Ireland’s Niall Toner To Appear At MerleFest for the First Time.

NIALL TONER European Bluegrass Personality of the Year 2012  Most Downloaded Folk/Bluegrass CD to Worldwide Radio on Air Play Direct  -  www.nialltonerband.comNiall Toner, who is almost as much at home in the U.S. as he is in his native Ireland, has achieved a number of “Firsts” in his musical career.

But his excitement over getting the nod to be included on the performers lineup at MerleFest 2014 can’t be overlooked.  It’ll be his first time performing at the North Carolina Festival named for and founded by the late Doc Watson and he (Niall) will be on five different stages during the course of the festival.

Doc and Niall had a lot in common.  They both loved the guitar and they both wrote songs about that which moved them. They both had an undeniable love for the fans that allowed them to be successful in a lifestyle they loved.

Niall, who once hosted Doc and Merle Watson for dinner at his home in Ireland, has a fondness for anything “Doc” and so one can only imagine his delight upon hearing that he’ll be playing on Doc’s own stage for the first time.

Niall talks about Doc playing his (Niall’s) old 1938 Army Navy Gibson guitar for the neighborhood kids while waiting for dinner to be prepared.  I wonder if that old guitar will find it’s way to MerleFest and be a part of Niall’s show?   What a story that guitar could tell about the years and the miles that have since passed.

Even in a songwriter’s mind, a mind that constantly  dreams up brand new ways to say what has already been said a million times in a million other songs, some things just get overlooked.  Like the fact that during his dinner with Doc and Merle they had a notion that taking a lot of photos around a blind man might be insulting - so they didn’t.   No one thought at the time to ask Doc if it would be Doc Watson & Niall Toner - Read More about their special evening here: http://bluegrassireland.blogspot.com/2012/05/memories-of-doc-watson.html  [Photo Courtesy of Niall Toner]insulting - just an assumption and so now the only memories that exist of that special evening when two kindred souls and their families shared precious moments are those memories that  cannot be shared on Facebook or Twitter or anywhere.   Except if Niall can open up his heart wide enough in song and verse that the world might peek in and get a little glimpse of that time and place.  Only a songwriter has that much power to share in that capacity of pouring out their heart and in that special medium we call music. 

We, who were not present at that special dinner party are fortunate that Doc and Merle spent their time in the Niall Toner home and not in mine as much as I would have treasured it  - if it could have been.   For Niall has that ability to share with all of us just how special those few hours back in 1981 really were.  Maybe that old guitar will tell some stories to Niall and just maybe before April 26th, 2014 when Niall walks on stage for the first time at MerleFest, a song will be born and we’ll all get to have an family meal with Doc Watson.


MerleFest, held annually on the campus of Wilkes Community College, NC, since it was founded by the late, great Doc Watson in 1988 in memory of his son Merle, is the primary fundraising event for the college and has raised millions of dollars for it. One of the largest US music festivals and one of the world's leading roots-music festivals, it presents top-ranking artists in a wide range of genres - the blend that Doc himself called 'traditional plus'.

Niall Toner Band Schedule at MerleFest

  • Saturday, April 26, 2014 at 10.45 am,  Creekside Stage
  • Saturday, April 26, 2014 at 11.45 am,  Mayes-Pit Cohn Auditorium
  • Saturday, April 26, 2014 at 1.45 pm,   Cabin Stage
  • Saturday, April 26, 2014 at  8.30pm,    Autograph A
  • Sunday, April 27, 2014 at 11.45 am,   Americana Stage.

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