Rory Gallagher sets a torrid pace for himself in the studio and on tour. A broken thumb held him up for a while, but now he's a strumming away like nothing happened, and making up for lost time.

             by Steve Solomon

Rory Gallagher makes a living strumming his guitar, so when the 29 years old Irish guitarist got his right thumb caught in a Los Angeles taxi door last year, it looked like his illustrious career would be brutally cut short.

Gallagher says, "I paid a taxi, got up to close the door, and just didn't take my thumb out of the way. For a split second, I thought I was gone, but it got caught just on the joint. I had a dressing on it, for six weeks. It can't completely bend like it should, but I can play."

That's all that counts in his business, because Rory Gallagher without a guitar would be a very unhappy man. Rory's currently making the stateside scene, pushing his ninth solo album, Photo Finish. Considering his youth, Rory has had a long and checkered history in the rock scene. He started making a living with his guitar at the age of 16 when he split school and toured Europe with a group called the Impact Show Band. Then it was four years with his trio, Taste, and seven years as a solo artist.

These last few years have not been good ones for lead guitarists, so why does he keep at it? He says, "That whole critical commandment- thou shalt not do long guitar solos - you're not even allowed to say 'lead guitar' anymore. I still want to be modern and valid, but I haven't sold out on the past, the things I love and refuse to drop."

If you listen to Shin Kicker, Shadow Play and Brute Force on his new album, they all have the manic intensity that Gallagher is noted for. Rory has become known as the "loner" of the rock scene. He usually produces his own albums, relies on his brother to manage him and lives simply on the road. Why does he produce his own albums with the multitude of good producers who'd love to work with him? According to Rory, "A lot of producers don't understand the blues thing. You say you want to try a Slim Harpo sound and they say 'Who's he?' Then you have to explain it to them; you're teaching them."

Rory started out Photo Finish with Elliot Mazer as producer, but was dissatisfied with the results, and scrapped the album and started over again, this time with himself as producer. His thumb episode and touring schedules fouled up his recording plans, so it was two years between releases. Gallagher, who sets a torrid pace in the recording studio, considers that a "slowdown."

Gallagher isn't the most sophisticated person musically; but instead he relies on a "gut instinct" for what is right. He can't read music, and first bought an electric guitar without realizing he needed an amp for it. Rory considers himself a "no-frills man" who looks the way he plays - with trademark flannel shirt faded jeans, sneakers and wild, curly hair that is kept to his shoulders. One English critic said, "He looks like a paper boy in his plimsolls and blue jeans."

But Rory has no desire to follow the current trends. He works out of London, calls Ireland his home, loves touring and plays the blues as hard as he can.

According to Rory, "It's important to find your own trail and drive along it as far as you can go." That sounds like the remarks of a very determined man who doesn't let broken thumbs get in the way of success.

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added 11/12/06