De Dannan (originally Dé Danann) was an Irish folk music group. They were formed by Frankie Gavin (fiddle), Alec Finn (guitar, bouzouki), Johnny “Ringo” McDonagh (bodhrán) and Charlie Piggott (banjo) as a result of sessions in Hughes’s Pub in An Spidéal, County Galway, subsequently inviting Dolores Keane (vocals) to join the band. They named themselves Dé Danann after the legendary Irish tribe, Tuatha Dé Danann. The late fiddler Mickey Finn is also acknowledged to have been a founder member of De Dannan.
The group released their eponymous debut album Dé Danann in 1975. Keane left to marry John Faulkner in 1977. (Multi-instrumentalist Faulkner recorded 3 folk albums together with singer Keane.) To fill the vacancy, Dé Danann brought in Johnny Moynihan for the second album Selected Jigs Reels and Songs, which featured a bodhrán solo by McDonagh (this album has never been released on CD, reportedly because the master tapes were lost). The Mist Covered Mountain featured various older traditional singers, and on Star-Spangled Molly they were joined by Maura O’Connell. For reasons that have never been made clear, they changed the spelling of the group from “Dé Danann” to “De Dannan”.
After the departure of Maura, they brought in Mary Black for two albums. Like Maura and Dolores before her, she has gone on to explore country, blues and jazz, hopping backwards and forwards between Nashville and Dublin. After Mary Black, Dolores Keane returned to the fold for two albums. Other singers with the group have included Eleanor Shanley, Tommy Fleming and Andrew Murray.
On the instrumental side, Frankie Gavin and Alec Finn were the only constant members of the group. Jackie Daly (accordion) is a star in his own right and later went on to join the group Patrick Street. He was replaced on accordion in 1983 by Martin O’Connor until 1987, Aidan Coffey until 1995, and Derek Hickey until 2001. The fiddle-accordion-bouzouki combination became synonymous with the inspirational De Dannan instrumental sound. In 1988 Colm Murphy replaced Johnny McDonagh playing the bodhrán. In 1980 De Dannan had a surprise hit single in Ireland with the Beatles song Hey Jude. As an indication of their diversity, they also recorded Handel’s “Arrival of the Queen of Sheba” (which they jokingly retitled “The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba (in Galway)”), Bohemian Rhapsody, and Jewish klezmer tunes, learned from bluegrass and Klezmer superstar, Andy Statman.
The band members went their separate ways in 2003 at which point, the name De Dannan was copyrighted by Alec Finn. This led to a high-profile dispute with Frankie Gavin in 2009 when the latter used the name for his pre-existing Hibernian Rapsody band.
* De Danann (1975)
* Selected Jigs Reels and Songs (1977)
* The Mist Covered Mountain (1980)
* Star-Spangled Molly (1981) (see The De Dannan Collection)
* Best of De Dannan (1981)
* Song For Ireland (1983)
* The Irish RM (1984)
* Anthem (1985)
* Ballroom (1987)
* A Jacket of Batteries (1988)
* Half Set in Harlem (1991)
* Hibernian Rhapsody (1995)
* How the West Was Won (1999)
* Welcome to the Hotel Connemara (2000)
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