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Derrane, Joe (1930-2016)



  • Existence: 1930 - 2016

Biographical Note

Joseph P. Derrane (1930-2016), was born in Boston to Irish immigrants. Derrane grew up in Roxbury and attended Mission Church High School. From age 10 to 12 Derrane took lessons on the single-row melodeon with Cork-born Jerry O'Brien. As a teenager, Derrane taught himself to play piano accordion and the two-row D/C# button accordion. He performed regularly as a soloist and with groups, at house parties, Dudley Street dance halls, and other venues, as well as on live radio. Copley Records invited high-school senior Derrane to record commercially. The resulting recordings, with accompaniment by pianist John Connors, were praised for their precision, ornaments, and rhythmic variations. He went on to record with various collaborators. Derrane married Anne Connaughton in 1955 and by 1959 they settled in Randolph, Massachusetts. With a family to support, and with Irish dance hall audiences declining, Derrane shifted his musical focus to piano accordion, keyboard, and synthesizer. Between 1962 and 1989, while holding various administrative positions at the MBTA, he performed jazz, pop, and repertoire from other ethnic traditions, including ten years in a duo with his son. In the late 1980s, Derrane retired from the MBTA, then from music, and took up part-time office work for St. Timothy's Catholic Church in Norwood. In 1993, Rego Irish Records and Tapes compiled Derrane's earliest recordings and re-released them on CD. Following this re-release, Derrane was persuaded to try the button accordion again. An invitation to Virginia's 1994 Wolf Trap Festival ended his decades-long hiatus from the button box. The success of Derrane's performance with piano accompanist Felix Dolan prompted Derrane's return to Irish music, launching international performances, recording, and teaching. In 2004, the National Endowment for the Arts recognized Derrane with a National Heritage Fellowship. Derrane died in 2016.

Social Networks and Archival Context (SNAC) Identifier

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Joe Derrane Irish music materials


A button accordion, an event program, photographs, a set list, and phonograph records belonging to Boston-area Irish musician Joe Derrane.

Restrictions on Access

Collection is open for research. The accordion may be viewed by researchers, but may not be played.

Dates: 1928-circa 2010