton soon witnessed Bowie’s move to yet another group, the Buzz, yielding his fifth unsuccessful single release, ‘Do anything you say”

While with the Buzz, Bowie also joined the “Riot squad their recordings, which included one of Bowie’s original songs and material by The Velvet Underground, went unreleased.

Dissatisfied with his stage name as Davy (and Davie) Jones, which in the mid-1960s invited confusion with Davy Jones of The Monkees, Bowie renamed himself after the 19th-century American pioneer James Bowie and the knife he had popularised.

In February and March 1969, he undertook a short tour with Marc Bolan‘s duo Tyrannosaurus Rex, as third on the bill, performing a mime act. On 11 July 1969, “Space Oddity” was released five days ahead of the Apollo 11 launch, and reached the top five in the UK.

Bowie’s second album followed in November; originally issued in the UK as David Bowie.

Bowie’s third album, The Man Who Sold the World (1970), contained references to schizophrenia, paranoia, and delusion.

Bowie moved to the US in 1974.

Diamond Dogs (1974), parts of which found him heading towards soul and funk, was the product of two distinct ideas: a musical based on a wild future in a post-apocalyptic city, and setting George Orwell‘s 1984 to music. The album went to number one in the UK, spawning the hits “Rebel Rebel” and “Diamond Dogs“, and No. 5 in the US. To promote it, Bowie launched the Diamond Dogs Tour, visiting cities in North America between June and December 1974.

In 2015 Bowie wrote songs for a Broadway musical based on the SpongeBob SquarePants cartoon series. Bowie wrote and recorded the opening title song to the television series The Last Panthers, which aired in November 2015 The theme that was used for The Last Panthers was also the title track for his January 2016 release Blackstar.

On 7 December 2015, Bowie’s musical Lazarus debuted in New York. His last public appearance was at opening night of the production.

Blackstar was released on 8 January 2016, Bowie’s 69th birthday. It is speculated that Bowie had planned the album to be his swan song, and a “parting gift” for his fans before his death as most of the lyrics on the album seem to revolve around his impending death

Join us on Sunday 4th  August @ 12.30pm

Join us on Sunday 4th  August @ 12.30pm