The audience reaction to a typical Rory Gallagher concert has been well documented in the overseas music papers, but I was still not fully prepared for the tremendous excitement that this man generates. It's hard to analyse the reaction that occurred in the Town Hall that night. Gallagher himself seemed at a loss for a complete explanation.

The first thing immediately noticeable onstage is that Rory Gallagher is the show and there can be no doubt that this man is an excellent musician whose control of the guitar, whether acoustic or electric, is truly outstanding. On the other hand, his background band is unexceptional, with the keyboard player being of questionable musical ability. In fact, the musical highlight for me was Gallagher's solo bracket of three acoustic songs which showed the audience that he could play tastefully and subtly when required.

At the interview the following day, I found Gallagher to be a very pleasant individual who is completely immersed in music and uninterested in other aspects of 'showbiz'. Because of its length, the interview has been edited in length in an attempt not only to reduce space, but to produce a more coherent article.
Henry Jackson

I was amused at the excitement you aroused in the audience last night. Is the set deliberately paced to obtain that reaction?

Well I try to get a rock 'n' roll reaction from the first two numbers. It's common sense. You take it down from there and build up again so that the set moves up and down – it flows. But I definitely try to grab the audience as soon as I get on stage – I like to be a 'live' musician as opposed to being a 'laid-back' musician. That's fine for some things, but half the time, 'laid back' is simply an excuse for being lazy.

That of course is the major criticism of Jerry Garcia and the San Francisco school.

Yes, it could be a reflection of different personalities, I suppose, but I think my approach stems from the musicians I like, whether its Django Reinhardt, Eddie Cochran or Buddy Guy.

Do you always get a similar audience reaction to the one last night? I even noticed some males in the audience playing imaginary guitars.

 (laughter) NO. We get different reactions according to the particular area. Blues numbers might receive more applause in the clubs than they do in concert. But I never change the set because of the area. I don't drop numbers just because I know that the rockers go down better here than they do on the West Coast, for example.

What I'm saying is that we get a certain type of reaction to certain songs or a certain category of songs.

You're known in Melody Maker as the man who plays 365 days a year. Is this image an accurate one?

Oh- they've taken it too far. The English press is lazy. Once they get an image – in my case it's the hard-working checked shirt bit, they never bother to write anything new about me. I estimate I'm probably on the road 10 months of the year.

All the same, you're quite the antithesis of some San Franciscans and Southern bands who do live performances and tours simply as interludes to recording.

Yeah, that's a tragedy, but I can understand it because of the recording industry record advances etc. It should be the other way round, but as I've said, I think of myself as a 'live' performer. This is probably because I have a romantic conception of music based on figures like Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly – musical hobos. Touring keeps the music on its toes – it keeps it clean and stops it from becoming too fat.

How critical are you of your own playing?

Very!...but music's abstract – it's not just either good or bad. You might play one number fantastically well and then the next one not so well, but you get an amazing feeling across. This sort of thing is particularly true with this kind of music that's improved.

Is it possible to say what proportion of improvision constitutes your set?

Oh, I couldn't say. It varies so much. Sometimes I add or leave out verses as well as extend the instrumental breaks. Then again, I may change the flavour of the song completel by doing it on acoustic guitar instead of playing it on the electric guitar. For example, sometimes I play J.B.Hutto's 'Too Much Alcohol' acoustically in a different key and a different tempo. This gives the song more of a antique flavour.

Actually you mentioned Buddy Guy earlier and it occurred to me that you are associated with a Fender Stratocaster in much the same way he is, or for that matter Hendrix was.... You have a similar approach to Buddy Guy – that very intense strangulated sound – another of your trademarks is the use of harmonics.

Yeah, I'm very much a Strat man. You see Gibsons are so easy to play that they tend to control the player. They literally only have about two tones. Plug them into any old amp and they still sound great, but plug a Strat into the wrong amp and it sounds like a tinny toy.

With a Strat you really have to work on it to get the menace out of it and they give you the freak tones that Gibsons don't. Also, I think Fenders are more versatile. Their single pole pickups give you that strangled sound and you can get to the volume and tone controls quicker than you can on a Gibson.

As for the harmonics, they're purely a Strat thing. I didn't know what they were at first, but now I can get three types of harmonics.

Are there any players you're listening to at the present who impress you?

Oh lots. If you want a gush of names, there's Doc Watson, Django, Martin Carthy, Bert Jansch, Al Wilson (deceased- Canned Heat), J.B.Hutto, Buddy Guy, of course, and Otis Rush, Lowell George ( Little Feat) too. There's a whole range of people. I'm just a guitar fan.

Some people say B.B.King is God or Hendrix is God and that they're the only guitarists. The rest of us are just servants. I think the more guitarists the better. It keeps the whole thing bubbling along. There could be a guy playing in the bar on the corner, who means as much to me, maybe more, than Hendrix and Hendrix is fantastic.

I notice on your records, that you always seem to include a country-blues – is this deliberate?

Yeah, but only to satisfy myself, not to impress or satisfy anyone else. At any moment there's always at least one country-blues song that's in my head and it keeps on killing me for 9 months till I get it down. At the moment I'd like to do a Leadbelly number using a Scottish tuning (!) and oh – yeah, there's a Blind Boy Fuller song, 3 Ball Blues I'm crazy about.

What attracts you to pick up on those old country-blues tunes?      hotlickpic.jpg

Ah, the lyrics, it always comes down to the lyrics, whether it's an old country-blues or more contemporary material such as Tony Joe White's As the Crow Flies or Muddy Waters' Garbage Man, both of which I play in concert.

I notice, though, you always avoid the signature tunes of older blues artists.

You mean, for example, Mojo and Hoochie Coochie Man with Muddy Waters – yeah well I avoid them as they've been overrecorded and there are songs round by those same artists that are as good if not better than those ones.

Those songs are OK at jam sessions where you're looking for some common grounds with musicians you don't know very well.

How did you come to play on the Stones record?

Well, they just phoned me up and asked me to come down to the studios. They seem to spend 2 or so weeks working on a couple of numbers just getting them as perfect as possible.

What do you think of the suggestion made by Ry Cooder that the Stones lifted licks from him when he worked for them as a session musician? He claims part-credit for Honky Tonk Women.

I've heard that one before. I don't know if Ry Cooder's being fair though, he may have come up with a lick that Keith later worked on. Little Feat also claims the Stones did the same thing to them. Lowell George said they sent an acetate of the second album (Sailin Shoes to the Stones and heard parts of it back on Exile on Main Street. On the other hand, it could be said that some songs on the first Little Feat album sound like the Stones.

I think everyone's influenced by various people and when groups have a similar set of influences you're bound to have have similarities in their music too.

Would you like to comment on the rumour that you may be joining the Stones?

Well, people are throwing that one around – the Stones do have a similar blues background and Keith's into all the various blues open tunings – but I'm a guitarist, singer, songwriter and bandleader, so it would be a question of how I could manage – having a double career or whatever. Anyway, it's only a hypothetical question.

Finally, what are your plans for this year?

I'm doing tours of Spain, Germany and America, an acoustic album and a band album. The plan is to try and get a killer album out this time and I'm sure we've got it in us.

I'm also toying with the idea of taking classical guitar lessons. It's probably because I've been taught by my own ears. I can't read and there comes a time when it gets to you. I feel now that taking lessons wouldn't ruin any individuality I may now have.
Henry Jackson

 From Joachim Matz's great Rory timeline, I found that the show referred to was
at the Auckland Town Hall  in New Zealand on 3/7/75

This interview comes from the March 1975 issue of  HOT LICKS from New Zealand
reformatted by roryfan
To Join The Loop
Mailing & Discussion List 
email roryfan at

Back to main RoryON!! page
 Back to Articles page
Back to previous article
Forward to next article
added 2/5/06