Rory Gallagher

Born in Ballyshannon, County Donegal, Rory Gallagher started playing guitar at the age of nine, having discovered the work of Eddie Cochran, Buddy Holly and Chuck Berry. When he was 16 he bought the 1961 Fender Stratocaster, which he still uses for stage work, and set about learning tricks like slurs and hammering-on, the trademarks of blues masters such as T-Bone Walker and Buddy Guy. His background in Irish showband music merged surprisingly well with the black guitar style he admired so much, and the result is a unique freshness and energy.

His first recording band was Taste, which he formed in 1968. It was within this trio that he realized his potential as a guitarist, giving the band a depth of sound often missing from three-piece line-ups. Much of their material was heavily blues influenced, but they were developing all the time and, unlike many of their contemporaries, Taste had an endearing lack of pretentiousness that earned them much respect.

Gallagher himself moved on to solo work in the early Seventies, eventually acquiring a permanent rhythm section. Shunning the flashy instruments and massive amplification associated with hard rock, he more often than not elects to use his old Stratocaster or a Telecaster with a Vox AC30 combo. The Strat is tailor-made for the flurries of blues scales that fly from his fingers - he also makes great use of slide, on this guitar as well as a Gretsch Corvette.

Gallagher's session credits are impressive: he has worked with legends like Jerry Lee Lewis, Lonnie Donegan, Albert Lee and the late Muddy Waters, to name but a few. It was easy to see why they picked him when one hears his magnificent slide playing, particularly on his 1982 Jinx album. His one-string soloing and sweeping slide on 'Double Vision' and the Hendrix-type chord progressions in 'Easy Come, Easy Go' are fine examples of his dexterity.


Each of his studio albums have a vitality and an edge that suggests a live atmosphere. Photo Finish displayed his versatility, featuring fast, driving rock 'n' roll in 'Shinkicker', skiffle on 'Cruise On Out' and the moody, guitarlaced blues of 'Fuel To The Fire', which includes some great cascading solos.

A criticism sometimes leveled at three-piece outfits is the lack of a consistent, powerful beat; thankfully Gallagher's rhythm section, consisting of Gerry McAvoy on bass and Brendan O'Neill on drums, possess a strong sense of timing. On stage, the band treads that fine line between apparently unplanned improvisation and strict adherence to a carefully structured set, the overall impression being one of musicians bouncing ideas off each other while still maintaining balance and control.

Perhaps the most outstanding testament to Gallagher's live work came when he was presented with a commemorative plaque to mark his seventh headlining appearance at the annual Reading Festival. He stepped out onto the stage wearing a check shirt, with an ancient Strat slung over his shoulder, and played some of the most inspired blues that one is likely to hear. In the studio, he skips happily from the Strat to a Vox 12 string complete with built-in fuzz and boost, also using a Gretsch Corvette and a Gretsch Chet Atkins. He also plays the mandolin convincingly - one gets the feeling that it is not just a gimmick, rather a part of his own musical heritage.

Rory Gallagher has never set much store by fashion, musical or otherwise, but he has stayed at the top for some years creating energetic, positive music. He has outgrown his initial influences in some ways, while retaining a great sense of history - and matured immeasurably in terms of style and delivery. As long as there is a market for honest, direct blues then Rory Gallagher will be in demand.   JAY WILLIAMS
For more information on some of the earlier UK festivals, including Reading, visit  THE ARCHIVE
or this site with information on US festivals  Festivals of the 60s and 70s
This piece comes from The History of Rock, Volume 8, Issue 91, 1983.
Thanks AGAIN to Brenda O'Brien for sharing and typing this article

reformatted by roryfan

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