1939 – Bernard Noël ‘Banjo Barney’ McKenna of the Dubliners is born.

Stair na hÉireann/History of Ireland

Barney McKenna was the last surviving founding member of the Irish folk group the Dubliners. While Ronnie Drew’s gravelly voice gave the band its memorable vocal sound, it was McKenna’s playing of the tenor banjo, coupled with John Sheahan’s fiddle, that gave the Dubliners their original instrumental quality. In the process, McKenna redefined the role of the banjo in Irish traditional music. His distinctive playing can be heard on the Dubliners’ two hit singles in 1967, Seven Drunken Nights and Black Velvet Band, as well as on group favourites such as The Wild Rover and McAlpine’s Fusiliers. When the Pogues brought the Dubliners back to the vanguard of Irish music in 1987, their joint recording of The Irish Rover has his banjo well to the fore.

McKenna was born in Donnycarney, Co Dublin, and started to play the banjo because he could not afford a mandolin. He was rejected from…

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