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date: 14 October 2019

Derrane, Joe locked

  • Stephen D. Winick


(b Boston, MA, Mar 16, 1930). American button accordion player. Derrane’s father played accordion and his mother played fiddle; both were immigrants from Ireland. At age ten Derrane took up the one-row diatonic button accordion (melodeon), and soon thereafter switched to the two-row C#/D accordion (which deploys a tuning that has since become a rarity in Irish American music). By the age of 17 he was playing regularly in Boston’s Irish dancehalls. In 1947 and 1948 he recorded 16 sides of Irish dance tunes for the Copley label. Derrane continued to perform professionally, but as the popularity of the Irish dancehall scene receded, and he found himself playing piano accordion, and later electronic keyboards, in all manner of ensembles. He retired in 1990, not having played traditional Irish music in years.

In 1993 the Irish American record label Rego Records reissued Derrane’s early recordings on CD. His playing style was vigorous and more highly ornamented than most Irish American playing, perhaps reflecting a French Canadian influence in New England music. His unusual playing intrigued many listeners, including journalist Earle Hitchener, who contacted Derrane and convinced him to revive his performance career. In ...

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