This was written by guest blogger Robin Stem.
Joe Cooley was born the son of two melodeon players in Peterswell, Galway, Ireland in 1924. By age 10 he took up the famed Irish-button accordion. He played with the St. Patrick’s Amateur Band, Tulla, in the 40’s and 50’s, along with Galway fiddler, Joe Leary.
In 1954 he left for the U.S. In New York he formed bands and groups, moved on to Chicago, and finally San Francisco. There he formed a band with accordionist Kevin Keegan, and married Nancy McMahon from Killenana, Co Clare.
In the Spring of 1973, after being diagnosed with cancer, he returned to Ireland and toured local pubs a short while before his death in December of 1973, in Dublin. His most enduring legacy, originally named the Tulla Reel, is Joe Cooley’s Reel.
Friends have archived his tunes on a website.
Learn how to play Cooley’s Reel
Take a musical voyage: Practice Journey: Cooley’s Reel
Here’s a documentary about him: