John McGroary grew up in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, as part of a very musically inclined family. He started the button accordion at the age of seven. "Music was very big in our family. My brother played the drums, two sisters played violin and one sister played the piano accordion," said McGroary." When McGroary was eight his family joined two other families and formed the Inver Og Ceili Band, with which John played until he was teenager.
McGroary competed in many Irish Music competitions during the late 70's and early 80's; competing against the likes of Sharon Shannon of "A Woman's Heart" and John Williams of SOLAS, in Ireland and the United States. Along with winning Fleadh Cheoils in the New York and Chicago areas in the 1980's; John placed second in the All-Ireland duet competition with his sister inBuncrana, co. Donegal, and placed third and second in the All-Ireland Fleadh Cheoil, button accordion solo competition in Buncrana and Listowel, co. Kerry.
McGroary credits one of his music teachers, John Whelan, as being his biggest musical influence. "I think my musical style more resembles his than anyone else's. My parents drove me from Philly to New York for lessons with John for two years. I guess something must have rubbed off", said McGroary. Whelan, currently touring with "The John Whelan Band" is also producing the new Blackthorn album.
Some other influences that McGroary cited are: Moving Hearts, Stockton's Wing and old cassette tapes of traditional music, sessions and competitions. McGroary first teamed with Paul Moore in a folk/trad band called The Blarney Stones in the late 1980s before the two decided to form Blackthorn.
McGroary is enjoying the challenge of making the original album entitled "The Other Side". "Doing the new album is extremely exciting," he said. "It's our first venture into original music, and it's turning out better than I think we expected. We had an idea of what we wanted things to sound like and with John's (Whelan) help and experience in the studio we've been able to experiment with different musical styles, which is really portrayed well on the album. The album has a trad, celtic-rock, folky, pop sort of sound to it. There's a little bit of something for everyone in it. "
By: Anne Oliver