8. BIRTH OF PATRICK STREET, SOLO TOURS
With the demise of the long relationship with my long time partner, Marina, I began to stay on the road more and more. I spent more time in Budapest than I did in Dublin and also had 'safe houses' from the toe of Italy to the bleak wintry winds of the Baltic Sea. I played villages in Hungary where the stage was lit by candles and the young villagers shook with laughter at the sound of my Hungarian introductions! I persuaded Muzsikas to come to Ireland where we had two fantastic gigs in Slattery's and downstairs at the old Harcourt Hotel. It was like connecting up the two strands of my life and everybody seemed enriched by the experience.
I walked through the Wicklow Mountains trying to feel like Michael Dwyer the outlaw who lived such a hard life there at the beginning of the nineteenth century, sang for the tall ships in Douarnenez in Brittany, and stood on the banks of the Danube where Raoul Wallenberg had whisked Hungarian Jews from under the very nose of Hitler's Final Solution.
Gerry O'Beirne and myself began playing with Kevin Burke in the States and we had a great freewheeling tour as a trio in 1985. On the last gig in Portland, Oregon, they made me laugh so much that it took me fifteen minutes to sing Martinmas Time. The audience laughed along as well…. for about seven minutes.
This tour was such fun and so successful that we decided to expand the outfit into a four- piece by adding Jackie Daly. We did a tour which the agent billed as The Legends of Irish Music. We were somewhat embarrassed by the title but America is the country of hyperbole and we pulled in massive crowds. We also played two weeks in Alaska at this time: One of my favourite experiences. I've always loved the rain and South East Alaska is the capital of rain. Strange spiritual experience with Totem Polls in the rain in Ketchikan…
We decided to continue as ''Patrick Street''. Gerry was unable to throw in his lot and we asked Arty McGlynn. We recorded our first album in September 1986 and toured it in the USA in Feb/March 1987. Thus begun a long association with this band for me which continues to the present day.
In the years that followed, we toured Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Germany, Spain, Portugal and Ireland and Britain but we mainly played in the States. Arty and Jackie left us in 1989 and we re-emerged with Gerry O'Beirne, James Kelly and Declan Masterson. That could have turned into a great band but Declan was a schoolteacher and couldn't find the time.
I had started to write songs for the album Rude Awakening and early in 1991, I asked Bill Whelan if he would produce it. We recorded a lot of it out in the snowy County Meath and in between takes we watched the 'Desert Storm' war happening on our TV sets. My old road mate from way back when, Rens van der Zalm came over and played and thus began a musical connection which I hope will blossom in the future. We recorded Never Tire of the Road, my poem to Woody which has since become my signature tune.
Between a solo tour in the States and a Patrick Street one some four weeks later, I made my journey of homage to Okemah, Oklahoma to visit the birth place of the man who rescued me from an uncaring life and put me on the musical and social road that I walk today.
I journeyed on through West Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Kansas.
Woody used to say he'd been in ''all 48 states of the Union''. Of course there are now 50 and I've been in each and every one of them.
I travelled to Nicaragua in 1992 and 1993. My friend Dr Sean Keane brought doctors and medical equipment there annually and I went as the 'cultural' side of things. I played 'gigs' in local bars and Sunday get-togethers in the Barrios (neighbourhoods) around Managua. It was a bit hard for the people because I spoke no Spanish but they were wonderfully receptive and if they understood little of what I was singing, they knew I was on their side from away across the Ocean.
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