From The Desk…Three Flags

Three Flags

Upon moving into our 1875 cottage in the Historic Edgefield district across the Cumberland  River from downtown Nashville, one of the first things I did, given the extant horizontal flagpole on the front porch, was to purchase small versions of the three flags that define my life journey and that of my family.  Today they are rigid and fringed with icicles, which gives them almost a sculptured quality.  I suppose it made me take a deeper look.

Each flag is a modest 12″ x 8″, with the Irish Republic tri-color (the green, white and gold) at the top end of the pole, the Stars & Bars in the center, and the Union Jack on the inside.  No conflict on this flagstaff, however … the tri-color honors my first generation Irish roots and the deep connection I’ve always felt to Ireland, and still do. The Union Jack speaks to my birth country and the city I was fortunate enough to be born in, Liverpool, Star Of The Sea.  Although I never felt English, really, England was mostly my day-to-day reality, and  I prospered on that alien shore, especially during the Swinging London period when my musical career was going gangbusters, and I met the woman of my life, a wispy American blonde who loved England more than I did, my wife Patti.

Our first child, Celeste, was born in London in 1970, so she’s a Brit. We moved to the States in 1973 and our son was born in 1977, so he’s an American.  I finally took U.S citizenship in the 90s, which makes me now an Irish-Scouse-Yank.

So these three flags, currently frozen in place, but soon to be free again, sum up our family and our journey. Long may they wave!

Pub Stories…What IS a Skelly?

Michael Snow, The Skelly,  at The Sherlock Holmes Pub
Michael Snow, The Skelly, at The Sherlock Holmes Pub


Since recording The Skelly Trilogy (1999-2005) I’ve fielded this question more than once, so here’s the lowdown.

In 1998, some local developers in Nashville were creating a high-end Irish-themed pub and restaurant at a prime site on Lower Broadway. The place was to be called Seanachie (Storyteller) and it was a no-expenses spared venture. Irish artisans were brought over to hand-build the interior, and the man in charge was a fellow from Northern Ireland who’d successfully brought the concept to various locations in mainland Europe and the Far East. One of the investors was a lawyer with whom my wife was acquainted, and as a result I became an unofficial consultant as the project developed, advising on the entertainment aspects of the venture.

The first time I met the Ulsterman, he heard my Liverpool accent and said what I heard as “Ah! A skelly scouse….I love you skellies” The phrase was new to me, although the word scouse was not, so I asked “What’s a skelly ?” “Well, you are” he replied “A Liverpool-Irish lad, a bit of a rogue, y’know.” Although I’d never heard the term used in Liverpool, it had a nice ring to it, and as Skelly was a fairly common surname around our patch, I assumed what I’d misheard was correct, and in no time I’d written what became the title song of the first record “Here Comes The Skelly”. More importantly The Skelly became a character, an all-purpose Liverpool-Irish Everyman on whom I could hang the various narratives in song that were manifesting themselves at an alarming rate.

After the first album was issued I started to get queries about who or what The Skelly was. I did a bit of research and to my dismay, discovered that the phrase, coined by native-born Irish to denote their Liverpool cousins, was actually scally scouse, scally being a shortening of “scalawag” … but the Ulsterman’s accent had rendered it as skelly to my ears.

Well, The Skelly Scouse had become a cornerstone of this particular musical endeavor, so I was happily stuck with him for two more albums, and I simply explained the character away as a bit of a lovable Liverpool rogue, so I was true to the original intent, although I’d misheard and consequently misspelled the original word.

When Seanachie was completed, and a wonderful place it was, I had the pleasure and honor of assembling and leading the backing band for Matt Molloy, the Chieftain’s esteemed flute player, who was the guest artist on the gala opening night.

Sadly Seanachie is no more, but that’s where The Skelly originated.