Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!

Paddy Moloney Of The Chieftains Plays Not My Job

Paddy Moloney
Judith Burrows

For Paddy Moloney, March is about St. Patrick's Day — he founded the traditional Irish band The Chieftains 48 years ago.

But for us, March is about March Madness. So we've asked Moloney to play a game called: "You may be an Irishman, and you may fight, but the Fighting Irishmen are from Indiana."

Three questions about NCAA mascots.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

PETER SAGAL, host:

And now, the game where we like to ask accomplished people about something they don't know anything about. It's called Not My Job.

So it was St. Patrick's Day this last week, and if you went out to celebrate, or in most places, if you just opened your window, you probably heard some Irish music, and if so, then you most definitely heard the Chieftains, the greatest traditional Irish band now recording. Paddy Moloney founded the Chieftains 48 years ago. He is still playing his pipes. Paddy Moloney, welcome to WAIT WAITDON'T TELL ME!

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. PADDY MOLONEY (Musician): Wonderful. Great to be with you all.

SAGAL: I'm so excited. Well, tell us how you celebrated St. Patrick's Day this year.

Mr. MOLONEY: Well, I was in New York, and we had a big concert at the famous Town Hall.

SAGAL: So you - is it traditional for the Chieftains, then, to tour the U.S. every spring for St. Patrick's Day?

Mr. MOLONEY: Yes, we do. Normally, we would have started in January. I'm trying to calm things down a bit. You know, it's getting tough, but we've just finished about five and a half, six weeks of tour, starting out in the West Coast, and we had Ry Cooder with us. We had a great Mexican band called (unintelligible), and there were some lovely girls, beautiful costumes, dancing - and mixing, incidentally, with our dancing, as well, the Irish dancing and the Mexican dancing. You wouldn't believe how well it came together.

SAGAL: No, I actually wouldn't.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SAGAL: I'm imagining somebody step-dancing very quickly around a sombrero on the floor. But no, I want to ask you about your record, but I do want to ask you. You've spent all these St. Patrick's Days in America as an Irishman, born and bred. Is the American version of St. Patrick's Day a little weird for you?

Mr. MOLONEY: Oh, Ginny Mack. I mean, it's over the top completely. I remember coming in '69, you know, and seeing all this green everywhere. I just could not believe it because back home, St. Patrick's Day is always, in my you know, when I was a child, it was a holiday, a church holiday, and you went to Mass, and then you wore the shamrock, and you went to a big Irish football game afterwards.

And it's just like a Sunday, in fact, and the pubs are only opened up for one hour. So that wouldn't work over here, let me tell you.

SAGAL: No, it wouldn't. Let me ask you to compare. Do the shamrock shakes here taste as good as they do back home?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MOLONEY: Well, thank God I've managed to avoid all that kinds of stuff.

SAGAL: Really? That's why you've stuck to the beer, like a good Irishman. So let's ask a little bit about the history of the band. I've been listening to the Chieftains for a long time, but I didn't know you went back - you founded the band 48 years ago.

Mr. MOLONEY: Right, even going back into the late '50s, when I started to think about putting the sound together that, you know, I eventually achieved with the first album in '62, and we've been going ever since. You know, we never got sense, and people are devils for punishment, as I say.

SAGAL: I understand, but yeah, you've put out, like, 40 albums over the years, somewhere in that...?

Mr. MOLONEY: Forty-eight altogether now at the moment, yeah.

SAGAL: Forty-eight, wow. And how do you because you play, at least your core of your music is traditional Irish music, is that fair to say?

Mr. MOLONEY: It's traditional Irish music. I mean, we've made about 25, 26 of them, and then, you know, we started to appear, you know Paul McCartney in '72 asked me do some backtracking on one of his albums. Then Mick Jagger, some sort of stuff like that. And then I made "The Long Black Veil," which became quite famous.

SAGAL: Oh, it's a great record.

Mr. MOLONEY: With Sting, yeah, and the Stones.

SAGAL: Speaking of your collaborations, we've put out on our Twitter feed, which is WaitWait at Twitter. We asked people what they wanted to ask you, and a number of people wanted us to ask you: Who did you like collaborating with more, Mick Jagger or the Muppets?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MOLONEY: Do you know, Mark Knopfler and George Martin, it was the Muppets stuff. I did that piece, and I thought that was absolutely great, you know, with the you know, I played this whistle, and these guys started to bop up and down and that kind of stuff, you know.

SAGAL: Yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MOLONEY: I thought that was terrific. But Jagger has been an old friend of mine since the '60s.

SAGAL: Really. Really?

Mr. MOLONEY: He was knocking around with Marianne Faithfull in those days, and he came to, you know, Ireland quite a bit and spent some time, and we you know...

(Soundbite of laughter)

SAGAL: That was the most laden little, private laugh I've ever heard in my life. We wanted to ask you because, like, this is St. Patrick's Day -this week, and we celebrated all things Irish. But as I said, our version of Irishness, Irish culture, is a little odd.

So as a genuine Irishman, an Irish cultural ambassador, I wanted to ask your opinion about a couple of things that are very popular here in America, see if you even know about them. For example: Irish Spring soap.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SAGAL: Have you heard of it? Do you use it? And aye, do the girls like it, too? That's our question.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PIERCE: Irish Spring is the only soap you have to take a knife in the shower with.

SAGAL: I know. We've always wondered about that. Lucky Charms cereal, is this a traditional Irish food? We don't know.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MOLONEY: Lucky Charms cereal. Holy hell, that's a (unintelligible), all right.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PIERCE: Wait a minute. Do you have them in Ireland?

Mr. MOLONEY: We certainly don't, thanks be to God, no, no.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MOLONEY: I mean, the stuff they go on with over here is unbelievable.

SAGAL: Hey, Paddy, we have one last question for you before we play our game, and that is this: We've had this thing - we've been doing a survey of the musicians who have been appearing on our show. We've been asking them a simple question: Which is the sexiest instrument? For example, Branford Marsalis said it was the saxophone. Weird Al Yankovic said it was - big surprise - the accordion.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SAGAL: So, Paddy Moloney of the Chieftains, what, in your opinion, is the sexiest instrument?

Mr. MOLONEY: You know, I might be terrible and cutting me own throat here, but the instrument I play, the uilleann pipes, you know, it wraps around you, and it's like an octopus.

SAGAL: It is. It's very embracing.

Mr. MOLONEY: I often call it the octopus and so, I mean, that's something that gets every part of you moving, you know.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SAGAL: Absolutely.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. PAUL PROVENZA: Is that just sexy, is that sexy for women watching you play it, or just sexy for you to be playing it?

Mr. MOLONEY: Well, I never really, I never got around to asking, if that's question.

Mr. PROVENZA: You don't need to when you're playing that.

Mr. MOLONEY: But one of the things I do have on my knee, which is essential, is called a popping strap.

SAGAL: A popping strap.

Mr. MOLONEY: Yeah, a popping strap. And so you have the chanter in your hand, and you're bouncing it up and down.

SAGAL: Oh, yeah.

Mr. MOLONEY: It's part of the way you play it.

Mr. PROVENZA: Oh, talk real slow.

SAGAL: Plus, of course, the uilleann pipe has an air bladder, and what's more sexy than that?

Mr. MOLONEY: And the bellows, in case you run out of wind. You know, I don't have to blow anymore. I have you know, the Irish are very clever. We invented the bellows - pump the wind into the bag, and you squeeze the bag and hopefully, out she comes.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SAGAL: I think we're able to say you win. You win the contest. The uilleann pipes, the world's sexiest instrument.

Well, Paddy Moloney, we are so delighted to have you with us. We've asked you here to play a game that we're calling...

CARL KASELL, host:

You may be an Irishman, and you may fight, but the Fighting Irishmen are from Indiana.

Mr. MOLONEY: Oh, right, from Notre Dame.

SAGAL: From Notre Dame. March, for you, March is about St. Patrick's day. For us, its about March Madness, the NCAA basketball tournament. So we're going to ask you, in honor of that, three questions about college mascots across our country. You get two out of these three questions right, you'll win our prize for one of our listeners, Carl's voice on their home answering machine. Carl, who is musician Paddy Moloney playing for?

KASELL: He is playing for Cassie Garcia of Minneapolis, Minnesota.

SAGAL: OK, first question for you, sir. Mary Baldwin College, in Virginia, sends its teams to the basketball floor led by what: A, Gladys the Fighting Squirrel; B, Bobo the Bonobo; or C, Mary Baldwin, the Very Tough Woman?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MOLONEY: I'd go along with Mary Baldwin.

SAGAL: Mary Baldwin, the very tough woman.

Mr. MOLONEY: Yeah, I'd love to tackle her sometime.

SAGAL: Absolutely. Mary Baldwin College, led by Mary Baldwin, the very tough woman. Actually, it was it's Gladys the Fighting Squirrel, is the mascot at Mary Baldwin College. It's a squirrel because the animal in the historical Mary Baldwin's crest was a squirrel. It's a squirrel because that was the animal in...

Mr. MOLONEY: "Happy Day."

SAGAL: "Happy Day." Nobody knows why its called Gladys the Fighting Squirrel. But all right, you have two more chances. Next question. Whittier College, in California, has an unlikely mascot in that it does not seem very aggressive. What is it? A, a poet; B, a giant sloth; or C, an earthworm?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MOLONEY: I would have thought the poet.

SAGAL: You would have thought the poet? You're right. It's a poet.

(Soundbite of bell)

SAGAL: The Whittier College Poets.

Mr. MOLONEY: Good, good, good.

SAGAL: Because the college is named after John Greenleaf Whittier, the poet. Last question, Paddy, you get this right, you win our prize. Sometimes, mascots run into trouble. The University of Mississippi has decided to replace its mascot, Colonel Reb. It has unfortunate connotations of rebellion. One of the leading candidates to replace him, via student vote at the university, is whom: A, a walking bong.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MOLONEY: A what?

SAGAL: A bong, which is a kind of water pipe, often used for the smoking of marijuana.

Mr. MOLONEY: Oh, very good, very good.

Mr. PIERCE: So when you were knocking around with Mick and Marianne.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SAGAL: You didn't notice that.

Mr. PIERCE: It was that thing in the corner.

SAGAL: B, is it B, Admiral Ackbar, a character from the "Star Wars" movies?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PIERCE: It's a trap.

SAGAL: It's a trap, thank you. Or C, Paula Abdul.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. FAITH SALIE: Oh, please God, make it Paula Abdul.

Mr. MOLONEY: So I don't know. Maybe that strikes me as something I'd like to go with.

SAGAL: You want to go for Paula Abdul, that the students want Paula Abdul to lead them?

Mr. MOLONEY: Yes, that would be my choice.

SAGAL: You think Paula Abdul would be willing to do this, to give up her flourishing career as a crazed shut-in?

Mr. MOLONEY: Yeah, I'd probably go with her, you know.

SAGAL: Well, so many people would, although not as many as Paula would like, apparently.

Mr. MOLONEY: Anyway, (unintelligible).

SAGAL: Yeah, you did, sadly. It's Admiral Ackbar, from "Star Wars."

(Soundbite of applause)

SAGAL: You remember him. He's the commander. He looks like a walking fish, and he's a rebel commander, see. Other students threatened to quit the school if the Admiral wins the vote. Carl, how did Paddy do on our quiz?

KASELL: Well, Paddy needed at least two correct answers to win for Cassie Garcia, but he had just one.

Mr. MOLONEY: Oh my heavens, oh God. Well, we have to try again sometime.

SAGAL: We will, Paddy. We'll love to have maybe next St. Patrick's Day.

Mr. MOLONEY: Yeah.

SAGAL: Paddy Moloney is the founder of the Chieftains, the greatest Irish band going. Their new album, which is a wonderful combination of Irish and Mexican traditional music, is called "San Patricio." It's amazing. Go pick it up. Paddy Moloney, thank you so much for joining us.

Mr. PIERCE: Thanks, Paddy.

Mr. MOLONEY: Thank you.

(Soundbite of applause)

SAGAL: In just a minute, Carl reveals the secrets of the Mafia's social-networking site, Scarfacebook.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SAGAL: It's the Listener Limerick Challenge. Call 1-888-Wait-Wait to join us on the air.

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