Micho, Packie and Gussie Russell were very talented musicians who learned most of their music through their mother and other local musicians. They were from Doonagore in Doolin and lived there all their lives and played for house dances and later in the pubs of Doolin.
Micho (1915-1994) was one of Ireland’s best loved traditional musicians in the latter half of the 20th century, he was a great exponent of the tin whistle and also played the flute. His style of playing was unmistakable for the variety and inventiveness in its ‘rhythmical ornamentation’ and surprising stops. He was a great source for archivists to collect old stories, songs and tunes from the old days and through his music and also personality attracted many visitors to Doolin. In the naturalness of his performance and stage presence he created an atmosphere of rare rapport with his audience. It added an iconic Irish dimension to his act that had no precedent or equal on the concert stage.
He enjoyed popularity and was much in demand from the 1970s onwards to perform at concerts and he toured all over Europe and the States. He was a patient and conscientious music teacher and he was a favourite at the Willie Clancy Summer School in Miltown Malbay.
In later years, his life-long interest in recording background to tunes and folklore came to fruition in several publications. Micho died as a result of a car accident on February 19, 1994 .
Packie (1920-1977), who was a stonemason, was considered by many as the best musician of the three brothers in terms of technical abilities. He played the concertina and has influenced many concertina players in County Clare. Unlike Micho who went on to travel the world, Packie was happy to stay in Doolin where he used to play in Gus O’Connor’s Pub. He died in 1977.
Gussie (1917-2004) worked as a stone cutter in the Doonagore quarry but was also a very talented musician. He used to play the tin whistle and concert flute but unfortunately there aren’t many recordings of him as he was a very shy person. In fact, he used to turn his back to the audience when he played in the pub! He stayed in Doolin all his life where he died in 2004.
Packie plays the concert flute in this clip which also features (from left to right) his brother Packie (concertina), John Killourhy (fiddle), Rory O´Connor (tin whistle), Stevie McNamara (bodhran) and Willie ‘Bheag’ Shannon (fiddle).
Russell Memorial Weekend
The last weekend of February every year since 1994 sees Doolin remember its greatest music ambassadors the Russell brothers: Micho, Packie & Gussie. A great way to kick off our season with the brightest musicians descending on Doolin from the four corners of the world to attend workshops and perform in all the pubs and Russell Cultural Centre.