Honored posthumously, February 21, 2004
Once again we turn to that musical county of Sligo to honor another extraordinary musician who left its shores to make his presence felt in North America. Eighty years ago, John Francis Vesey was born in Ballincurry near Tubbercurry into a household where music was revered with his father John offering him his first fiddle lesson and his mother Anna, a lilter, sharing many tunes with their son. His musical education was furthered by the tutelage of the Michael Gorman, one of Sligo’s great fiddlers and a friend of his father’s who offered to take him on at a fair in Charlestown. Gorman taught by traveling from house to house around the townlands in South Sligo. Gorman is crediting with giving him a firm foundation in fiddle bowing and fingering technique which characterized his playing the rest of his life as well as his own teaching style later on in Philadelphia. One of his schoolmates was Mike Flynn (Hall of Fame 2003) just last year and like Flynn and Gorman, Vesey made his way to England immersing himself in its lively Irish music scene. In 1949 he emigrated to Philadelphia where he had relatives and quickly became part of the vibrant American scene where he was welcome from Boston to Chicago to New York where he often shared tunes with another great Sligo fiddler Paddy Killoran a link back to the great Michael Coleman. In Philadelphia, he was very active in Irish concerts, dances and he led at least two Ceilidhe Bands over here. Vesey was a frequent guest on Irish radio programs most notably those on WTEL where he played with Austin Kelly, leader of the All-Ireland Irish Orchestra. In 1977 he released an album with Paul Brady on the Shanachie label. In 1998, a retrospective double CD was produced by his former student and fellow musician, the late Thomas Standeven Jr. called John Vesey: Sligo Fiddler with 43 tracks cobbled together from tape recordings beginning in 1954 and later decades before he passed away in Feb of 1995. The selections reveal a master of the Irish violin as captured on home recordings or live radio spots that while unvarnished by the studio allow more people to hear his music. John Vesey was married to Rose Marie who is also deceased and they had seven children who gave their blessing to this posthumous recording project by Standeven. That double CD is available through Joe Vesey (484-494-8386).
– Notes from the late Thomas Standeven, Jr. edited by Paul Keating