Frankie Gavin was born in 1956 into a musical family from Corrandulla in County Galway. His father was an accomplished fiddle player, and there were several musicians on his mother’s side as well.
It’s perhaps not surprising then that Frankie took to music at a very tender age. He started playing tin whistle when he was four and took up the fiddle when he was 10. He started on flute when he was 15.
He was something of a child prodigy and was chosen to play in front of President John F Kennedy when he visited Ireland in 1962. He appeared on Irish television playing the tin whistle when he was seven.
Farewell to Ireland – Frankie Gavin
The teenage Prince of Fiddlers
Gavin’s precocious talent developed rapidly during his teens and when he was only 17 he pulled off a remarkable double achievement.
He won the junior sections of the All Ireland Fiddle Competition and the All Ireland Flute Competition on the same day. This was all the more remarkable because he was largely self-taught and played most of his music by ear.
The dazzling technical ability that came to characterise Gavin’s playing stemmed from his long childhood apprenticeship.
Turning professional and forming De Dannan
A year after his successes at the All Ireland finals, Gavin formed De Dannan.
He was only 18 at the time and was already playing regular gigs at Hughes’ pub at Spiddal in Galway – the pub where he first met and teamed up with the other De Dannan members including Alec Finn.
De Dannan soon started touring Ireland and America. Gavin’s professional commitments meant he never went on to compete in the senior All Ireland competitions, although his unquestionable talent and dedication would have made him a likely winner had he been able to take part.
Jackie Daly, Alec Finn and Frankie Gavin
With the Rolling Stones and Stephane Grapelli
Gavin’s brilliance as a fiddle player brought him to the attention of several top musicians.
He has worked with French violinist Stephane Grapelli to explore connections between jazz and traditional music. He has also ventured into American country and bluegrass with the world renowned banjo player Earl Scruggs.
He played on the Voodoo Lounge album by the Rolling Stones and, as if to emphasise his versatility, he has also performed with the Dublin Philharmonic Orchestra.