Strat Appeal

Donegal-born RORY GALLAGHER and his battered Strat have been synonymous since his musical apprenticeship in the blues-rock outfit Taste in 1965. After 30 years together he and his Strat are indeed best friends.


'I saw this guitar in Cork City in Ireland in 1962 in the one and only music shop that was there at the time, Michael Crawley's. I was a huge Buddy Holly fan, and a Hank Marvin fan as well, of course. He showed this guitar to me, and said, "Do you wanna buy it?" Luckily, bit by bit we got it paid off, week by week, gig by gig and I've had it ever since.

'It was a sunburst Strat that it turned out someone had traded in for a red one. It's dated November '61, and in certain people's point of view this is where they hit the peak. Certain people say that '54 or '55 is the best, but the '61 is a pretty good point really. I like maple necks, like on the earlier guitars. They're probably a bit more crisp, but there's a warmth to this, a mellowness, cause of the rosewood neck.

'This is the best, it's my life, this is my best friend. It's almost like knowing its weak spots are strong spots. I don't like to get sentimental about these things, but when you spend 30 years of your life with the same instrument it's like a walking memory bank of your life there in your arms.

'One of the most worrying times was when the guitar got stolen. I'd borrowed a new Tele off a friend which I left with the Strat. While we were away someone put a brick through the window and made off with the two of them. For a while I really felt the loss; I had to play on an old Burns and was starting to get desperate. Then I got a phone call and they'd had the guitar on television, on Police Five, or Gardia Patrol as we call it in Ireland. The guitar had been found behind a garden wall in Dublin, all scuffed up and chipped. I've cherished it ever since.
I love it -how would you define that?

'The only adjustments I've done to
this guitar is to put on heavier
frets than normal and I've
muted one tone control so
it's just like a Telecaster,
with an overall master tone
and volume, which is
important, particularly for
slide, because sometimes you
have to mellow down a slide
sound if you're doing a Muddy
Waters type of thing. Otherwise
I stay as close to the original as
possible. The machine heads
have been changed a million
times, except this odd man
out here, I left this sixth one
out for the gypsies. It fell
one night and the back
came out of it, so I just
left it there.It was a little
bit spooky so I left it alone.
It's a superstitious thing.

'People look at my guitar and think that I must treat it badly. I admit I used to throw it about a bit in the early days, but it's really just that I use it so much that over the years the paint has gone, one little chip at a time. I don't see guitars as things to be left in glass cases. I love all great guitars, but they have to be used and I can get a kick out of a $15 Silvertone too. It's not meanness, it's just that any guitar over x-hundred dollars just becomes a status symbol. Then again, I grew up in a time when I remember Telecasters and Strats being about $250 to $350, whatever.

'I hate using your one-line clichés, but this guitar is part of my psychic make-up. I've had troubles with it, but I'm fortunate enough. It's like B.B. King has a hundred Lucilles, I've only got one Strat. I don't even call it a woman's name or
whatever.  It's just, from where I came
from, to own a Stratocaster was like
monumental -it was impossible.
They got me posing in front of
Michael Caine's house with
it so it can't be all that bad!

'There'll be arch battles for
as long as we go on about the
warmth of Les Paul guitars
and the twang of a Telecaster
and all that, but I would
panic before I go on stage
without this guitar- it would
have to be a Strat, and this one
in particular.'

This article comes from Curves, Contours and Body Horns: The Story of the Fender Stratocaster from an interview done by Ray Minhinnett
Thanks to Billy Major for passing it along
reformatted by roryfan
The background photo was taken by Charlie Gili at The Ritz in New York City in 1982
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