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  • Living

The sound of the Tuam beat

Wednesday, 11th January, 2012 11:32am

I CALLED to Padraig Stevens last week to interview him about the up-coming ceremony when Tuam Town Council will honour him for his outstanding contribution to Tuam and its music.

However, it turned out to be less of an interview and more of a catch up as I had last visited Padraig during the summer to collect a rare acoustic version of Wreckless Eric's Whole Wide World and I also left with a Bob Dylan bootleg collection. In fact, any time I have called, I've seldom left empty handed. If Friday night's award is about giving, then it is well deserved as I have received my fair share.

Always welcoming and encouraging, Padraig had the kettle boiled and we settled in the back living room close to the cosy fire. Our conversations usually take a similar course - a small bit of GAA, a nice bit of music and then with Padraig settling into a very natural story-telling mode, one of the great gifts he possesses.

As regards music, Padraig has seen and done it all and he remembers the smallest detail from every adventure, making for great tales.

Originally from Sligo, Padraig started his first rock ‘n' roll band The Problems, in Tuam in 1965.

"We were about 18 or 19, a youth club band, mad for playing," he says. "The original incarnation of the band lasted about a year before leaning to a showband sound."

By this stage he had learned his first songs and cut his teeth, as they say. After living in London and playing with bands he returned to Tuam and managed punk band Blaze X, whose short but furious existence ran from 1979 to 1981. "They were frightening and outrageous. I remember them supporting U2 in Leisureland. I think it was one of the main causes for me becoming deaf," recalls Padraig.

Padraig was one of the founding members of The Saw Doctors and went on their first tour of the UK as support to The Waterboys. He has also co-written a lot of songs with the band. He can remember the band's first practice sessions in Leo Moran's shed and has seen first hand how the band has grown and what it has become, summing it up with the beautiful phrase, "ambition is a powerful force".

Since then he has released several albums of his own that absolutely epitomise the man. If you want to know who Padraig Stevens is just listen to his records. Filled with poetry, nature, traditionalism, honesty and colloquial humour, he finds beauty in the simplest things and magic in every other day living.

Each song contains a piece of Padraig; his gentle nature, his wisdom and his curiosity. One of his greatest passions is GAA and along with Leo Moran he released an entire album, The Folk Footballers, on the subject after Galway's All-Ireland win in 1998. His music is who he is. Padraig has always supported new and young bands and artists in the town and the makeshift studio in his house has been the first port of call for many aspiring songwriters.

From listening to a poem he had set to music about a majestic flock of starlings that he saw flying over Gardenfield, he goes in search of a song that myself and some friends had sung backing vocals on nearly seven years ago and he plays for me all sorts of new and old recordings by himself and others he has invited into his home in between.

It is always a pleasure and a privilege to talk to Padraig. His outlook on life and his worldly knowledge always make me think and I admire the path he has taken - always doing his own thing and never compromising.

After this visit I leave with three books of poetry, among them a collection by Galway poets and Seamus Heaney's Station Island.  Before I go I ask him about the award he is about to receive and with his quick wit and in his own humble way he replies, "speigoof sham".

A civic reception for Padraig takes place on Friday, January 13 at 8 pm in the Town Hall and a gig in his honour will follow in The Corralea Court Hotel with music from friends and local musicians playing their interpretations of his songs.


- Darragh O'Dea

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