Gerry O’Connor has brought the banjo to places no other player had tread before. He has travelled the world – physically and musically – experimenting with everything from Irish to bluegrass to African and Asian, and back to Irish. Both as a soloist and as a collaborator with numerous groups, Gerry has truly traced the banjo’s journey through the world of music.
Gerry’s contribution to Irish Music can best be summed up in the words of Earl Hitchener; Music Critic for the Wall Street Journal, Celtic Music, Irish Echo, CTMS Journal (USA): “Gerry O’Connor may be the single best four string banjoist in the history of Irish Music. It seems a tall statement to make but his phenomenal technique fully justified it. O’Connor tossed off runs and ornaments with effortless virtuosity and his jazz-like penchant for experimentation and risk taking will remind listeners of American five string banjo players like Bela Fleck and Alison Brown. If ever a musician truly ‘owned’ the instrument he plays Gerry O’Connor ‘owns’ the four – string banjo. A member of Four Men and a Dog he should be fronting his own band that will compliment and react properly to his amazing musical instincts. He is in every sense of the word sensational”.
In 1993 Gerry joined “Four Men and a Dog” and recorded three critically acclaimed albums in the company of rock legends “THE BAND”. They performed at major festivals throughout Europe, Canada, USA, Australia and China. As well as being a composer and performer Gerry is a much sought after session musician. He worked on Michael Flatley’s “Lord of the Dance” soundtrack, Christy Moore’s celebrated “Folk Tale” album and Chris Rea’s album “Dancing Down the Stoney Road”. . He has guested over the years with many famous Irish artists such as The Waterboy’s, Mary Black, Sharon Shannon, Arcady, Moya Brennan, Luka Bloom and performed for US President Bill Clinton in Belfast during his historic visit to Ireland. Tutor books and videos by Gerry are available from Waltons and Music Sales outlets worldwide, and has given tutorials in Limerick University to students of Irish Music and Culture.
After the sudden death of Barney McKenna on 5 April 2012, Gerry entered The Dubliners to complete the planned tour, until the final shows that year. Barney McKenna himself had said, about Gerry: “He’s my best pupil ever”. Together with the remaining members, Gerry has continued touring as one of The Dublin Legends.
In 2013 Gerry was one of four musicians brought together by blues rock legend Joe Bonamassa to perform on a variety of instruments in an acoustic concert at the Vienna Opera House. None of the five had never worked together nor even met until they arrived in Vienna where three days later they put on a live performance. The event was released on CD&DVD/Blu-Ray titled An Acoustic Evening At The Vienna Opera House and was broadcast on a PBS tv special. Following that, Gerry toured worldwide as a member of Bonamassa’s acoustic band.
Gerry has four solo albums to his credit: 1992 saw the release of his first album “Time to Time” which is now considered a classic. His composition “Funk the Cajun Blues”, first heard on this album, was included on the hugely successful compilation “Trad at Heart” and was released as a single. “Myriad” was released in 1999, which features many of Gerry’s own compositions and supported by such musical colleagues as Steve Cooney, Manus Lunny, Vinnie Kilduff, Kevin Doherty, and Mairtin O Connor. “No Place Like Home”, released in 2004, was his first solo album after a 5 year gap. Gerry’s first two albums had a lot of experimentation but this album represented a sort of ‘homecoming’ to his musical heritage. It also served to remind the world that this is a first-class player, and was well received in all corners, particularly with The Irish Times who named “No Place Like Home” the Number 1 Traditional/Folk album of the year 2004! That album was followed by “High Up Low Down” which brought together the traditional music of Ireland with the bluegrass and folk music of America. His version of Earl Scruggs’ classic ‘Foggy Mountain Breakdown’ would impress even the harshest critic, who could be forgiven for not believing it was actually a 4-string tenor banjo performing that complex 5-string banjo sound.
“I think the way I would like my albums to be remembered for the music and not so much the technique as people can get very bogged down with the physics of playing an instrument and loose sight of the heart and soul of music.” says Gerry.