Johnny Boyce was only five years of age, when he first started tickling the ivories. John was trained on the piano for approximately 3 years before converting to the piano accordion. Boyce's parents, bith which are from Donegal, in the Northwest of Ireland, wanted John to pursue traditional Irish music and before long, he became a student of Jimmy Early, a widely known ceili-dance accordionist, from the Bronx in New York. Soon after that, John's parents introduced him to the button-accordion, under the instruction of the Irish-renowned multi-instrumentalist, Martin Mulvilhill. The accordian became the foundation for John's Celtic flavor. John had soon stopped taking accordion lessons but not before claiming a few trophies in various music competitions.
John, who grew up in the Upper Darby, a suburb of Philadelphia, further developed his piano skills on his own. Coming from an Irish and music-oriented family, most of his performances were to provide entertainment at family gatherings. By the time he was 15, John had acquired a spot, playing keyboards and accordion, in the Vince Gallagher Band. It was in this band that John was first introduced to the recording studio. It was a big deal for Boyce at that age. John remembers, "I couldn't believe it, I was 16, in High School, and on vinyl, all at the same time". This band also brought John on his first overseas tour where they performed 18 gigs throughout Ireland.
In 1987, Boyce formed an Irish pop-band with drummer, Patsy Ward, called "The Atlantic Connection", which had a successful 4-year run in the Greater Delaware Valley. For the next year or so, he began playing around the East Coast at many Scottish and Irish festivals. This gave Boyce the opportunity to perform with Scottish tenor and TV personality, Peter Morrison, and also pianist Peggy O'Keefe, the music director of BBC television. During this time, Boyce landed a spot on MTV's short-lived "HA Network" with actor Dennis Leary, and a gig at Disneyworld's Epcot Center. Soon after that, Boyce had planned to direct himself toward the "rock'n'roll" scene.
It was at this time when he was first approached about joining "Blackthorn". Although he was a life-long friend of John McGroary, and had met Paul Moore earlier that year, Boyce turned them down. "I just wanted a change from the Irish music for a while", Boyce states. But Boyce had agreed to play with Blackthorn for a month, or so, until they found someone else. "That month is now approaching 7 years", says Boyce. Boyce is glad it turned out the way it did. "The energy and feedback from the audience is much more powerful than I could have ever imagined", said Boyce. It is very rare that we don't have fun as a band. We are a team."
While performing, it is very obvious that Elton John and Billy Joel, are two of John's favorite musicians, and have influenced his piano-style a great deal. He was also influenced by Billy Paine of "Little Feat", Jackson Browne, Paul Brady, and Irish singer-songwriter, Liam Reilly. Reilly wrote "Streets of New York," and "Summer In Dublin," two songs that Blackthorn often perform.
"Blackthorn" has a brand new recording entitled The Other Side, being released in November 1998. Boyce is very proud of Blackthorn's greatest accomplishment. Every track on The Other Side consists of the original music of Blackthorn. "It is very exciting to experience the transformation of - scribble on a post-it - into an incredible audio track on a CD. This is our music, and we are proud of it", says Boyce. Currently, John Boyce has appeared as a guest musician on more than 12 recordings. Last summer, Boyce changed hats and took on a new project, and produced an album for the new group, The Foggy Dew.
By: Anne Oliver