Louis Quinn Sr.
Honored posthumously, February 6, 1998
Louis Eamon Quinn was born in 1904 in Newtownhamilton, Co., Armagh. He had a few lessons with a local fiddler, Henry Savage, before emigrating to Canada in 1928. Finding his way to New York in 1933, he quickly became acclimated to the Irish music scene. He became friendly with many of the top musicians of the time, including the legendary fiddlers Michael Coleman, James Morrison, and James “Lad” O’Beirne, with whom he maintained a lifetime association, the two of them forming one of the most accomplished fiddle duos ever.
During the 1930’s, Louis hosted a weekly Irish radio program. With few organized music clubs in existence at the time, the traditional music scene revolved around impromptu sessions and Louis Quinn was a regular participant in most of them in New York. In the 1950’s, with the late Ed Reavy of Philadelphia and the late Frank Thornton of Chicago, both also among the most respected traditional musicians, Louis helped establish the first national organization for Irish music in America, the “Irish Musicians Association,” becoming its first President and National Chairman. This united organization provided a network of clubs that fostered the Irish traditional music so enjoyed by the Irish community and the I.M.A. grew rapidly, with many branches forming in New York, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens, and Long Island. Among them was the Louis E. Quinn Branch, founded in 1959 in Mineola. With Louis instrumental in incorporating the I.M.A.’s branches into Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann in the early 1970’s, that club, still centered in Mineola, became the Mulligan-Quinn Branch of Comhaltas.
Throughout his life, Louis Quinn was a dedicated and able ambassador for Irish music and culture on both sides of the Atlantic. He was singularly responsible for promoting and popularizing the music of his friend Ed Reavy both in America and Ireland, including recording two of Reavy’s reels on a Rounder records tribute album issued in 1979. Countless musicians, both Irish and American born, have been greatly helped in their careers by the tireless efforts of Louis Quinn to keep the spirit and traditions of the Irish alive and well. Louis Quinn died in March 1991, just shy of his 87th birthday.
Louis and Mary Quinn’s five sons, Sean, Brian, Kevin, Louis Jnr, and Pat, and two daughters, Mary Lou and Kathleen, have added to his musical legacy by their own successes playing Irish traditional music and performing and teaching step-dancing.