Mr. McKenna was considered the most influential banjo player in Irish folk music. He spent a half-century performing, recording and touring with the band ever since its 1962 creation in the Dublin pub O'Donoghue's. The other three founders - Ronnie Drew, Ciaran Bourke and Luke Kelly - died in 2008, 1988 and 1984, respectively.
Mr. McKenna completed a United Kingdom tour with the Dubliners last month and performed Wednesday night at a Dublin funeral. Howard, who also performed there and drove Mr. McKenna home afterward, said his friend performed "absolutely beautifully. When he finished, there was a spontaneous, thunderous round of applause in the church."
Born in Dublin, Mr. McKenna tried to join the Irish army band but was rejected because of bad eyesight. He played in the streets and pubs of the capital and developed a reputation as an innovative performer on a specially tuned, four-stringed tenor banjo, then a virtually unknown instrument in Ireland that he made a folk favorite.
Many noted how Mr. McKenna always made time to help younger musicians learn the art of the tenor banjo, particularly the intricacies of his own strumming and tuning techniques.
"His influence on and generosity to other instrumentalists was immense," said Irish President Michael D. Higgins, who saw Mr. McKenna perform last month in a Dublin cathedral at one of the Dubliners' many 50th anniversary performances.