Concert salutes late Irish folk musician Tommy Makem

Daniel DeMaina

Tommy Makem should have been here for this.

“The Godfather of Irish Music,” as he was called, was battling lung cancer last year when he had to cancel what had become an annual event — playing a sellout concert at Memorial Hall in Melrose each March for St. Patrick’s Day, either solo or with his three sons, The Makem Brothers.

Makem succumbed to lung cancer in August 2007, leaving legions of heartbroken fans. 

Stephen Jones, who first brought Makem to Melrose 10 years ago and organized the concerts here ever since, was surprised when he received a phone call last May from Shane Makem, one of The Makem Brothers, saying Tommy was feeling better and wanted to book this year’s show.

“Tommy was actually booked for Feb. 9, [2008] with The Makem Brothers and Mickey and Liam Spain,” Jones said.

Makem died on Aug. 1, 2007 at the age of 74. What began as a triumphant return to the stage in Melrose became a tribute.

On Saturday, Feb. 9 at 8 p.m., The Makem Brothers, Mickey and Liam Spain, The Dady Brothers, Brendan Carroll and Liam Maguire will take the stage at Memorial Hall, and Makem’s memory will take top billing.

Jones said after Makem’s death, he spoke with his sons and they confirmed they still wanted to perform as scheduled.

“That’s where the idea for ‘Let’s do a tribute’ came from,” Jones said. “I asked The Makem Brothers, ‘I’d like you guys to invite whoever you like. They came up with The Dady Brothers, who I believe are probably closer to Tommy’s age. They’re clearly friends of the family and ones The Makem Brothers felt comfortable inviting. I had the latitude to invite others and I suggested Liam Maguire — that was a natural — again because of my familiarity of going to Liam’s pub and restaurant.”

Maguire owns Liam Maguire's Irish Pub and Restaurant in Falmouth, where Jones first met Makem.

Ten years ago, Jones — an avowed fan of Irish music —and his wife were involved in Melrose Youth Ballet through the couple’s young daughters. Seeking to put together a fundraiser for the organization, Jones suggested trying to get Makem to do a concert, since he only lived one state north in New Hampshire.

“The interesting part is that my siblings live down the Cape and go to Liam Maguire’s pub in Falmouth,” Jones said. “My brother told me Tommy Makem performed there, and I said, ‘Oh, that’d be great if we could actually get him.’ I went down there and, through Tommy performing at Liam’s, I got to talk to Tommy’s booking agent at the time, Kevin O’Shea.”

Jones called O’Shea and asked, with little to no expectations, if they could book Makem for a fundraiser in Melrose.