Are you a New Orleans native and do you have any Irish blood in you?
I am a New Orleans native and have lived in New Orleans all my life except for a brief stint in Houston. We are Irish on my mother’s side. My great-great-grandmother came over on what was known as the coffin ships—because as a result of the famine [1845-49], they came over in weakened conditions. She actually died on the voyage over. Her daughter met her future husband on the ship. So she got off without a mother but landed with a husband. On the surface, it would appear to be a marriage of convenience. But my grandmother always said they were the happiest couple you ever met. They had 10 children. Couldn’t afford much but they had a used piano and a house where everyone met on Sunday to dance and sing.
What makes a good Irish whiskey and what makes it so popular?
I’ve had a lot of Irishmen come here and say they could tell what religion someone is and where they’re from in Ireland based on what whiskey they drink. Catholics drink Jameson while some Protestants will only drink Bushmills. In the States, you don’t find that. Myself, I like Redbreast. I only drink it straight with maybe a drop of water. I love the flavor—no aftertaste, very smooth.
What do you think sustains the popularity of traditional Irish music?
If you look at the history of music in America—because there was such a huge Irish immigration, especially in Appalachia—you see such a strong connection between country music and bluegrass to Irish music. When you go to Ireland, in the pubs you hear a lot of American country music from America. They love our country music and we’ve adopted traditional Irish music.
What are some of your favorite musical memories at the Kerry?
The other day, Lynn Drury said to me, ‘Doris, can you believe I’ve been playing here for 17 years?’ We have a lot of people like that, such as Kim Carson. A very fond memory for me is watching some of these musicians play faithfully here for many years and how they’ve grown musically at the Kerry. Just the music that comes out of them—I think that’s pretty amazing.
What’s the scene like here on St. Patrick’s Day?
Because we’re in the Quarter, we have a great mix of locals and tourists—and tourists not just from inside the United States. Luckily, the Downtown Irish Club parade passes by here. We have Irish music all day and the parade at the end of the evening is the climax. The music makes it really feel like St. Patrick’s Day. As well as all the great Guinness. You won’t find green beer at the Kerry but you will find a great pint of Guinness.