Although John grew up near London in Dunstable, England, he was raised on the fiddle and pipe music of Ireland. Dunstable has a large Irish community, and his father, Denis, was from Ireland’s County Wexford. Songs of home elicited sentimental tears, even when the words were not in English. At the age of 14, already a seasoned winner of numerous accordion championships, John recorded his first album, PRIDE OF WEXFORD. Named in honor of his father, PRIDE OF WEXFORD was no passing fancy – the album is still in print and selling steadily.
John’s artistry blossomed in America. He moved to the United States in 1980 and soon was performing with Riverdance fiddler Eileen Ivers in one of the most celebrated Irish duos of the decade. His solo album FROM THE HEART became a 1991 finalist in the Celtic/British Isles category of the National Association of Independent Record Distributors and Manufacturers (NAIRD) awards.
Meanwhile, John’s name was turning up on Narada recordings such as CELTIC ODYSSEY (1993) and CELTIC LEGACY (1995), two of Narada’s best-selling releases. In 1996 John signed with Narada and released his first solo album on the label, CELTIC REFLECTIONS.
John’s next release on the Narada label, CELTIC CROSSROADS, featured American country singing star Kathy Mattea and Nashville stalwarts Tim O’Brien and Jerry Douglas as well as such Celtic luminaries as singer Mary McLaughlin, multi-instrumentalist Seamus Egan and fiddler Johnny Cunningham. CELTIC CROSSROADS spent more than two months in the top 10 of Billboard’s World Music chart.
While touring and recording with the John Whelan Band, John appeared solo in the critically acclaimed “Once Upon An Accordion” North American tour. Additionally he appeared in his first motion picture Ride With The Devil directed by Ang Lee (Sense and Sensibility, Ice Storm); The Drowning Plains, based on a David Johnson story; and an untitled documentary by Johnson, featuring concert footage of John performing in Connecticut and Missouri.
John's subsequent albums, Flirting With The Edge, Come To Dance, and Celtic Fire showcase his ever breathtaking talent on accordion, as well as opening up the music to a mix of traditional and other genres, plus being able to work with young and upcoming talent such as fiddlers Dylan Foley and Haley Richardson, the latter of whom is now currently playing with Riverdance.
While assuring fans that his Celtic allegiances remain firm, John continues to bring them new music as well. “If you open your ears and your mind you can appreciate my music for what it is, not what kind of music it is.” All these things – my childhood memories, my father’s love of music, the way I relate to an audience, the different styles I incorporate – are why I love to perform.”
John is currently touring with the JOHN WHELAN BAND as well as selected solo performances.
"The inventive button accordionist continues to reshape the genre, just as he did on his 1997 Crossroads release, extending his collaboration with world musicians and the exquisite Sirus String Quartet." - Flirting With The Edge, Time out New York
"Whelan’s exceptional technique, good taste in tunes and bandmates, and obvious love of the genre helps him skirt that trap while also avoiding the boredom common to many traditional Irish dates."- Come To Dance, Boston Herald
John's website: http://johnwhelanmusic.com/
More videos: https://youtu.be/dPrCzuuH788 Seattle Folklore Society concert
https://youtu.be/14MFdUzDHrg w/ Dylan Foley
https://youtu.be/YR_3mHtdlOQ w/ Fergal Scahill
https://youtu.be/YEeCwE9A7_M w/ Flynn Cohen