Music crosses all cultures when everyone becomes Irish on St Patrick’s Day. Corned beef and cabbage, Guinness, and trying my luck as an honorary Irish tunes fiddler where I landed during my tenure with the renowned Trinity II back in the day (the mid-80s).
Trinity II began as an Irish folk duo, Michael O’Brien and Chris King, in 1972. Their second LP, On Campus, was recorded live at Rutgers University in 1980 that included Mike Lussen becoming a trio. Michael O’Brien played six instruments and performed with a group that won an Irish Ballad competition in Ireland. After he came to New York, he appeared in concert with the Clancy Brothers (possibly a family relation) at Carnegie Hall and around the country. Trinity II played in the great old New York City pubs like Bells of Hell, in and around a weekly Wednesday night gig in New Haven, and quite a few pubs in the Middlesex County, New Jersey area.
Widow Brown’s was where I first heard them. At the time, I explored music other than country rock I had been playing for a decade. The idea of crossing over into the cultural crossroads of Irish music intrigued me. They welcomed me despite my having an electric violin, something of a sacrilege for fiddlers. I sang the harmonies, tested the waters with Guinness (they allowed me Black and Tans), and had the good fortune to play Michael’s 1924 Gibson mandolin before it was stolen out of his car in a NYC parking garage.
We traveled around the New Haven/Hartford, Connecticut area, along the East Coast, all the way to Ocean City, Maryland, where I remember Michael’s family spending their summer vacation during our gig schedule. I lost contact with them long ago until Michael O’Brien’s obituary popped up somewhere, and my wife, Christina, the researcher, and documentarian, asked me if he was from the Trinity II band that she read about in my bio. Chris King passed away from cancer in the early 90s, and O’Brien from complications of Parkinson’s Disease in November 2011. Mike Lussen is still active in the folk music scene.