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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Luke Kelly / Tommy Makem camparisons

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Banjowen - Posted - 07/21/2007:  04:54:31

Having been a fan of the late great Luke Kelly and the still with us (I hope)Tommy Makem, although they played the same type of Irish Folk music on their long necked banjos they played different styles, having already had a Luke Kelly style thread my question is what style would you say Tommy Makem plays.


pweller - Posted - 07/21/2007:  15:03:04

This is a question I also came up with after reading the thread on Luke Kelly. However, I haven't seen much of Tommy Makem's playing. I do think it was similar to Kelly's as Makem played many of the same songs and had a similar role (backing banjo and singer). I've seen him do strums where he ignores the fifth string entirely (Brennan on the Moor). At another concert they recorded the banjo parts for him so he wouldn't have to play them. The result is adjusting his strap with both hands while a banjo plucks away in the background...

Banjowen - Posted - 07/22/2007:  06:20:58

pweller, All I could possibly add to the above is that having seen both players play live is that Tommy tended to throw in more melody notes than Luke......but you've got me thinking now was it Tommy that was actually playing them.


Cool hand Tom uk - Posted - 07/24/2007:  19:04:14

I Did hear once that Tommy Makem played more the seeger type basic strum on tracks and Luke was more experimental,Rolls strumms etc.I agree that both of them seem to play backing banjo.The merlin banjo i have is the same type that tommy maken gave to luke kelly in 1966 an all metal merlin banjo,i have 3 of them now all long necks and all have metal necks.Tommy seems to have prefered vega banjos while luke stuck with the merlin until his last few performances when he also has a vega.Personally i much prefer Lukes style of playing.

Regards Tom


bnjomn - Posted - 08/03/2007:  18:49:59

Originally posted by Cool hand Tom uk

I Did hear once that Tommy Makem played more the seeger type basic strum

Tommy indeed did play the up picking style that was popularised by Pete Seeger in the 1950's and 60's. He was a wonderful singer and storyteller and will be greatly missed.



"A man must love a thing very much if he not only practices it without any hope of fame or money, but even practices it without any hope of doing it well."

G. K. Chesterton

coelhoe - Posted - 08/29/2007:  09:41:30

The story I heard was that Tommy Maken, who recently passed, never liked the Merlin banjo and so gave it to Luke Kelly. One night while Kelly was playing it on stage, he too was having trouble tuning the instrument when suddenly the whole thing just exploded into pieces, the neck detaching as well. Kelly tossed the parts into the audience, and was done with it. I think there was / is an English / Irish folk banjo style that was more or less similar to what the 60's folk groups in the US had done: strums, arpeggios, some Seeger derived up picking. The Ian Campbell Folk Group's albums are good examples of this.


pweller - Posted - 08/29/2007:  11:13:18

Wow, I never heard that story, but the reaction does sound like Luke Kelly! It's always been a fear of mine that my banjo will just fall apart onstage in the middle of a performance, I mean, they just have so many small pieces...

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