Mike Byrne Irish Show a Mainstay on Long Beach Island

Aug 23, 2017
Photo by: Grant Kelly Mike Byrne at Nardi's on Friday night.

The ocean is to the shore as Mike Byrne is to Long Beach Island’s live music scene. Whether it’s at Buckalew’s on Tuesday nights, The Gateway, or Fridays at Nardi’s, Mike Byrne has been a staple of LBI’s live music culture for over 35 years.

Although performing on the Island for over 35 years is an incredible feat in itself, Byrne has been performing music professionally for about 50 years. His talents have taken him all over the country and as far as Ireland, Bermuda, Berlin and more. Music in general and traditional Irish music have been a huge part of his life, and a passion in it was instilled in him at a young age.

“My father was an orchestra leader. He played Irish music all of his life,” Byrne reminisced. “My family grew up with lots of music around; my brothers, mother and father were all singers or played an instrument. Music was always a part of our household from when we were very little.”

Growing up in Bayonne and a longtime resident of Howell, Byrne has maintained strong New Jersey roots throughout his life. For his first 11 years out of college he was a schoolteacher, and his music took a back seat as a fun part-time job to make some extra money. Then, about 35 years ago, he moved to the Jersey Shore and decided to turn his passion for music into a career.

Byrne began performing wherever he could. Starting out, he performed in various bars and clubs in Seaside Heights, which turned into more shows in Normandy Beach, and that became even more gigs in Lavallette until a chance encounter led him to Long Beach Island.

“I got introduced to LBI through an accidental phone call from Bob Nardi of Nardi’s,” Byrne said. “It took off and became a big part of what I did, and I’m just very grateful for that.”

Although he is the “Mike Byrne Irish Show,” he has a much wider repertoire than just traditional Irish folk songs. Growing up on ’50s and ’60s rock ’n’ roll, Byrne cites influences from that era ranging from Tom Petty and Neil Diamond to Jimmy Buffett – because he is at the Jersey Shore, after all.

Now, along with his performances, he has used his talent, intellect and charm to start some ventures of his own. He has a wife, Isabelle, and two children, Michael and Katie, with Michael often joining him on stage to play percussion. He and his wife have been sponsoring group travel to Bermuda and Ireland since 1987. In May 2018, Byrne will be running his final Bermuda cruise trip, but he intends to keep his Ireland group trip going for as long as he can.

In 2001, Byrne also began a production company with Isabelle and Michael called All Star Productions. It began with Byrne sending his schedule out to his mailing list of over 16,000 people. Then, noticing a majority of his crowd was older, he began advertising shows in 55-and-older communities. The shows, taking place at Doolan’s in Spring Lake and Li Grecci’s Staaten in Staten Island, are during the day on weekdays to cater to an older crowd. Although still performing in the bars and clubs he grew up on, he runs up to 130 of these shows in a year.

Right before his set at Nardi’s, he was moving through the crowd, greeting friendly faces and thanking people for coming out to see him. It’s clear to see Mike Byrne has been performing at the Jersey Shore for a long time, with his sweet Irish sound making him plenty of friends and fans along the way. He is still going strong with a big, friendly smile and showing no signs of slowing down.

— Zach Hoffman

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