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Irish Ayes

St. Patrick's Day is the perfect occasion for Paddy Noonan at Civic Arts Plaza.

March 17, 2000|BILL LOCEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

For nearly four decades, the name Paddy Noonan has been synonymous with Irish music, and what better way to celebrate St. Patrick's Day than with Paddy's Irish Cabaret tonight at the Civic Arts Plaza in Thousand Oaks?

After arriving in New York City from County Cork at the age of 12, Paddy immediately became involved in the local Irish music scene. He broke into cabaret when he was 16, and he and his accordion gained popularity by playing at the New York City Center Ballroom, the dancing mecca for Irish music fans in the '50s and '60s.

In addition to a rigorous touring schedule, Noonan entered the business side and formed his own label, Rego Records, in 1969. From label headquarters in New York, Paddy himself discussed how his own hard work created his own luck of the Irish.

How's the Irish music business?

It's been very good. People are discovering Irish books, movies and music. It was just getting started when "River Dance" came out, and it hasn't stopped since. I guess the world has finally discovered the Irish people.

What can people expect from Paddy's Irish Cabaret?

We have dancing from a pair of great Irish champion dancers and a great comedian in Eddie Devine, actually an Irishman from Glasgow. I play accordion, and we get the crowd singing along, and my daughter, Sheila Noonan, sings. You've heard of "The Three Irish Tenors?" Well, we do three Irish accordion players as well as "Three Irish Tenors" songs, plus assorted jigs and reels.

How's business the other 364 days of the year that aren't St. Patrick's Day?

There are so many Irish shows on the road these days, all of them get a piece of the pie. But we play for Irish festivals and I lead tours to Ireland three times a year.

How did you get started in all this?

I came to New York as a young kid and ended up living in a German neighborhood. There were a lot of people coming from Ireland in those days. I lived in one of those big rooming houses. All the guys lived in one and all the gals lived nearby in another one. On the weekends we had parties and I ended up playing the accordion. From there, I went to playing dance halls and I started recording my own albums. Then I started playing around the country to the Irish communities in places like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Klamath Falls and Butte, Mont., where, for example, a lot of Irishmen came to work in the copper mines.

What's the story with Rego Records?

It's a company I started about 30 years ago. I had recorded a series of albums called "The Live Irish Parties," which were very popular since there are more Irish in New York City than there are in Dublin. These recordings were available in Woolworth's and all the major stores, but not the little mom-and-pop stores, so I'd take my music around to them. When my original contract ran out, I started my own label. Today we have about 300 catalog items--the hottest item today is "The Irish Tenors."

How do you account for the popularity of Irish music?

A lot of people all over the world are discovering Irish music for the first time.

Is it true that the Irish gave bagpipes to the Scottish as revenge on the British?

They haven't got the joke yet.

DETAILS

Paddy's Irish Cabaret at the Civic Arts Plaza, 2100 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks, 8 tonight; $26.50, $21.50 or $16.50; 449-2787.

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With a 40-year career still in high gear, international recording star Roger Whittaker will have the formidable task of choosing a set list for his Sunday night concert at the Civic Arts Plaza in Thousand Oaks. The deep-voiced singer noted for his trademark whistling will be playing three days before his 64th birthday.

Born in Kenya to British parents, Whittaker has become one of the most popular easy listening artists in history. Some of his hits include "Durham Town," "New World in the Morning," "I Don't Believe in 'If' Anymore" and "The Last Farewell."

Since his first single, "The Charge of the Light Brigade," more than 40 years ago, Whittaker has sold more than 50 million albums. More than 10 million were sold in Germany, where he records and sings entirely in German, even though he doesn't speak the language. He records phonetically.

Whittaker's last album was "Awakening," which featured 20 songs, including 14 originals by Whittaker. The album is divided into four parts--spring, summer, autumn and winter--a musical journey through a man's four stages of life. According to the artist on his Web page: "I sincerely hope I have captured my life's experiences and sentiments on this album. And I can only wish everyone had the fulfillment I have felt."

DETAILS

Roger Whittaker at the Civic Arts Plaza, 7 p.m. Sunday; $49.50, $34.50 or $24.50, 449-2787.

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One cold night in the '80s while I was covering a live show at the Ventura Raceway, Ronnie James Dio was belting out a heavy metal tune as a freight train rumbled by not 50 yards away, shaking the grandstands and all those little metal kids in them.

Dio was louder than the train. By far.

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