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Guide to the Mick Moloney Irish-American Music and Popular Culture Commercial Recordings Collection AIA.031.001

Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archive
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
70 Washington Square South
2nd Floor
New York, NY 10012
(212) 998-2596

Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives

Collection processed by Brendan Dolan

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on April 07, 2022
Description is in English

 Updated by Aki Snyder to include unprocessed audiocassettes  , March 2022

Scope and Content Note

This section of the Moloney Collection is made up of sound recordings on disc collected by Mick Moloney over the course of four decades. The majority of the recordings are commercial releases although there is small number of non-commercial acetates and privately made recordings. The collection, which began as Moloney's personal LP collection, mushroomed in 1978 when he acquired the record library of the Irish Hour, the longest running Irish radio show in Philadelphia, PA, hosted by Pat Stanton (See Patrick Stanton Papers, Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies, Philadelphia, PA.). These 542 78 RPM records inspired Moloney to seek out other early and hard-to-find Irish and Irish-related recordings. By scouring record shops, participating in record auctions and collaborating with record dealers, Moloney increased the collection over the next thirty years to its current size of 2301 78 RPM records. Over the same period, Moloney continued to acquire LPs and 45s for use as teaching resources, as a byproduct of his roles as producer and promoter, and for his own enjoyment, resulting in an eclectic mix of titles across many genres. The 718 LPs and 51 45s of particular Irish interest are included in Part II, while the remainder has been integrated into the Avery Fisher Center main collection at Bobst Library. An inventory of the original collection is available at the repository.

Taken as a whole, the discs in Part I of the Moloney collection document nearly a century of Irish and Irish-American music in all its recorded permutations from Tin Pan Alley through the folk revival and beyond. While the focus is on commercial recordings released on major and independent labels in the United States, the collection also features a sizeable number of releases on Irish, English and Scottish labels representing both Irish and closely related musical traditions in those countries. Part I is particularly noteworthy for its coverage of Irish music with broad popular appeal as compared to Part II, which is more focused on traditional instrumental Irish music.

Series I: 78 RPM Records, includes discs representing over fifty years of recorded Irish music from the early years of the format to its obsolescence in the 1950s. The vaudeville/Tin Pan Alley tradition is well represented in major label releases of Irish-themed songs performed by the first recording stars of the twentieth century such as Henry Burr, Billy Murray, Ada Jones and Nora Bayes. Sheet music for many of these titles, such as "Killarney and You," "If I Knock the 'L' Out of Kelly," and "Are You the O'Reilly?" may be found in Part IV of the Moloney collection. Humorous skits from the Irish-American stage of this period can also be found in this series such as "A Backyard Conversation between Two Jealous Irish Washwomen."

Particularly early recordings in Series I include the pre-1905 Zon-O-Phone discs, "The Mick That Threw the Brick" by Mr. John Terrell and Ed Favor's "Who Threw the Overalls in Mrs. Murphy's Chowder?" Of some interest is a mini collection of seventeen 5 1/2" Little Wonder discs from the 1910s and a sizeable number of Irish-themed Edison Diamond Discs. A quarter inch thick and requiring an alternate playback technology, Diamond Discs were produced between 1912 and 1929 when they were discontinued.

Later iterations of the Irish-American popular song tradition are abundant in Series I, exemplified by the 1930s and 1940s Decca recordings of the McNulty Family and the 1940s and 1950s recordings of Mickey and Mary Carton, Ruthie Morrissey, and Connie Foley. Examples of a parallel popular tradition in Ireland and Britain is evidenced in the many recordings of Delia Murphy for His Master's Voice, Jack Daly for Regal Zonophone and Joe Lynch for Glenside, among others.

Series I is also rich in examples of the Irish art song tradition featuring a wealth of recordings by Irish tenors such as Charles Harrison, Seamus O'Doherty, William Kennedy and John McCormack and their British counterparts Father Sydney MacEwan, Robert Wilson and Michael Duffy. Baritones, Robert Irwin and Michael O'Higgins also feature strongly while fewer examples of the trained female voice appear.

A broad sampling of Irish traditional instrumental music is also a feature of Series I. Transformations in style and performance can be readily traced from the earthy 1916 banjo and accordion duets of Edward Herborn and James Wheeler on Columbia to Sean Maguire's polished 1950s records on the London label. While original recordings by virtuoso instrumentalists Michael Coleman, Hugh Gillespie and Paddy Cronin (violin), John Kimmel and Joe Derrane (accordion) and Leo Rowsome and Tom Ennis (pipes) appear in Series I, there is also a broad array of instrumental music by lesser known traditional artists. The sound of the urban Irish-American dance halls of the 1920s and 1930s is preserved in the many recordings of Paddy Killoran's various ensembles, O'Leary's Irish Minstrels and Dan Sullivan's Shamrock Band. In addition, the Ceili Band tradition is well represented, with recordings by the Aughrim Slopes, the Austin Stack, the Ballinakill, and Frank Lee's Tara Ceilidhe Band to name a few.

While major labels, Columbia, Victor and Decca dominate the series, Bluebird, Brunswick, Okeh and Vocalion releases are also numerous, as are discs from smaller independent labels, particularly the small ethnic labels, Copley and Celtic. Foreign labels include Glenside, Irish, and Tara from Ireland and His Master's Voice, London, Regal Zonophone and Rex from England, while Scotland is represented by a host of releases on the Beltona and Parlophone labels. In fact, a distinctive feature of Series I is a strong Scottish presence. Twentieth century Philadelphia attracted immigrants mainly from the north of Ireland, particularly Donegal, a county with strong cultural ties to Scotland. As a result, the city's Irish community retained a close affinity for Scottish music. The roughly 542 78s in Series I that originated as the record library of Philadelphia's largest Irish radio show reflect this Scottish bias, with large holdings of music by such artists as Jimmy Shand and the Scots Guards Pipes and Drums.

Series II: 33 1/3 RPM Records continues to document recorded Irish music from the demise of the 78 through the ascendance of the CD in the 1990s. Some of the earliest discs in this series are 28 LPs on New York's Avoca label from the 1950s and 1960s, featuring such artists as fiddler Jackie Roche and balladeers Anne Greehy and Willy Brady.

While the popular tastes of mainstream Irish America are well evidenced in discs released on Columbia, RCA and Rego, Series II is particularly strong in documenting the renewed interest in folk and traditional music in the 1970s and 1980s. The majority of Series II consists of traditional instrumental and vocal music released on such Irish labels as Mulligan, Claddagh, Tara and Outlet and on American labels, Shanachie and Green Linnet, many of which have not to date been reissued on CD. The series also contains many Irish-language recordings on the Gael-linn label.

Contemporary folk revivals in England and America are also well represented in Series II through the releases on Topic/Free Reed and Folkways respectively, as are related vocal and instrumental traditions from Scotland, Canada, Brittany and Wales on a smaller scale. From field recordings to festival compilations to releases by major label acts, the discs in this category invariably contain at least one selection related to the Irish tradition in more or less overt ways, providing an interesting insight into the impact and evolution of Irish music and the interconnectedness of Celtic traditions on a more global scale.

Series III: 45 RPM Records achieves many of the same goals as Series II. Items of note are a multi-disc set of traditional dance music by fiddler Eugene O'Donnell and EPs by harpist/actor Christopher Casson, entertainer Pete McNulty and accordionist John Whelan.

Series IV: Cassettes includes several hundred commercially issued cassettes of Irish and Irish-American music (1980-1999), as well as some audiobooks. Artists in this series include U2, Mick Moloney, the Pogues, and more.


The materials in this collection are organized into four series:

Series I: 78 RPM Records

Series II: 33 1/3 RPM Records

Series III: 45 RPM Records

Series IV: Cassettes

All series are arranged alphabetically by artist.