2020 Prize Winner: Gerry O’Connor
Gerry O’Connor was born in Tipperary in 1960 into a family steeped in Irish Traditional music. Learning music from his parents and grandparents he started playing banjo and fiddle in his early teens. In 1977 while attending UCD in Dublin he joined popular folk band Tipsy Sailor and made numerous TV appearances with them. He joined The Wild Geese in 1981 and toured Europe extensively, recording two albums with the group. Earle Hitchner of The Wall Street Journal described Gerry as ‘the best banjoist in the history of Irish music’ following the release of his album ‘No Place like Home’ in 2004.
In 1984 he joined Dublin ballad group Moonshine and also Jury’s Irish Cabaret which became the world’s longest running cabaret show and attended by millions of people over the years. During this period he also recorded tutor books and DVDs on tenor banjo which were highly successful and distributed worldwide. 1990 saw the release of his first solo album “Time To Time” on the Mulligan label. This album received rave reviews and is considered a classic benchmark for banjo in Irish music with many of the tracks used for TV programmes. The track,”Funk the Cajun Blues ” became a popular radio single and also featured on the big selling “Trad at Heart” Irish compilation music album in 1994.
Gerry joined the band Four Men and a Dog in 1992 ,the first Irish band to win UK Folk Roots album of the year. Over 12 years they did four albums and became one of the most popular Irish Trad groups on the touring circuit worldwide. Highlights were performing at the Olympic Games in Atlanta 1996 recording and touring with rock and roll legends “The Band.” Between tours Gerry did countless recording sessions in Dublin for many artists , including Christy Moore, Bonnie Tyler, Albert Lee and the “Lord of the Dance” soundtrack. He joined The Sharon Shannon big band in 2008 recording two CDs and two DVDs. The song “The Galway Girl”became the most downloaded song in Irish music. He also recorded and toured with Sharon Corr and has also played on The Corr’s album “White Light.”
In 2011 he joined rock guitar superstar Joe Bonamassa Acoustic Band recording two U.S. Billboard No. 1 albums and DVDs “Live in Vienna Opera House” and “Live at The Albert Hall.” Multiple tours followed including a world tour in 2014. In 2012, following the death of his friend, banjo legend Barney McKenna, Gerry guested with The Dubliners on their 50 years anniversary tour. That same year The Dublin Legends were born and continue to carry on the legacy and spirit of The Dubliners.