in 1963, The Chieftains were part of the redefinition
of "traditional" Irish folk music. Until the formation of The Chieftains, the traditional Irish
music had largely been defined by groups such as the Irish Rovers
, the Clancey Brothers
or Mary O'Hara
. While good artists in their own right, those groups/people were largely less serious artists than The Chieftains.
The formation of The Chieftains was largely accomplished by drawing upon the top artists in traditional Irish music at the time. The core of the group, and still the main pillar today was Paddy Moloney, a pipes player. He had first gathered acclaim with Ceoltoiri Cualann, but it was within the confines of The Chieftains that he helpd redefine Irish music.
As of 1963, traditional Irish music had become decidely less traditional, and one of the main contributions over the ensuring decades was reinvigorating traditional music by going back to the roots. They were a semi-professional group from about 1963 through the mid-1970s, building their name originally in Ireland, and than in England. During this time period they released four albums, which were originally just on Irish labels, but were eventually picked up by Island Recording (which would also be U2's label).
It was in 1975 that The Chieftains gathered internation acclaim. Oddly enough, it was a Stanley Kubrick connection that really helped them. They played on the soundtrack to the film Barry Lyndon. While the movie wasn't hailed as a classic, the soundtrack did quite well, especially the song Women of Ireland.
This song, accompanied by a massive amount of interviews and lots of FM radio play helped propel The Chieftains to international fame. And with that fame, Irish music became much more famous. In many ways, it is fair to say that The Chieftains almost single-handedly brought Irish folk music to the forefront of folk music.
Following this commerical success, they continued with Island Records, switched briefly to Columbia Records, and returned to Island.
They have remained one of the most prolific bands around, with an extensive discography (see below).
The band's main members consist of Paddy Moloney (pipes), Sean Potts (tin whistle), Martin Ray(fiddle), Mick Tubridy (flute, concertina), Peadar Mercier (bodhran),Sean Keane (fiddle), Ronnie McShane (percussion), and Derek Bell (harp, oboe, timpan). Like many groups of this type, however, band members will appear on some albums, while not on others.