- 17 Aug 18
This evening, the sad news came through that one of the leading Irish guitar players of the past 50 years, Greg Boland – who played with Stevie Winwood, Carole King and Leo Sayer – and was a member of Scullion has passed away
Hot Press has learned of the very sad news that Greg Boland [pictured above as a member of Scullion -(clockwise from top) Greg Boland, Sonny Condell & Philip King), photographed by Christine S] has died.
Greg was one of the most talented guitarists ever to tread the boards in Ireland. One of a musical family – the renowned engineer and producer Andrew Boland is his brother – he first came to attention as a member of the jazz rock outfit Supply, Demand and Curve (who also featured future recording genius Brian Masterson on bass, and composer Roger Doyle on drums). He also played with legendary funksters Stagalee, who blazed a trail across Ireland in the mid-1970s.
Greg was a member of the original Scullion, alongside Sonny Condell and Philip King, the well known broadcaster and film-maker. The band, who recorded four widely praised albums, were among the great nearly stories of Irish rock, combining superb songs, fine musicianship and a special kind of performance magic – but they just fell short of the big prize of widespread international acclaim.
Greg was also an in-demand session musician, always capable of delivering an apposite performance in a trademark sophisticated, silken style. He played with serious international players like Stevie Winwood, Leo Sayer and Carole King, along with a roll-call of the big names in Irish music, including the composer Bill Whelan, Bono, Mary Coughlan, Christy Moore, Moving Hearts, the Davey Spillane Band, Mary Stokes, Maura O’Connell, Donal Lunny, The Fleadh Cowboys, Stockton’s Wing, Shaun Davey, Jimmy MacCarthy, Frances Black, showband star Red Hurley, the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra – and far too many more to enumerate here.
He was a Steely Dan expert and later in his career was a key figure in the Steely Dan tribute band, Aja. There was no better man than Greg for cutting through and understanding the typical Dan complexities, and playing those great, jazz-infused rock tunes with majestic precision and power. In recent years, he was a passionate advocate of musicians’ rights. He served as Vice President with the Musicians Union of Ireland and argued powerfully for more Irish music on Irish radio; and proper payments for musicians.
“Greg Boland was a really special guitar player,” Hot Press editor Niall Stokes said. "He was technically brilliant and hugely musical. I loved watching him play – and as a guitarist desperately envied the ease with which he made a tune his own and fashioned inventive and always highly appropriate embellishments. I always felt that Scullion should have been huge. It is a matter of great sadness that they weren’t, because it would have been wonderful to see Greg up there on the world's biggest stages. But as a session player, Greg distinguished himself time and again. I think of him in the same breath as savagely good players like Jimmy Smyth and Anto Drennan. He was that good – and he has left a powerful legacy to match.
“He was also a lovely guy, with a wry sense of humour. He was great company, as well as being an articulate and highly engaging interviewee. But he was also fiery and passionate about what was happening in the world of music. He was rightly outraged at the extent to which musicians, and musicianship, is taken for granted. His advocacy on behalf of musicians will be missed. But most of all, people will miss his empathy, his friendship and his decency. His memory will live on, for everyone who was lucky enough to shake his hand and hear his gorgeous playing along the way."
Hot Press extends its condolences to his family, friends and colleagues. He was one of the Irish instrumental greats.