Thursday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcasting live from Music Row on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – Leahy was joined on the newsmakers line by Frank Leahy, a member and only brother of the musical group Leahy.
During the third hour, Frank Leahy talked about how he grew up in a household that was full of music and what it was like to be the only brother in the band.
Leahy: We are joined now by my likely distant cousin, Frank Leahy. Welcome to The Tennessee Star Report, Frank!
Frank Leahy: Thank you, Michael Patrick Leahy. A pleasure to hear from you.
Leahy: By the way, first, everybody in the listening audience here at The Tennessee Star Report here in Nashville knows that this week it’s all Leahy all the time Frank!
Frank Leahy: Good for you Michael.
Leahy: We’re giving tickets away. And everybody in our listening audience is an extended member of the Leahy family. This week we have tickets we are giving away for the event this Saturday at the Franklin Theatre at 8 p.m. I’ll be there with my family. You’ll get to meet my wife and daughters.
Frank Leahy: Absolutely.
Leahy: And they’ll get to meet you. Now Frank, just among us we Leahy men, OK. For a long period of time in your family, you played the drums. You were the only brother in the group and you were there with five sisters. What’s that like?
Frank Leahy: (Laughter) Now you’re asking a very difficult question to answer. You know how it goes. You grow up with your family members. Through growing up you learn to adapt to the situation that comes at you.
And it’s great. We’ve been doing this for a long time, playing together. So it’s something that’s actually very special. As you get older you really appreciate that you’re able to still do this together.
Leahy: You have reinforcements now with your son Xavier who will be here. What’s it like playing with all your family and now your son who’s joined the touring Leahy group. What’s that like?
Frank Leahy: You know what? Again it’s one of those situations where my mom and dad brought music to our family. And we just passed that on to our children. So we’ve been doing this and I’ve been playing with my children since they were little ones.
And everybody in our family has been continuing on that same tradition. Where the child grows up and the first thing that you do is put an instrument in their hands or teach them step dancing. It’s a process that’s been going on. Xavier is now 16.
I’ve been playing with Xavier since he was three years old. Again, as you get older you really appreciate the time that you’ve spent together. And you know what a connection to be able to play with your child professionally. It’s a real gift.
Leahy: So your dad, Francis Lawrence Leahy born in 1928 just passed away in 2015. My dad was born in 1929. His name was Raymond Francis Leahy from the Quebec-Tipperary Leahy’s. So we have a lot in common in terms of our family’s histories. And so he married your mom Julia from Cape Breton Nova Scotia.
A little different style there that I learned from your sister and that includes the stride left hand. (Frank Leahy laughs) It’s fascinating to me. I can hear that whimsical fun where you hit a low bass note and then jump up a couple of octaves. It’s got ragtime feel to it. It’s really kind of fun. I noticed that in your music.
Frank Leahy: Styles are created. A lot of times where my mother grew up they didn’t have a lot. They were really poor in the sense where every dollar was hard to come by because of the environment they grew up in. It was cold and there wasn’t a lot of business around.
So what they did in their pastime was they played music. They probably really didn’t have a radio. They weren’t trying to copy somebody else. They created their own style. This is what happens when you’re a little bit isolated. What happens is that you are very free to create.
And so when mother showed up to the Ontario area where my parents met, she had this style that was created out their love for playing music. They weren’t trying to copy somebody else. I have a sister that plays the bass and every time a bass player listens to my sister play they say, I’ve never heard that style before.
And the ironic thing is that she never listened to a bass player growing up. She played the fiddle. So she took her ideas off the fiddle and applied it to the bass. I’ve never heard that before.
And again this understanding where you are able to create music when you are free. You are not bombarded by opinions and ideas from somebody else. They do help at times, but it’s wonderful to be able to create when you are free.
Leahy: So you play the drums. How did you select the drums? How did you become the drummer of the group?
Frank Leahy: I was the toughest one in the family. (Laughter) Anybody that came near the drums I’d beat them up and it was mine.
Leahy: There you go.
Frank Leahy: You know, you are attracted to certain instruments. And my personality, they always say drummers are a little bit odd. I’m sure a few people would say that about me. But that was the instrument that I was attracted to. It started off as aggression. We grew up playing sports.
Leahy: What kind of sports did you play?
Frank Leahy: You’re talking to a Canadian.
Frank Leahy: Hockey!
Leahy: My dad played hockey. I put the skates on a couple of times. I grew up in Plattsburgh, New York. Just across the border from Hemmingford. I had weak ankles. I played football and basketball and all that stuff. What position did you play in hockey?
Frank Leahy: I was a forward.
Leahy: Of course. The aggressive guy that plays the drums. (Frank Leahy laughs)
Frank Leahy: We also played soccer. That was a big sport in the family as well. And we were good at soccer. And this is why we were good at it. We had a farm. Every night we had to get the cattle in the barn.
So dad would say, go out there and get those cattle and bring them in. So you’d be running all night long. (Leahy laughs) There was always one or two cows that would not listen. And so you ran a lot. So every day we’d be running.
Leahy: So you learned teamwork?
Frank Leahy: It was teamwork. We became good at running. Let’s just leave it at that.
Leahy: In terms of the vocal style here. I heard it’s mostly your sisters’ harmony. Is it primarily just the sisters? Or do you and Xavier also join in on the vocal side of it sometimes?
Frank Leahy: It’s mainly the girls. But again, again, there have been pieces there will be a choral production and the male voice does take place. It’s not a lot. But again, the process is still continuing.
The ideas are that the male voices will participate more as time goes on. And that’s the great thing Michael is that we have the freedom to experiment. We have the freedom to try new musical ideas. And that’s what playing in a family allows. Everyone’s ideas have great merit.
Leahy: And the style. Here’s one thing that I noticed. The instruments are vocal music, guitars, banjos, bass, accordion, piano, and drums. There are no wind instruments. Do you every use wind instruments at all?
Frank Leahy: You know what? We don’t. I don’t think you could get the girls to stop talking in order to play wind instruments. (Chuckles)
Leahy: And on that note Frank Leahy we’re going to close it off. But I am going to see you and your sisters at the Franklin Theatre at 8 p.m. on Saturday. You’ll meet my family, and we’ll be there for a meet and greet afterward not only with us but with our ticket winners.
Listen to the full third hour:
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