Johnny Moynihan

John Moynihan (born 29 October 1946, Phibsboro) is an Irish folk singer, based in Dublin. He is often credited with introducing the bouzouki into Irish music in the mid-1960s.[1]: 67 

Johnny Moynihan
Moynihan with a pre-war Gibson mandolin
Moynihan with a pre-war Gibson mandolin
Background information
Birth nameJohn Moynihan
Born (1946-10-29) 29 October 1946 (age 74)
OriginPhibsboro, Dublin, Ireland
GenresFolk, traditional Irish
Occupation(s)Musician, singer
InstrumentsVocals, fiddle, mandolin, bouzouki, tin whistle and concertina
Years active1960s–present
Associated actsSweeney's Men
Silly Sisters
Tony Hall
De Dannan
Fleadh Cowboys

Music careerEdit

Sweeney's MenEdit

Known as "The Bard of Dalymount", he was a co-founder of the band Sweeney's Men with Andy Irvine and 'Galway Joe' Dolan (who was later replaced by Terry Woods). Sweeney's Men broke the mould of Irish music and are credited with starting the folk revival there in the late 1960s.

The most famous innovation of Sweeney's Men is probably Moynihan's introduction of the bouzouki, originally a Greek instrument, into Irish music, albeit with a different tuning: GDAD'[2]: 15  (one octave lower than the open-tuned mandolin), instead of the modern Greek tuning of CFAD'.[2]: 5  However, the original three-course bouzouki used in early Rebetika was also tuned DAD.

In his book, The Humours of Planxty, Leagues O'Toole documented that Moynihan bought his first bouzouki from a friend called Tony Ffrench, who had brought it back to Ireland from Greece but decided he couldn't play it, or didn't want to. At first, the other Sweeney's weren't too keen on Moynihan's new instrument, until the evening when he and Irvine worked out an intricate harmony for bouzouki and mandolin while rehearsing Rattlin' Roarin' Willy:[3] Later, Moynihan swapped this Greek, round back bouzouki for a pre-war Gibson mandolin. During a subsequent trip to London, he bought a flat back bouzouki from instrument maker John Bailey, who had made it as an experiment after measuring an authentic bouzouki in one of London's Greek restaurants.[1]: 67 

The group made two albums, Sweeney's Men and The Tracks of Sweeney. The latter was recorded without Irvine, who had taken himself off to the Balkans. Both albums are available on Transatlantic Records.

Planxty, De Dannan and Fleadh CowboysEdit

In 1973, Moynihan briefly joined Planxty for their album Cold Blow and the Rainy Night. After Planxty, Moynihan replaced Irvine in De Dannan in 1976 and can be heard on their second album, Selected Jigs, Reels & Songs, released in 1977 but never re-issued on CD.

Also in 1976, he recorded with Maddy Prior & June Tabor (the Silly Sisters) and with Tony Hall.

For a time, he also fronted the Fleadh Cowboys, a popular band in 1980s Dublin.

Solo gigs and MoonshineEdit

Moynihan performs regularly at the Cobblestone Pub, Smithfield, Dublin.

In 2006, Moynihan could also often be seen playing old-time Appalachian music with a trio based in east-Clare and calling themselves 'Frankie, Johnny and Sweetheart' (a pun on the song title Frankie and Johnny). The other members were Swedish Lena Ullmann on clawhammer banjo and American Frank Hall on fiddle; in 2007, they renamed themselves Moonshine.[4]


Moynihan reunited with Irvine for a one-off concert in Galway in 2001. It was considered doubtful if he and Irvine would ever play together again.

However, they reunited once more, this time billed as Sweeney's Men, for a one-off gig in Rostrevor, County Down on 22 July 2007, with Paul Brady deputising for Joe Dolan who was unwell. Another Sweeney's Men reunion took place when Moynihan, Irvine and Woods performed together again on 16 and 17 June 2012, as part of Irvine's 70th birthday concerts at Vicar Street, in Dublin. It worked so well that they have resumed gigging regularly in Ireland during late 2012 and again in 2013.

The world of Moynihan and Sweeney's Men is best summed up in Andy Irvine's song My Heart's Tonight in Ireland from his Rain on the Roof album, available from Irvine's own website.[5] More information about Moynihan and his career with Sweeney's Men and Planxty can be found in O'Toole's book.[1]: 63–77 

Personal lifeEdit

He was famously associated with the folk singer Anne Briggs in the mid-1960s and both of them traded off their mutual inclination for wild behaviour. He plays backing bouzouki on several Anne Briggs songs.[citation needed]

Selected discographyEdit

With Sweeney's Men
With Anne Briggs
With Planxty
With Maddy Prior & June Tabor
With Tony Hall
  • Fieldvole Music (1976)
With De Danann
  • Selected Jigs, Reels & Songs (1977)
With Fleadh Cowboys
  • High Ace to Heaven (1988)
  • Time of Your Life (1997)
With Moonshine
  • First Run (2007)


  • Andy Irvine 70th Birthday Concert at Vicar St 2012 (2014), DVD


  1. ^ a b c O'Toole, Leagues (2006). The Humours of Planxty. Ireland: Hodder Headline. ISBN 0-340-83796-9.
  2. ^ a b Ó Callanain, Niall; Walsh, Tommy (1989). The Irish Bouzouki. Ireland: Waltons. ISBN 0-786-61595-8.
  3. ^ Sleeve notes from Sweeney's Men CD, Castle Communications Plc, ESM CD 435, 1996.
  4. ^ Johnny Moynihan by Leagues O'Toole, July 17, 2009. From the 'Ramblinghouse' website. Retrieved on 11 November 2013
  5. ^ Rain on the Roof by Andy Irvine, 1996. From Andy Irvine's website. Retrieved on 11 November 2013

External linksEdit