Thanks to an indefatigable work ethic, electrifying stage show, commitment to civic engagement, and several popular songs that captured the Beantown zeitgeist, Quincy-based Celtic punk band the Dropkick Murphys have served as unofficial brand ambassadors for Boston for over twenty years, with no signs of stopping. Named after Acton-based WWII-era osteopath/professional wrestler/alcohol rehabilitation facility owner John “Dropkick” Murphy, the band — originally consisting of lead singer Mac McColgan, bassist/vocalist Ken Casey (the group’s lone constant member), guitarist Rick Barton and drummer Jeff Erna — earned their stripes in the late ‘90s after opening for the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, signing to punk cred-burnishing label Hellcat Records, and playing regular St. Patrick’s Day shows in Boston.
McColgan left in ‘98 (eventually returning to the music scene with the Street Dogs), replaced by the Bruisers’ Al Barr, who has handled frontman duties ever since. The band’s line-up evolved throughout the ‘00s — including the addition of bagpipe players Robbie “Spicy McHaggis” Medeiros and Josh “Scruffy” Wallace, both of whom added Celtic flavor to the band’s punk attack — and their popularity spread, with the power of their live show captured on albums like Live On St. Patrick’s Day. However, it was their cover of the century-old Boston Americans’ Royal Rooters rally song, “Tessie” (which soundtracked the 2004 Red Sox championship-drought-ending season), that brought the Dropkicks national attention. (The band later recorded a second version of “Tessie,” which plays at Fenway Park after home game wins.) In 2006, their song “Shipping Up To Boston” appeared in Martin Scorsese’s Oscar-winning film The Departed and quickly became one of their most-enduring, well-known tunes, shorthand for blue-collar Boston pride.
Since 2007 the band has released four studio and two live albums on their own label, Born & Bred, and are as busy as ever, performing for fans at Red Sox, Celtics, Bruins and Patriots games, sharing stages with the likes of Bruce Springsteen, touring — with regularly-scheduled hometown St. Patrick’s Day gigs! — and supporting numerous causes near and dear to its hard-working fanbase. In 2016, the band — currently Casey, Barr, drummer Matt Kelly, guitarist James Lynch and multi-instrumentalists Tim Brennan and Jeff DaRosa — received the Robert F. Kennedy Children’s Action Corps’ Embracing the Legacy Award for their years of work with charitable organizations.
(by Stephen Haag)