Rory's Fender Strat   by DÓNAL GALLAGHER

At the tender age of fifteen and still at school, my brother Rory had joined a semi-professional band, then known as the Fontana Showband. Rory had passed his audition with the six-piece Fontana playing on his 'Rosette, Solid Seven' electric guitar, which he was paying for by installments of pocket money to Crowley's Music Shop (then Merchants Quay) in Cork City.... it would be a year before he would be rid of the $25 debt. So, when my brother asked for me to come and view the 'Buddy Holly' look-alike guitar in now gracing Crowley's store window, I went along willingly.....but for a look only.

youngrory.gifBeing the younger brother, Rory had instructed me as to how I should behave in the event that he would go into the store and ask the owner, Michael, for a better look at the instrument. My sibling informed me, that possibly he may want to hold the guitar and see how it felt to hold a 'Stratocaster'. Basically, I was to keep my gob shut and nod in agreement if called upon to do so. I had been trying to get back into my brother's 'good musical books', having been fired by him from our duo (ala the Everly Bros.) for picking an argument with him on stage.
The instrument was taken from its cradle in the store's window and put for the first time into my brother's arms, with its £100 ($175) price tag dangling from one of its tuning pegs, the price was beyond comprehension in those days. Michael told Rory "Its a good price for one of them, they're the top of the range", Michael recounted how it was at such a price, "See, I had ordered a Stratocaster for the guitarist with the Royal Showband (then one of the biggest attractions in Ireland), when it arrived after three months, wasn't it the wrong colour!, the guy wanted a red one like Hank Marvin (Shadows), so I let him play that 'sunburst' one until the red guitar arrived.. That took another three months, so I am selling it as a second-hand guitar". By now the 'sunburst' was welded to Rory's fingers, "how much would you give me on a trade-in of my 'solid seven' guitar", Rory inquired, "and what would the extended weekly payments be on my existing agreement, now that I am playing with a professional band". To me this conversation wasn't going the right way. Michael had the figures worked out in minutes, so much per week, over a period of thirty six months etc. "I'll take it" said Rory shaking Michael's hand and sealing the deal. "You're mother is okay with this, is she, as the hire purchase agreement is in her name", the store keeper asked. "Yes, of course she is, isn't she?", Rory smiled wryly for me to confirm his statement. Speechlessly I nodded a yes, Lord God, we'll end up in prison for three years at this rate, I thought. "I'll take all the forms home with me and have them signed by my mother and drop them back later." said Rory.  

Rory and I ran out the door with the 'Strat' in its beautiful tweed case. Nearing home, I was sent ahead torory1.gif make sure the path to our shared bedroom was clear of adults. In the room, Rory slowly opened the case. I was stunned at the beauty of it all from the orange velvet lining, to the compartment with all the extra's. I wasn't allowed to touch the guitar and had to give my word of honour to Rory, who would give the matter consideration and might let me hold it at some point, provided that I stick to my promise. So as not to be obvious, the guitar was to be secreted under my bed, and if it was spotted, the guitar was being minded for one of the fellows in the Fontana. Each day when Rory wasn't around, I would slip the case out from under the bed, open it up and gaze at the contours of the instrument until I would hear someone coming, but there was no 'touching' of the guitar. I became addicted to this daily ritual, but I now realise that it was the aroma from bottle of polish was my hang-up. "Please can I polish your guitar" I would often ask of my brother, "No, you're not to touch it" he would reply.

 "Where did this come from?", I heard our mother say I neared the bedroom. Rory unable to lie to her said "Ask Donal". I began a retreat down the stairs, "come back here", mother ordered. Forgetting my lines, I began to blurt out something far-fetched. Interrupting, Rory came clean.... justifying the purchase on the basis that with a 'Stratocaster' he could play both rhythm and lead simultaneously and his band could then dispense with its rhythm player and that way Rory would be paid more and thus pay off the loan quite easily. Mammy, knowing her sons talent, allowed him to keep the guitar and thankfully signed the paperwork.
The 'Stratocaster' became like another family sibling. I recall when, after a gig in Dublin, the guitar got stolen from the Taste's van, (which had been briefly unattended) , we were in mourning for the week it was missing, with Rory constantly calling to the police station for any news on the instrument. Sadly, it now is the reverse and I feel so saddened when I look at the poor orphaned guitar. But it has it still has its glory days and the 'Strat' seems to smile when we put it on display at the Rory exhibitions we do. And it got taken back to its original home when Fender replicated it in Rory's honour. In 2005 Cork will be the European City of Culture, the Fender 'stratocaster' guitar will be on show for much of next year, as part of a major exhibition in his 'hometown'.            Dónal Gallagher - April 2004  
Posted to RoryON!! with permission from and thanks to Patrick Kennedy
reformatted by roryfan

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