The family music genes more than likely came from John’s maternal grandfather, James Kevane (RIP), who fiddled for dancers as a farmer in Storm Lake, Iowa, and James’ wife Genevieve (O’Neill) Kevane (RIP) whose roots go back to County Cork. To be sure there are probably music genes from the O’Gara side as well as grandfather John (RIP) who hailed from Donegal.
Musical influences as a child were singing along with Mother Dorothy’s 78 records, which included the likes of Bing Crosby Sings St. Patrick’s Day. This album contained such standards as Who Threw the Overalls in Mrs. Murphy’s Chowder? and The Same Old Shillelagh. Other albums of influence were the Hope and Crosby “road albums”, like Road To Morocco and Road To Bali, …you’re such a perfect square, put it there! (from Put It There Pal), Father Carl’s Pete Fountain collection, and of course all The Beatles albums and the whole Mersey Beat scene when it arrived.
The teen years were influenced by the likes of Gordon Lightfoot, James Taylor, John Denver and Gamble Rogers, but John credits much of his musical journey to his big sister, Mary, whose acquisition of a classical guitar in high school inspired him to play, (actually the two siblings were competitive as hell growing up, sister Mary being the superior football player and, unfortunately for John, boxer!) A keen appreciation of the stage and subsequent honing of his performance skills developed when high school chum Barry coerced him into playing a corpse in Our Town. Fearing he would be ‘type cast’, John landed a dual role in the next production as a cricket and a snail in The Insect Comedy. (If one can parade on stage in front of God, country and classmates in a leotard, brother, one is destined to perform!)
John went through several guitars until 1974 when he purchased a Martin D-35, the guitar he plays to this day. There were dabblings into bluegrass and 5-string banjo, and in 1985, John’s wife Amy presented him with a birthday gift of a hammered dulcimer, finely crafted by the skilled hands of Bill Webster, Detroit, Michigan. (The same craftsman who made band-mate Mike’s, wonderful harps). Had Amy known what she was about to trigger, she would have given John golf clubs instead! About the time of the band’s third year he was presented with yet another gift from Amy, this time a mandolin, followed closely by father Carl’s violin that he had played as a boy growing up in Boston. Assorted whistles were added later, until John was presented with a practice set of uilleann pipes from a friend in Gurteen, County Sligo, Ireland. He has most recently acquired a half-set of uilleann pipes in C#, crafted by pipemaker Bill Haneman, of Skerries, County Fingal, Ireland.
John swears that one day he will really learn to play them all…then watch out, but until that day comes, he will have to be content with the aerobic benefit gleaned from carting them all around!