Spotlight on: PJ Murrihy – The music man from Co.Clare
Fondly known to his legions of fans as The Music Man from Co. Clare, and with the banner banter easily tripping off his tongue and a twinkle in his eye, it is no wonder balladeer PJ Murrihy has made a name for himself everywhere the Irish congregate throughout the world in a career spanning over 40 years.
PJ has, throughout his life, enjoyed the best of both worlds – as an entertainer he has always been busy and in demand for key events all over Ireland, while at home in tranquil Mullagh by the sea, he breeds cattle on his 50 acre farm; a haven where he can return to his roots and enjoy the great outdoors on the western seaboard after a raft of music engagements, bright lights, and weeks on the road.
PJ inherited a true Irish musical heritage when as a young lad he picked up the old songs from his Mother and two Uncles. Readers may not be aware that he was also adept on the football field and lined out for the Banner in the U21 and Minor Teams.
His first foray into the Band business was with his neighbour Michael Sexton Snr who was the leader of a busy and popular Céilí Band. PJ went on to become lead vocalist also recorded two Albums with the renowned Kilfenora Ceili Band. He subsequently formed The Bannermen, with his popularity on the ascendant throughout.
As his musical career evolved into entertaining at a diverse array of events, he teamed up with ace Accordionist Seamus Shannon from Roscommon. As a duo, the pair gelled well and brought their winning formula to audiences all over Ireland and beyond for twelve years.
In the meantime, PJ had been prolific in the recording studio releasing Singles and Albums which consolidated his success both with Radio audiences and the buying public.
One of his key numbers recorded in 1988 is the iconic ‘Pat Murphy’s Meadow’ which was originally a poem penned by JM Devine. This brought him to national recognition and almost 30 years later, it is still one of his most requested songs. However the evocative ballad is not set in Ireland, it was actually a meadow in Newfoundland and the poem was set to music by Irish musicians in Chicago where PJ first heard it. The rest, as the saying goes, is history and Pat Murphy’s Meadow has certainly been kind to the man from Mullagh.
Several other numbers hit the spot for PJ early on in his career. My Father’s House, Horses and Plough, and Many Young Men of 20 are requested every where he performs.
In addition, PJ is a prolific songwriter who has both composed songs and performed on recordings with several key Artists both in Ireland and abroad.
One of his most poignant compositions is the Famine Song in which he commemorates the passage of the Great Famine in West Clare. He had the honour of performing the song for President Michael D Higgins at an event in Kilrush in 2013.
He has recorded with Daniel O Donnell and more recently teamed up with Nathan Carter for a charity single entitled Don’t leave behind a broken heart which he wrote in memory of Kerry teenager Donal Walsh who passed away from cancer. The Single which promotes Donals anti suicide message reached number one in the Irish Country iTunes Charts just twelve hours after it’s release. PJ’s daughters Moira and Maeve provided the backing vocals on the Single.
Other notable artists who PJ has written for include Michael English, Margo, Seamus Moore, Brendan Shine, Larry Cunningham, Mick Flavin and John Hogan.
One of his most recent compositions ‘We owe it all to you’ will feature on Foster & Allen’s brand new 40th Anniversary Album ‘Celebration’ which is due for release this month. Scotland’s Isla Grant teamed up with PJ to record ‘If I should fall behind’ a lovely spiritual themed number which was a track on one of Bruce Springsteen’s Albums.
As his audiences will vouch for, PJ has the gift of tapping into the heart and soul of rural Ireland and bringing forth the essence of this in his music. He is a regular at the National Ploughing Championships where year in, year out, fans flock to the marquee where he is performing. This year was no exception and on the last week of September PJ weaved his musical alchemy at the event which was held this year in Ratheniska, Co Laois.
Going forward, The Music Man from Co. Clare will no doubt continue to bring joy to his legion of fans with his gifted interpretation of the old songs, along with a constant supply of new numbers from his endless well of creativity.