Brendan Pelan, Singer and Guitarist, born in Belfast Ireland.
I was introduced to music at an early age. My Mom and Dad, Alexander (Alec) and Lucy Pelan immigrated to America to provide a better life for their three children, Rosemary, Patricia and myself. My Mom and sisters and I boarded the RMS, Mauritania and set sail to join our father in America. We arrived at the Port of New York on July 1st, 1949, as my father found work in Washington, DC. We settled in College Park, MD, where my parents had three more children, Dolores, Maureen and Marian.
My father was a tradesman and a gifted violinist and was able to play any style of music, weaving magic with his bow. He was most at home playing traditional Irish music and was sought after in both the Baltimore and Washington, DC Irish community music scene, where he performed for Irish Community programs, the Irish American Society, and many of the Irish Dance Studios.
Alec was a featured artist at the 1972 Irish Cultural & Folklore Society Arts Program in Washington. The Irish Cultural Society’s program described his playing as:
“A native of Belfast, Co. Antrim, Alec has been playing the fiddle since childhood. He studied under the legendary Sean Maguire and played at many a “session” with him. Alec has been performing for over 40 years and plays in that rich Ulster style, noted for its distinctive flair and intensity.”
Our Mom was a terrific singer and together they would perform socially and at home with our family, relatives and friends. Lucy could light up the room when she sang and music was always around our house. We have fond memories of our parents’ friends and relatives coming over for “sing alongs”, in our small house, and these sessions, coupled with my parents enormous talent, served as a basis for my musical interests and direction.
After taking violin and piano lessons, I found my real interest was the guitar, and began to teach myself to play. I formed my first band “The Runarounds” when I was in the 8th Grade, at Holy Redeemer School, Berwyn, MD. That year I purchased my first guitar. It was a beautiful Sears Roebuck, bronze Silvertone, solid body guitar and it cost me all the money I had – $29.99. The Runarounds were quite the rag tag group but it was great fun and we would even hitchhike, with our instruments in tow, to the jobs we played.
I attended St. Anthony’s High School in Washington, DC, and one day a classmate of mine, Chick Hall, asked me to join a school rock band he was forming. Chick heard that I played guitar and asked me to play electric bass, which he taught me to play. From that relationship we formed “The Majestic Neons” along with our drummer and friend Rick Stubblefield. We cut our teeth playing bars, including Chick Hall’s Surf Club, VFW Halls, CYO dances and college parties.
The “Neons” successfully recorded two songs with Unicorn Records: “My Baby Don’t Love Me” and “Swingin’ Thing is Summertime.” We also had an advertising contract with a Swedish Guitar Company - Hagstrom, and you will see the instruments in some of our photos.
The highlight of “The Neons” career was publicly introducing our new songs at the 1964 New York Worlds Fair, United States Pavilion, in New York City. We performed on a beautiful warm summer day, the day before the Beatles concert across the street at Shea Stadium. The Neons was really a terrific band, with the potential of going far. We still have many fans that we hear from after all these years. As many of you know, Chick Hall is still one of the most gifted guitarists ever, with a national reputation, and I owe a great deal to Chick for his musical inspiration, guidance and friendship. Chick, Rick and I still get together and perform on occasion.
It was during this period that I decided that music would be a secondary career for me and I became employed at what is now Verizon, and I had a very rewarding career with that company.
Meanwhile, my father and I continued playing Irish music “sessions” together, especially during the weeks leading up to St. Patrick’s Day, at family functions, Knights of Columbus Halls and parties. On two occasions in the early 1970’s, Dad and I opened the Washington, DC St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Standing in the middle of Constitution Avenue, we played the Irish National Anthem (Soldiers Song) and a few Jigs and Reels. It was truly an honor to be there with my Dad and a most special time in my life.
I continued leading bands and in 1968 formed a band with some friends called “The Four Reasons Why.” We played together all through the 1970’s and the band was very popular and successful.
In the early 80’s I formed “The Reasons” which continued to play successfully for years, and in 1990 this group evolved to the “The Rockin’ Reasons.” Our specialties included great three part harmonies, and performing Doo Wop and Jimmy Buffett influenced selections. The Rockin’ Reasons continues performing today and you will find information on the band on my web site. Lead Guitarist, Brian Litz has also been a very positive influence on my music, as he helped me understand music theory and the intricacies of jazz and standards music.
Focus on Irish and Acoustic Music
Throughout my music career I had predominantly played Bass Guitar, and I wanted to concentrate further on playing acoustic guitar and specifically playing Irish and popular acoustic music. I remember going to the Maryland Irish Festival in Baltimore some years ago and hearing Paddy Reilly in concert. I told myself that day that this is what I really wanted to do and someday I would publicly perform Irish traditional and popular acoustic music as a singer/guitarist. Another influence in this direction was my son Sean, who is an excellent singer and guitarist, and attending his performances added further motivation to perform with the acoustic guitar.
Seven years ago, I began playing as a solo performer in the Washington, DC and Baltimore area. This is truly where I am the most comfortable and I enjoy bringing both Irish traditional and popular acoustic music to my audience. My musical interests span from the Wolfe Tones, Clancy Brothers, Christy Moore, and Furey Brothers to The Beatles, Jimmy Buffett, The Drifters, Van Morrison, Billy Joel, Paul Simon and Roy Orbison.
My goal of playing Irish music full time has been realized and I have the privilege of performing for some of the best Irish organizations and restaurants in the area. Over the past three years, I’ve been invited to perform at the Maryland Irish Festival, and in 2006 and 2007, I played several venues in Derry, Belfast and Dublin, Ireland.
To close, it is a privilege to be able to play my music and to meet such marvelous people and friends along the way. I receive instant gratification when the audience sings along with me or I receive feedback for a song that I played having special meaning for someone.
Thank you for coming to my shows and for viewing my web site. Your comments would be much appreciated, and I look forward to playing for you at a future event.
“All God’s Creatures Have a Place in the Choir Some Sing Low and Some Sing Higher”