with Jerry Lee Lewis, Muddy Waters and Albert King; he’s rated by the
press, Segovia and U2, and now Rory
reveals his favourite riffs to John Perry
Of the great
flowering of British Blues guitarists that occurred in the 60s,
relatively few have survived in a good playingcondition.
Clapton has built a second career that owes little to Blues, Page is
inscrutable, Beck is as eccentric as ever and can still delight the ear
with his surprises, and the great Peter Green is lost, sadly, to all
intents. Mick Taylor crops up sometimes on Dylan LP’s or on
Keith’s new album and shows he still has a lovely fluid touch.
there were other guitarists who played well, such as Sammy Mitchell,
the only name that is well known and missing from the above list is
saw the three piece, Taste, during the late Sixties was left in no
doubt that there was another young guitarist who deserved to be
included in the First Division.
first appeared to an English audience his formula was perfect for the
times. Blues based songs with melodies instead of constant 12
bars, an uncluttered 3 piece line up, a fierce, fast attacking style,
and a memorable searing tone which came from a battered sunburst 61
Strat, an AC30 and a Rangemaster treble booster.
this day it is a similar mix of ingredients that keeps Gallagher
playing to a large, appreciative audience, but his roots are firmly in
the Blues - he has done albums with many of the original US players -
and a love of vintage Dylan, which shows in his songwriting.
born in Cork on the West coast of Ireland and got an acoustic guitar at
nine. At 12, he decided to get a Rosetti Solid 7 electric, and at
15 he was playing in that great staple of the Irish scene, the
showband. With the Fontana Showband he was playing “everything
from Jim Reeves to Chuck Berry” and forcing in as much ‘borderline’
R&B as he could.
step was to the port of Hamburg, which was still rocking in the wake of
The Beatles and was the breeding ground of many good bands, such as
Spooky Tooth, and guitarists like Blackmore. With the bassist and
drummer from the showband Rory found himself free to play Blues and
R&B with no restrictions, and also free of any record company
control - they owned their equipment and van, and answered to nobody.
Belfast which had an R&B scene centered around Van Morrison and
Them, then it was over to England for residencies at The Marquee and
dates at the festivals which were then just starting to appear.
take long for managers and A&R men to spot Rory’s potential and
Robert Stigwood became involved. The first album was done for Polydor
and Taste went off to tour the States opening for Stigwood’s main act,
Blind Faith. Gallagher was still just 21.
talking about the guitarists and songwriters who had influenced
Rory. Obviously he has a good knowledge of the Blues going back
to Charley Patton and on thru’ Robert Johnson and into the Fifties of
Muddy and Howlin’ Wolf, but he was keen to dissociate himself from what
he described as ‘The Blue Horizon School’.
don’t want to knock them, cos they did some good stuff, it was all a
little bit academic, a bit too purist and inbred, it could never have
the Blues players, I liked Dylan a lot. The Albert Hall - which
you know was actually the Liverpool gig - bootleg is one of the great
pieces… CBS recorded that Liverpool gig and put out one track as a B
side, they still have the rest of the show, but they won’t put it out.”
rightly deemed one of the all time great live recordings; at the end of
an exhausting world tour Dylan is operating on one hundred per cent
pure venom, with audience slow hand claps and cries of Judas for
turning electric goading him and the Band to greater heights.
“I love what
Robbie Robertson is doing on that record, that great Telecaster sound.
On Highway 61 and Blonde on Blonde you have Robbie,
Mike Bloomfield - with one of the new Guild amps, distant miked - Joe
South, Wayne Moss all playing great stuff. If I’ve one
unfulfilled ambition it’s to play with Dylan, but with a Dylan doing
songs like that, not like Infidels or the current stuff… and of course
that’s not possible.”
Robertson and Rory are two of the greatest exponents of fake or pinched
harmonics, produced by touching the string with your finger next to the
pick, and I wondered whether this was conscious.
“No, I think
I just started doing it, and of course that set up, the Rangemaster
treble boost and the Strat was perfect for generating those
harmonics. I don’t claim credit for it, but I have been doing it
a long time.”
no 5 way switches in those days, you just jammed the selector between
back and middle. Rory has his guitars set up with the neck
slightly pulled back from the body. This set up with large frets
gives more sustain, more fluidity, and also helps with playing
bottleneck which Rory does both on regular and open tuned guitars.
both open G and open D, but tunes up to A or E for electric guitars.
He also uses DADGAD, (which John Martyn described in these columns) a
common folk tuning probably originated by Davy Graham or Martin Carthy,
who along with Bert Jansch are favourites with Rory.
“I like the
way John Lee Hooker and Lightnin’ Hopkins use open tuning, I also like
some of what Keith does, take the intro to All Down The Line (Fig.1),
that is neat. These (figs 2, 3, & 4) are some of the chords I use
on open G.
“I have the
action up quite high, but I’ve seen guitars used by say, Waylon
Jennings for Country, which have an action so low you get that
distinctive slapping, fretty, sound.”
have a Burns NuSonic I use for bottleneck there’s also tunings like
Skip Jame’s (I’m So Glad) E minor tuning which, from the bottom goes
EBEGBE. Stephan Grossman used that. If you play I’m So Glad
on it, it comes out very different from Cream’s version.”
“I keep the
6th string on for open G, and use my thumb for some of the bass notes
on the 5th and 6th strings (mostly on 2nd and 3rd frets).”
has a special E Minor Sixth tuning - I did some recording with Albert,
he was using a Flying V and really hammers the strings. He used
it with the pickups out of phase for a long time before people started
fitting switches for that purpose.”
“I still use
an AC30 with treble booster, plug into the Normal channel, I also have
a 100W Marshall with 4 by 12 and a 50W Marshall combo. The Vox
counteracts the harshness of the Marshall sound.”
recording for Demon Records Rory has made a total of 13 albums on his
own, plus LPs with Albert King, Jerry Lee Lewis, Muddy Waters and
“You know, I
don’t use especially light strings, but I remember when they were hard
to get. Joe Brown says it was Eddie Cochran who introduced to
Britain the idea of light stringing, with a plain third and a banjo
string top, when Cochran toured here in the Fifties.”
guitar players I like are Hubert Sumlin, who played in Howlin’ Wolf’s
band, and of course I grew up hearing Leadbelly and Bukka White on
American Forces Network radio.”
current album, Defender, Rory
used the sunburst Strat already mentioned, and another 57 maple neck
Strat, again with large frets, “I prefer the Rosewood neck.”
He also uses
a Telecaster, a Martin D35 acoustic and a National Steel. A
Gibson Melody Maker is used for bottleneck.
is still that distinctive ‘biting’ tone from Taste, though of course
it’s recorded in a contemporary manner. It is the tone of the
guitar which dominates the album and the live shows, the tone plus a
nice melodic approach to the Blues-based structures of the songs.
“I play to a
cross section of a crowd these days. There are some guitar fans
there, some people who’ve followed my whole career, some CD smartset, a
Both Defender and the preceding album, Jinx, are recommended to anyone who
doesn’t know Rory’s work. Listen to the slow Bluesy song, Easy Come Easy Go, for a good idea
of Rory’s haunting tone, or any of the up tempo songs on Defender for an idea of what to
expect in concert.
Rory is one of the very few players from that great school of British
guitarists who you can still see playing good hard Rock.
Perry Written by John
Perry for International
Musician & Recording World - February 1989
Many thanks to Brenda O'Brien for sharing & preparing this article!
reformatted by roryfan