Photo of John's late niece Eimear Noonan with Willie Kilkenny and John (at Mountshannon Trad festival)
John with Tim Tully and Patsy Hanly (Mountshannon Trad Fest)
John grew up in Lough Cutra about 4 miles outside Gort in South Galway in the 1970’s, the youngest of a family of 4 boys, Seamus, Vincie, Joseph and 2 girls, Mary and Bridget, to parents Michael and Margaret Keehan. He began learning the fiddle when he attended lessons given by the then All-Ireland Senior Fiddle Champion ,Vincent Griffin from Feakle in Ballinruan, Crusheen, Co. Clare around 1974.
In the 1970s Traditional Music was going through a huge revitalisation and in common with many other households, there was a strong interest in music , song and dance at home . His father and mother were avid set dancers and were close friends with legendary Banjo player Dessie Mulkere who lived nearby at that time. Although neither played music, they passed a love of music and song onto all of the family, with John’s late brother Seamus an accomplished Tin Whistle player. His brother Vincie who lives in San Francisco play mandolin and guitar and has made a number of recordings and is a frequent composer of songs while his sister Mary Noonan sings on John new album “The Humours of Scariff” and was a regular at many singers’ clubs in Clare and further afield throughout the years.
He was influenced at home by the music of De Danann, The Bothy Band, The Chieftains and many others as his brothers bought the latest cassette tapes at every opportunity. He was lucky enough to get to hear many of these wonderful musicians up close at The Clare Folk Club in Crusheen , which was run by Joe Galligan in the late 1970s and early '80s.
He was also influenced by the legacy of Joe Cooley in South Galway, as the Cooley Collins Traditional Festival set up to honour Joe and Kieran Collins memory in the early 1980s , took place in Gort every October Bank Holiday weekend and drew musicians from all over the country . It is a festival that holds fond memories for him and every year, he is regularly found playing in Johnny Kelly’s pub on the Sunday night of the Festival.
Later on in the 1980’s John would often travel to Mary Ward’s pub between Loughrea and Athenry to play in the Tuesday night sessions with Tom Cussen, Kevin Rohan, Charlie Harris and the late Paul McInerney and many others.
Since moving to Scariff in 2002 with his wife and family , John has been a regular fixture of the music scene in the East Clare area and regularly plays in sessions in Scariff, Tuamgraney, Mountshannon, Ballina, Terryglass and in Kilclaren as well as at Festivals in Louisburgh, Milltown , Corofin, Gort among others .
In recent years John has composed many tunes and in his debut album “ The Humours of Scariff” , he includes 3 of his compositions, Eimear’s Hornpipe dedicated to the memory of his niece Eimear Noonan who died when falling while out for a run in France in November 2017. The second tune “Lament for Barry” was composed in memory of his young neighbour Barry Nash who died following a car accident in January 2014 and the third tune is a jig called “ The Blue Chicken”, so named after an Oral Irish exam yielded that response from a student who was encountering some long pauses in trying to respond to the examiner’s questions.