John Kennedy was born on the 31st August 1928 in the townland of Craigs, just outside the village of Cullybackey into a musical family. He was encouraged from a young age to listen to and was taught songs from many traditions from both his mother and his grand-mother. In later years John and his mother sang together.
After leaving school he began work in the local Maine Works bleaching and dyeing mill in Cullybackeya few days after his fourteenth birthday. After a few years in the Maine Works he went to work at Frazer and Haughton’s Bleaching and Finishing Company which was closer to his home at the Craigs and where he met Hughie Surgenor a great fiddle player, and a multi-talented musician who taught John how to play the tin whistle, fife and banjo-mandolin and teaching him reels, jigs, hornpipes, quicksteps and much more. Together Hughie and John played for local dances socials and other events, played fifes to Lambeg drums and were at the heart of the traditional music revival. Later John added playing the accordion to his list of instruments. His mother was a great help to him in learning to play this instrument as she could lilt or whistle many tunes for him. John also went on to train many local marching bands.
In 1975 John began teaching dance music at ComhaltasCeoltóiríÉireann (CCE) classes in Dunloy and Portglenone. This inspired John to compete himself, where he gained many awards for song. Retiring in 1993 he began composing tunes and setting the words of local poets’ verse to music. Not content with just composing he began to produce high quality instruments in his workshop at his home.
John married Moyra in 1959 setting up home close to where he was brought up. He had three children, two daughters Ann and Mary and a son Russell. Sadly John passed away on Sunday, 13th October 2019.