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Born 1956 (age 57–58)
Corrandulla, County Galway, Ireland
Genres Irish traditional music
Instruments Fiddle, tin whistle, flute
Years active 1960–present
Associated acts De Dannan
Frankie Gavin was born in 1956 in Corrandulla, County Galway, from a musical family; his parents and siblings being players of the fiddle and accordion. As a child he played the tin whistle from the age of four and, later, the flute. He received some formal training in music, but his musical ability on the fiddle is mainly self-taught. When 17 years old, he gained first place in both the All Ireland Under-18 Fiddle and Flute competitions.
In the early 1970s Gavin played musical sessions at Galway's Cellar Bar, with Alec Finn (bouzouki, guitar), Mickey Finn (fiddle), Charlie Piggott (banjo), and Johnnie (Ringo) McDonagh (bodhrán). In 1974, from these and further sessions, he founded the group De Dannan with Alec Finn.
When De Dannan split-up in 2003, Gavin founded a new group, Frankie Gavin and The New De Dannan, which led to an acrimonious exchange between Gavin and Finn, with the latter claiming to have registered the 'De Dannan' name.
Gavin has also played and recorded with Andy Irvine, The Rolling Stones, Elvis Costello, Stéphane Grappelli, and Frankie Goes to Hollywood, and in 2010 became reputedly the fastest fiddle-player in the world, with an entry in the Guinness Book of Records.
A tribute to Frankie:
by Fintan Vallely, Sunday Tribune
2011 saw the release of the latest album by Frankie Gavin and De Dannan 'Jigs, Reels & Rock n' Roll' on the Tara Music label. The album is the culmination of years of work by Frankie to put the De Dannan back where it belongs as one of the foremost performing groups of Irish traditional music.
Frankie, who was born in 1956 in Corrandulla, Co. Galway, comes from a musical family: his father played fiddle, and his mother and all of her family played also. Frankie himself started playing the tin whistle at age four, making his first T.V. appearance three years later. At the age of ten years old Frankie began to play fiddle and by the time he was seventeen he was placed first in the All Ireland Fiddle Competition and in the All Ireland Flute Competition, both on the same day.
Mainly learning by ear, he was strongly influenced by the 78 recordings of Michael Coleman and James Morrison. Sessions in the Cellar Bar, Galway and later in Hughes’ pub in Spiddal led to the formation of De Dannan in 1973.
His Currandulla connection came in useful when De Danann were looking for a singer, and it was he who came up with Dolores Keane from nearby Cahirlistrane. When De Danann brought out their first album, her singing of The Rambling Irishman gained a lot of airplay for the group. Although De Danann has had many highpoints over a quarter of a century, particularly with the singing of Dolores Keane and Maura O'Connell and the box playing of Mairtin O'Connor, Frankie’s powerful virtuoso fiddle playing has always been at the core of the De Dannan sound.
He has recorded 16 albums with De Dannan as well as a number of solo albums, and three collaborations: one a tribute to Joe Cooley entitled ‘Omos do Joe Cooley’ with Paul Brock; a fine collaboration with fellow De Dannan member Alec Finn; and one with Stephane Grapelli exploring the languages of jazz and traditional music. He has also guested with The Rolling Stones on their ‘Voodoo Lounge’ album, with Keith Richards on ‘Wingless Angels’ and with Earl Scruggs the great banjo man.
Exposure to American audiences began in 1976 when he played with De Danann at the American bicentennial celebrations in Washington DC, with artists such as Junior Crehan and Micho Russell. Frankie has also been invited to play for numerous State officials including President John F. Kennedy on historic visit to Ireland in 1962, French president Francois Mitterand and England's Prince Charles. Of a special event in America, United States Ambassador to Ireland, Jean Kennedy Smith is reported to have commented that "The best all 'round performance of the entire week at Kennedy Center was by DeDannan."
2009 saw Frankie Gavin back on the road and with new De Dannan members. The new line up which features Frankie Gavin (Fiddle/Flute/Whistles), Damien Mullane (Accordian), Eric Cunningham (Percussion/Flutes/Whistles), Mike Galvin (Bouzouki/Guitar) and Michelle Lally (Vocals). In Frankie's own words "This recording marks a special time in my musical life and follows a period where it wasn't possible for me to perform as part of De Dannan, a band I first formed and played with in Connemara in the early 1970's."
"Innovation may be the buzz-word in Traditional music, but Frankie Gavin's digressions are not in the common areas of tempo and superficial style-impressions. His contemporary borrowings of art-deco and music-hall Irishness are re-jigged in original avenues of exploration. His dextrous treatment of troublesome tunes might get even the Pope out on the floor, his orchestration could break hearts. A superbly uncompromising player, he makes refreshment of the old by picking out and polishing every detail and setting it off in a steady, listenable pace. Gavin edgy and brilliant on both fiddle and flute, with always the most meticulous attention given to tone and variation. Live, his tune sets are perfectionism that drive and are driven by an audience spontaneity that spurs Gavin to push fiddle from shriek to rasping bass. Tears and cheers erupt spontaneously, the goodwill of his mixed-age audiences has always been great sauce. Like herding the mythic creac, Frankie Gavin here whoops a great retrospective before him into the Ogham of Celtic Valhalla."