John Coakley is a multi-instrumentalist, playing both lead and accompanying instruments of fiddle, accordion, harmonica, guitar and piano. He was a member of the legendary band Shegui and was then with The Boys of the Lough for twelve years with whom he toured the world and recorded nine albums including ‘Boys of the Lough: Live at Carnegie Hall’.
He lived for some years in the UK, when he got to know Julia Clifford very well and was a frequent visitor to her home in Norfolk. He was also involved in making field recordings of Sliabh Luachra musicians for the influential series of albums ‘Music from Sliabh Luachra’ in the 1970s.
Living now in Bantry, Co Cork, he performs mostly in Ireland and has for some years been the adjudicator for the annual Sliabh Luachra fiddle competition at the Maurice O’Keeffe Festival. In an article in The Corkman in 2013, he urged competitors to seek out and learn from the great musicians of Sliabh Luachra saying; “There is a life and vibrancy about the way it is played, it would just lift you. The great Julia Clifford said ‘at the end of a good music session people throw away their crutches, they are in a different frame of mind, music just lifts the spirit’.”