Johnny Cronin's Reel
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JOHNNY CRONIN'S REEL. AKA and see "Cronin's Reel (1)," "Johnny Cronin's Fancy," "Kitty O'Neill (4)." Irish, Reel. G Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABBCC. A mash-up of "Kitty O'Neill (4)" and "The Avonmore" that first appeared (as "Johnny Cronin's Fancy") on The Banks of the Shannon, a 1973 Comhaltas EP recorded by Tipperary button accordion player Paddy O'Brien and fiddler Séamus Connolly, originally from Killaloe, Clare. The name commemorates fiddler Johnny Cronin, a native of Gneeveguilla, County Kerry who lived for many years in New York City before his death in 1991. The tune is often paired in sessions with "Mayor Harrison's Fedora," as on the O'Brien/Connolly disc.
Johnny Cronin told New York musician Don Meade that he never really played the tune named in his honor, but Johnny's late brother Paddy learned many tunes from classic collections and perhaps picked up the two-part "Kitty O'Neill (4)" from Francis O'Neill's Waifs and Strays of Gaelic Melody (1922). According to Connolly, he and O'Brien learned that two-part tune from Chicago fiddler Johnny McGreevey, who called it after Johnny Cronin (somebody may have remembered the wrong Cronin). Connolly also told Meade that O'Brien had learned from his father Dinny a similar two-part tune with a different second part (evidentally a version of the reel published by Francis O'Neill as "The Avonmore"). So for the recording, Connolly and O'Brien combined the two tunes into one three-part reel, and honored Johnny Cronin in the title.
The late New York accordion player Jim Coogan related this story about Johnny Cronin:
I was with Denis - Jackie Riordan - Joe Mills and Frank Wearity (they are all gone now) one Sunday afternoon when in comes Johnny Cornin (rip) with a full load of booze taken on. Johnny, naturally, was broke and was trying to borrow money and was hard after Denis (knowing he would get it) who shouted down at him (Denis was a big man) in the lovely sing song Kerry accent: "Ooooo - who takes a fit of working everry six months - vants a five dollar bill from me? How do oo intend to pay me back?"
Another Cronin story Jim told goes:
Joe Burke told me in Milwaukee that when Johnny got his settlement from the injury he received while working construction (somewhere around 8 grand) he hired a cab for the day and took Joe up to Alexander's Department store and went in and got outfitted out - from underwear - shoes - socks pants shirt -jacket etc. - he put them on in the dressing room - pulled off the price tags off and went to the cashier and paid for what was on his back - then told cashier - "If ye know of some poor soul can use the clothes I left in the dressing - give them to him..."
They then went to all the Irish bars in the Bronx and John would leave money for everyone he owed in an envelope as he knew they would be frequenting - Joe said that after they were all done and John paid the cab he had less than $1,000 left - which probably lasted him about a week.
Joel Shimberg remembered this tale:
Danny Collins told me (years ago, so details may be a bit hazy) that a bunch of Chicago guys got a bit of the wet devil in them once and telegraphed Johnny Cronin that Paddy Cronin (who I think was visiting in Chicago at the time) had died and that the funeral would be in three days. He said that Johnny had returned from Boston and had told Danny "It was a long trip up there, and do you know, the son of a bitch wasn't even dead!"
Source for notated version:
Printed sources: Black (Music's the Very Best Thing), 1996; No. 266, p. 143. Bulmer & Sharpley (Music from Ireland), 1976, vol. 4, No. 40. Mallinson (100 Enduring), 1995; No. 3, p. 2 (appears as "Johnny Cronin's Fancy"). Miller (Fiddler's Throne), 2004; No. 183, p. 116. Mulvihill (1st Collection), 1986; No. 37, p. 10 (appears as "Cronin's Reel"). Treoir, vol. 35, No. 3, 2003; p. 28. Vallely (Armagh Pipers Club Play 50 Reels), 1982; No. 23, p. 13.
Recorded sources: Seamus Connolly and Paddy O'Brien, The Banks of the Shannon (Comhaltas EP, 1973)