Wexford has continually produced some of the finest talent in the country.... here we take a look back at some of those wonderful artists
Any Wexford musician from the last 70 years probably has a musical connection to the great Maestro, Johnny Reck.
Born in 1919, and involved in music from the age of 5 (when he began by learning the drums) Johnny was one of the best known, and best loved musicians to emerge from Wexford. Johnny spent much of his youth learning his craft, becoming a multi-instrumentalist, and by the age of 15 was out traveling around Ireland as part of fit-ups (traveling theatre troupes), playing trumpet and tap dancing - one particular show had a singing/dancing duet with Johnny & a young Moira Deady (as Shirley Temple & who later played Mary Riordan in RTE's The Riordans)
By age of 21 Johnny was travelling and working his way around war time England, helping to rebuild after the bombings of the blitz during the day and playing the dance halls by night - a great story Johnny used to tell was that one night whilst playing the paramount Dance Hall in London, the air raid sirens went off, as Johnny, the band and the revelers ran for the underground shelters, his friend & trombone player, Paddy, stopped and started searching on the floor, Johnny stopped and asked 'What the hell are you doing?'Paddy's reply - ''I lost my false teeth''''Jesus Christ'' said Johnny, ''Those Germans are dropping bombs, NOT HAMBURGERS...''
He was always great with the one-liners.
By the wars end Johnny had returned home, married his Nancy, and began his family. Playing dances at night and working for the corporation during the day. He spent a lot of time teaching the next generation of musicans, often buying, or helping with the cost of a new instrument.
He truly believed everyone could be taught to play.
By the 1960s Johnny was at the forefront of the showband craze sweeping over the country, often turning up to venues two or three nights in a row with different line-ups, much to the surprise and chargrin of the owners.
During the 70s & 80s, Johnny played in a lot trios, often with his long time friend and cohort, Jimmy Lawlor. They would go on to form the marching band of the Wexford Majorettes, from experience borne from his time with the Loch Garman Silver band and the clonard Youth Brass Band.
Into his later years Johnny still maintained his regular gigs in Gaynors, Broaders (the Big Wash) and Marys bar along numerous functions and events. He continued to teach music and had an avid interest in new music technology.When Pierce Turner brought him home a palm sized digital recorder from New York, he immediately set about recording numerous tracks, playing several different instruments on each track as well as singing.His final recording, made two weeks before his death, was Willie Nelsons - You were always on my mind.
He was 85 at the time.
Johnny always said he never wanted to die in the summer, and so on the 1st day of Autumn, 2004, Johnny passed away.
Johnnys legacy can be found anywhere you find a wexford musician, each one I have spoken to has had a one liner or a fond memory of Johnny.
Many Wexford people found their husband/wife/partner at one of Johnnys dances (though he maintained he shouldn't be blamed for that)
Johnny was a legend of a man, I used to love hanging out with him in the little room off the band hall as he doodled away on the big old synthesiser of his - it looked like a spaceship to me and I was so in awe!
He always told me to stop listening to the same people all the time, and to spread my wings as much as possible, get experience with different styles, and when it came to playing, not to worry too much - just play! He was spot on!
Wish I could go into Broaders now and hear Johnny. I am just so pleased that we lived so near each other in the end and that he would come by for a cup of tea-he always had these kind of Marx Bros one liners which he applied to Wexford-that IS originality, not sure Wexford appreciates originality-but Johnny did!
Thanks Johnny for all the great memories of when I was in your band showing me the ropes
The music continued through his family with 3 of his grandchildren playing across different times, and through his great-granddaughter Rachel Grace, a renowned vocalist and multi-instrumentalist.
More info to follow on one of Wexfords brightest bands of the early/mid 90's.......
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