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The Magnificent Flanagan Brothers - Ward Irish Music Archives

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The Story of the Magnificent Flanagan Brothers

By Mick Moloney

Published October 1, 2017

The Flanagan Brothers were among the most brilliant and colorful Irish performers in America in the 20th century. There was Joe on vocals and button accordion, Mike on tenor banjo, tenor guitar and vocals and Louis on harp guitar. Natives of County Waterford the family emigrated to the USA in 1910. Mike and Joe were virtuoso musicians and made a living playing in the Irish American dance halls that proliferated in New York in the early decades of the century. They became famed for their hard driving exuberant music honed in the era before the invention of microphones. Occasionally joined by Louis they made over one hundred and sixty 78 rpm recordings of songs, tunes and skits for a variety of record companies and were regulars on radio which was beginning to sweep the country at that time. Their heyday was the 1920’s when vaudeville was the most popular form of commercial entertainment in America and the performing style of the Flanagan Brothers was highly influenced by the top professional performers of that era in American vaudeville.

I met Mike Flanagan in the late 1970’s and helped make their music accessible to a new generation of Irish musicians. Mike’s recording of the Tin Pan Alley song Irish Molly O was covered by De Danann and went to the very top of the Irish Hit Parade. 

As part of An Irish Delight: The Story of the Flanagan Brothers, I will give a presentation on the colorful and memorable story of the Flanagan Brothers which includes video clips of Mike talking about their performances in New York in the 1920’s and also many audio recordings from their huge repertoire of songs, tunes and vaudeville style skits.

Joe Flanagan

Joe Flanagan

Mike Flanagan

Mike Flanagan

Louis Flanagan (left) with Joseph Browne

Louis Flanagan (left) with brother-in-law, Joseph Browne

Photos courtesy of Laurie Kramer and family.

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