Entertainment Music

Wednesday 18 September 2019

Trad legends jig about with a legendary name

Frankie Gavin & De Dannan, with from left, Mike Galvin, Frankie Gavin,
Michelle Lally, Eric Cunningham and Damien Mullane
Frankie Gavin & De Dannan, with from left, Mike Galvin, Frankie Gavin, Michelle Lally, Eric Cunningham and Damien Mullane

JEROME REILLY

THEY began musical life as De Danann in the early Seventies -- but what's in a name?

Quite a lot, it seems.

Two founding members of what is widely regarded as one of Ireland's greatest traditional groups have gone to war over who owns the band's name.

Guitar and bouzouki player Alec Finn claims he registered the name 'De Dannan' as his own after the band stopped performing and it cannot be used without his permission. That came as a surprise to the other founder member of the band, fiddle player Frankie Gavin.

He has gone back on the road with a new line-up, styling the combo 'Frankie Gavin & De Dannan".

The fallout between two men who were a musical tour de force for 33 years first emerged when advertisements announcing gigs for 'Frankie Gavin & De Dannan' appeared in the Hot Press magazine.

Solicitors for Mr Finn wrote to the magazine pointing out that the name was registered by Finn as a business name pursuant to the Business Names Act 1963.

The letter asked that the magazine not exhibit or publish or use the words "De Dannan" in any "advertisement, placard or leaflet" without consultation with Alec Finn.

That was followed by an interview by Mr Finn with Hot Press in which he said: "This is not De Dannan. If you want to go and spend your money on something that is not De Dannan, go. But don't be taken in that you are actually going to see a reunion of the old members of De Dannan."

He explained how he came to register 'De Dannan'.

"When the band disbanded, I decided it'd be a good idea, on someone's advice -- I can't remember who -- that I should copyright the name to stop anyone else using it, even if we weren't going to use it again," Mr Finn said.

Meanwhile, Frankie Gavin declined to talk about the apparent falling out when contacted by the Sunday Independent. The normally voluble fiddler who once joked on The Late Late Show that his ambition in life was to write a song short enough that "Christy Moore wouldn't sweat singing it" was reluctant to comment on the spat.

In a terse email he said simply: "Frankie Gavin & De Dannan is a registered trade name with the Companies Registration Office, owned by myself and trading in music in all its formats including performance worldwide. Hope this clarifies the matter." The other original members of De Dannan were Johnny 'Ringo' McDonagh (bodhran) and Charlie Piggott (banjo.)

Until they disbanded in 2003, Finn and Gavin were the longtime members of a group that constantly changed personnel. Among the musicians who featured on their 14 albums and in their live performances were Dolores Keane, Maura O'Connell, Eleanor Shanley, Tommy Fleming, Jackie Daly and Andrew Murray.

Frankie Gavin & De Dannan has a new line-up which, in the fiddler's own words, "will reflect a De Dannan of the 21st century".

Gavin is joined in the new traditional venture by Michelle Lally on vocals, Damien Mullane on accordion, Mike Galvin on bouzouki and guitars and Eric Cunningham on percussion, flutes and whistles.

Launching the band, Gavin said: "Following a period where a De Dannan unit was no longer actively performing I believe it's time now to write a new chapter in the De Dannan story.

"I have put together a team of musicians to form the new De Dannan who are tremendously talented performers, and who I know will restore the De Dannan name and sound to its former glory."

Frankie Gavin added: "I am just out there to make good music and hopefully, in the process, make people very happy. Life is too short for anything else."

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