Michael Coleman (1891-1945)

24 November 2006, 9:11 PM GMT

Michael Coleman (1891-1945)

Michael Coleman was born on January 31st 1891, near Gurteen Co. Sligo, the youngest child of a family of seven. His father James was a well-known flute player who eked out a living on a small parcel of land. Michael was the survivor of twins, had poor health, and was small in stature. The district of Killavil was renowned for its music, particularly fiddle players and travelling musicians, who augmented the locals at many a house session. Travelling dance teachers were also a feature of country life at the time and Michael seems to have been a good dancer in his youth. He actually met James Morrisson at a dancing class - two who were to feature in Irish Music in United States. By the time he was 10 years old he was an accomplished dancer and violinist and was in demand at local concerts.

Michael was influenced by Phil O Beirne and PJ McDermott, noted fiddlers and Johnny Gorman the travelling piper. His older brother Jim who never left the area is also credited with having had a bearing on his style. Michael, being small of stature, was not built for heavy work, so music was his only resource, travelling to play at house dances, fairs, etc. In 1914, he set off to England in search of work and, later he left for America. New York gave Coleman many opportunities to play in dance halls, saloons, clubs, etc. His most lasting contribution was his numerous 78’s recordings by various recording companies during the 1920’s and 1930’s. In some of his early recordings a non-de-plume name is used. The equipment available at the time could not do justice to the subtleties of the playing; even a fiddle fitted with a horn to boost the volume was used for a time. Money was still so scarce that Coleman always took a fee for his performance but never worried about Royalties. Coleman also preferred to play solo rather than join an orchestra, where in fact the earning potential lay. He also recorded with fiddlers Pakie Dolan and Tom Gannon, and flute players Tom Morrison and Michael Walsh. He built up a firm friendship with fiddlers Hughie Gillespie and James Morrison in later years. He died in Manhattan on January 4th 1945.

His Music

The advent of the Gramophone and 78’s had an important influence all over Ireland. Coleman’s records were widely popular; their impact was immediate; musicians extended their repertoire and even imitated his playing. Coleman had the ability to take a common tune and transform it into something special. He played with such abandon with that bright fiddle tone and also staccato style at times. These 78’s are now collectors’ items.

Useful References

Posted By other

[Leave A Comment]

RSS Feed (What is this?)


Billeog, Biography