Paddy Keenan is one of Ireland's leading uilleann pipers, and possibly the best of the best performing today. A fellow musician who played with Keenan in the Bothy Band compared his outstanding skill and talent on the pipes to Jimi Hendrix's legendary ability with a guitar.
Keenan was born into a musical family in County Meath, Ireland. Brother Johnny Keenan made a name for himself as a fine banjoist, and his father crafted uilleann pipes. His grandfather and father both played the instrument, and Keenan began playing when he was ten years old. Four years later, barely into his teens, he performed at Dublin's Gaiety Theatre. He went on to join a family band named the Pavees. The togetherness didn't last when Keenan, at the age of 17, discovered the blues and headed to Europe. The piper started performing there and in England.
Ireland lured him back within several years. With Michael O Dhomhnaill on guitar and Triona Ni Dhomhnaill on keyboards, Keenan started to perform in the Dublin region. The small group soon expanded to include Matt Mollov on flute, Paddy Glackin on fiddle, Tony MacMahon on accordion, and Donal Lunny on guitar. They dubbed their band Seachtar, which means seven in English, which was the number of players within their group.
With Seachtar, Keenan played concerts in Dublin and across Ireland, but the band soon unraveled. MacMahon left, followed by Glackin. Tommy Peoples, a fiddler from Donegal, came aboard and the group of musicians renamed themselves the Bothy Band. Kevin Burke later stepped in to take over on fiddle.
The group grew in stature and influence, drawing attention to Keenan's virtuosity. While Lunny offered the Hendrix comparison, others equated Keenan's unfettered and animated improvisational piping with jazz legend John Coltrane. Following the Bothy Band's demise in 1979, the piper went solo. He has recorded for Hot Conya Records.