From Ballinasloe to Boston, people know the name Larry Reynolds, and why won’t they? The gregarious, genial fiddle player has been a central figure in Irish music circles for over half a century, and has been perhaps the major influence in popularizing Irish traditional music throughout New England.
Reynolds has lived in the Boston area since 1953, emigrating from Ballinasloe, Galway as a young man, fiddle case in hand. He quickly got into the thriving dance hall scene along Boston’s Dudley Street in Roxbury, playing with musical greats Paddy and Johnny Cronin, Joe Derrane, Brendan Tonra and others.
Over the years, Reynolds has led traditional Irish music sessions regularly at places like the Green Briar Pub in Brighton and the Canadian American Hall in Watertown. The late Congressman Tip O’Neill used to call him whenever the Cambridge pol needed to unwind and sing a few old-style Donegal songs that only Reynolds and his good friend fiddler Seamus Connolly knew. Political chieftain Billy Bulger relied on Reynolds for many a political time in South Boston, and he has played for Irish presidents Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese.
In 1975 Reynolds helped form the Boston Chapter of Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann (Irish Musicians Association), turning it into one of the largest branches in the group’s worldwide network. He has recorded on several albums, including the classic “We’re Irish Still”, and was featured along with his sons in the opening wedding scene of the movie "Blown Away."
For such an affable and public figure, Reynolds has spent his career shunning the accolades that others try to bestow on him. A few years ago his Boston friends put together a tribute dinner for him, and over 1,000 people showed up, many of them traveling from around the world. In 2003 Harvard University’s Celtic Department honored him for ‘the enormous contributions to Irish culture in Boston.’ He was inducted into the Comhaltas Hall of Fame and was honored by the Irish Cultural Centre of New England. In 2006 he was named one of the Top 100 Irish-Americans by Irish America Magazine in New York.
While all of this music-making was taking place, Reynolds earned his living as a master carpenter, working on many of Boston’s finest buildings. He and his lovely wife Phyllis live in Waltham, where they raised five sons and a daughter, all of whom took up Irish music. Today the Reynolds have nineteen grandchildren and one great grandchild, enough to form a couple of ceili bands.
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by Michael P. Quinlin