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Joanie Madden

Joanie was born in the Bronx, the second of seven children born to Irish immigrants Joe, from Portumna, County Galway and Helen Meade Madden from Miltown Malbay, County Clare. Joe was an outstanding button accordionist who led an Irish dance band for many years, so Joanie grew up to a soundtrack of traditional music. Her first teacher was east Galway flute player Jack Coen, who seems to have done a pretty good job. Joanie won teenage championships in Ireland and in 1984 took the senior All-Ireland championship on the tin whistle, a first for an American. The original Cherish the Ladies concerts the following year were a major turning point in her life – she turned the concept into a touring band that is still on the road over three decades later. As a soloist and bandleader, she has sold hundreds of thousands of albums. She has been featured on 180 recordings for other artists and played on the soundtracks of many films and TV productions. In her spare time, she runs the annual “Joanie Madden’s Musical Tour of Ireland” and “Joanie Madden’s Folk ‘n Irish Cruise.”

Cherish the Ladies

Some of the best young traditional musicians in New York in the 1980s were daughters of immigrants who had arrived in the early ‘60s, including many whose fathers were musicians themselves. In 1985, this phenomenon inspired musician and scholar Mick Moloney (based at that time in Philadelphia) to propose to Ethel Raim of the Ethnic Folk Arts Center (now the Center for Traditional Music and Dance) that a concert be staged to present the best of the young female Irish traditional musicians in New York. Moloney called the show “Cherish the Ladies” after an old Irish jig, and the concert was so successful that further “Cherish the Ladies” shows and a companion Shanachie LP followed, as well as a “Fathers and Daughters” concert and album featuring the ladies with their dads.

The most ebullient performer at the Cherish the Ladies concerts was Joanie Madden, daughter of the Galway accordion player and band leader Joe Madden. A superb flute player and an All-Ireland champion on the tin whistle, Joanie resisted her father’s warning that traditional music could only be a sideline to a “real job,” and turned Cherish the Ladies into a touring band that has continued to perform and record to this day.