When first I came to the U.S.A. with my guitar in hand,
I was told that I could get a job singing songs from Ireland.
So I headed up to Boston , I was sure to be alright
But the very first night I got on the stage, I was in for a big surprise
they said: You're not Irish, you can't be Irish, you don't know Danny Boy
Or Toora Loora Loora, or even Irish Eyes
You've got the hell of a nerve to say you came from Ireland
so cut out all the nonsense and sing MacNamaras Band!
To tell the truth I got quite a shock and I didn't know what to say
So I sang a song in Gaelic I thought might win the day
But they looked at me suspiciously and I didn't know what was wrong
Then all of a sudden they started to shout, "Now sing a real Irish song!"
I had nothing to do with the day-to-day programming of radio station WHTB. That was the job of a handful of dried-up old has-beens, monstrously fragile egos, a couple of doughy pantloads, and a cokehead. In order to fulfill a dream of doing radio in my old hometown, I had demoted myself from network teevee producer to board-op for Fallriffic political hacks who couldn't turn on their own microphones or remember the call letters. At a party the day before the station went online, one of the owners told me that my "professional broadcasting experience would be a great asset" and that he would be seeking my "input." Too bad he never spoke to me except to insult my tie or my hair or my family.
But on Sundays, the place was mine. I ran prerecorded tapes of French easy-listening or surprisingly enjoyable Polkas in the ethnic ghetto that included my show. The Celtic Corner.
That was the name of the show, and I ran it from 1989 to 1993. I got to play brand-new traditional music from Ireland, Scotland, England, Wales, the Canadian Maritimes, and anywhere else fiddles and guitars met. I got to build relationships with record labels and bands, and yes, I kept the CDs. I got to promote my own DJ gigs. I got to promote my theater work. I got to meet and create friendships with very important mates.
(If there is a heaven, it has a studio full of my albums, a seat for Barbara Carns, a seat for Johnny Cunningham, an open hour of airtime, and a reasonable recreation of Fall River's Ukrainian Club nearby.)
I got a lot of love letters from octogenariennes, but I got complaints too. "And what were those complaints," you ask. See above. Hardly a Tommy Makem would go by without someone calling in and screaming that it wasn't Bing Crosby, and what was I doing on the air anyway? "Carroll ain't no Irish name."
Although I bit the bullet and played Frank Patterson or Andy Cooney or Paddy Noonan, I preferred and played more Altan or De Danann or Cherish The Ladies. I vowed that I would play the latter until the local audience understood what "Celtic"meant. I gave short history lessons, pronunciation guides, genealogical information, football scores, all in hopes of reaching the Fall River Irish community that I knew wasn't just the French and Polish guys at Fall River's traditional Irish neighborhood bar, the Corky Row Club.
I'd spent plenty of time there as a kid, learning how to be Irish from my Dad, who was very good at it. I wasn't very good, since I was underage and obviously Welsh because of the size of my head.
The Fawrivvah Irish-American Renaissance never took off, or at least nobody ever told me about it, so I ended up doing live shows with folkies from Rhode Island and eventually New Bedford, where you don't have to wear green on March 17.
And you don't have to sing Danny Boy.