"I've known Rory since
I was sixteen when he came up with Taste from Cork.
He was like the new guy on the scene and I was just out of school at the time. He used to play at the Club Rado a lot. I supported Rory on a regular basis at that time. Rado was the old Maritime Club where people like Van Morrison started out. It was actually a very dangerous club. When you came out at night there were always a lot of gangs around. You were dicing with death just to see a band there. They'd take your bus fare off you, give you a couple of digs, take the bus to their place. Then you'd have to walk home and pass them again. But it was a great club. Rory played there a lot.
"I remember an occasion
when we didn't have any spare strings between us so
we decided we'd leave one of the guitars up on stage for both of us. It was like that. And Rory was always really friendly and very courteous. We used to link our amplifiers together as well to get more power because none of us had a big amplifier. A lot of the Belfast bands weren't like that at all. "They'd rather slit your throat. You'd go up on stage after a break and the back of your guitar would fall off. Or they'd have unplugged the speakers. But Rory wasn't like that because he wasn't insecure about his playing. He knew he was good. And we all knew how good he was. He had a real charisma and presence about him on stage. As soon as he put the guitar on there was a connection and he was just so great."
"The very first time I met him was probably in the Maritime in the afternoon. I don't know if it was the very first occasion we met but often we'd be laughing about the showbands because we both hated the showbands. And Rory was saying, 'I won't be joining any of those showbands. I'm not bald and I'm not goin' to wear one of those fucking suits'. In those days you were either in a group or a showband and whichever side you were on you were deadly enemies. We used to talk about the other bands at the time like Cream and Peter Green. Because I was a little younger than him, he probably took pity on me or something.
"After we both moved
to England I used to go see him at The Marquee. But
it was very much on an occasional basis that we'd see each other. One time, on Thin Lizzy's Black Rose tour, in Hamburg I think, he got up to play with us and I leant him my Peter Green Les Paul. We probably had a few drinks afterwards. We had the occasional drink in those days.
"I saw him at Self Aid about ten years ago and he didn't seem very happy and he didn't look too well. I sat next to him on the plane back. He was very nervous and didn't like flying very much.
"Then, last year, I was staying at this hotel in London called The Conrad. This woman who worked there told me he was staying there as well but the thing was Rory was living there for about a year at this hotel. He had a flat in London. Apparently it was leaking. But he seemed to be in a rut there. He had all his guitars and amps and he said he was writing an album but it was very unlike Rory to be hanging out in a place like The Conrad. First of all, he wasn't a man who over-liked luxury. You wouldn't think he'd frequent those sort of places.
"Somebody said he'd be around that night so we sat at the bar with the piano player and then, later, we went up to his room and I played him some stuff from the BBM album which is the stuff I was doing. It was the first time we'd probably been alone ever and we had a right old time and chatted and it was the one thing I was thankful for that we had a chance to talk like that.
"Rory stayed there and I toured and I didn't see him for a long time. But quite recently I was back at the same hotel. By this time, Rory had moved out of the hotel but he'd rented a flat opposite The Conrad, part of this harbour development. He was living there on his own. He was very lonely. This woman, again, who worked there had his number, but I said to her don't give it to me in case he doesn't want her to give it to me. So she called him up and he called me right back and we had a really really good talk, but he didn't sound too well at all. That was just before he went into hospital.
"What tells you more than anything about Rory was that he didn't say anything about his problems. He was more interested in my problems. He was such a selfless person. He really did care about other people. But I knew there was something up with him because he sounded so beaten down. He'd had a row with some promoter who'd treated him really badly when he was on tour in Holland and it really did his confidence in and apparently that really affected him, so he canceled all the rest of his gigs. He told me he hadn't been out of the house since the New Year or something and this was March or April. I think he thought nobody cared about him. He was just so pleased to hear from anyone I think.
"Then, I heard he'd gone in for a liver transplant and from there I heard from my manager of his death. The weird thing was that, while I'd been driving around the night before he died, I passed the hospital where Rory was staying and thought of dropping in to see him but then it was too late.
"Apart from the fact that he was a great player, the most noticeable thing about Rory was that he never compromised himself musically in any way. He would never do something that was, for him, below a certain level of integrity. He wouldn't do singles. He didn't want to do videos. That's an example really. Where that all came to light for me was when you went to the funeral. It wasn't like a rock and roll circus funeral like they usually turn out to be with people there to be seen. There was just so much respect. He earned that because of the uncompromising way he played.
"He was such a purist. He wouldn't sell himself out. How many people do you know in the music business today who would have that kind of stand, because it's so dangerous. He risked a lot of his security to be that way and you have to respect him for that. If there weren't people like Rory Gallagher around to set that kind of example then it would probably spell the end of quality music. The sad and ironic thing about his death is that I felt, with all these Blues revivals going on, that Rory's time had come around again."
"Rory's death is a tragic loss of a great musician and a very good friend."
"Rory's dead? I'm shocked, so shocked. We used to have the same manager. We used to do tours together with Rory. He was a real good guy, a great player. That's taken me aback. I'm sorry. I can't believe it man."
"Rory's death really upset me. I heard about it just before we went on stage and it put a dampener on the evening. I can't say I knew him that well, but I remember meeting him in our offices once and we spent an hour talking. He was such a nice guy and a great player."
"One of the top ten guitar players of all time, but more importantly, one of the top ten good guys. Taste was my first experience of a real rock band."
THE EDGE (U2 guitarist)
"A beautiful man and an amazing guitar player. We'll miss him very much"
ADAM CLAYTON (U2)
"The first show I ever went to was Rory Gallagher at the Carlton in 1975. I'll always remember his Blues and acoustic playing. R.I.P."
MARTIN CARTHY (English
Folk & Celtic performer)
"Words like fire, passion, friendliness, openness; these are all the words which apply. He was an open book. But one word and one word only can apply, it seems, to the person who makes life worthwhile by example. Who loves his trade and the people who also ply it and one who tells them so. Who makes his peers feel good by simple presence. Rory Gallagher graced music as he graced humanity. The word is grace."
© Hot Press 1995
LARRY MULLEN JNR.
"It was with great sadness that we learnt of Rory Gallagher's death. One of the most underrated Irish talents."
"As a player, he was fantastic. When I was just starting Elmer Fudd around '65-67, there was a great gig venue on the southside of Cork city called Stella House where a lot of big bands played. When we finally booked ourselves into it, Taste had just played. They had come back to play there and then they were working in Germany. So they were one of the first that made it outside of Ireland. That was always an inspiration."
"He was the first International rock star from Ireland and he set a good example."
Head Of Music Programmes at the BBC
When we were filming Rory’s performance in Cork, Rory wanted everything black. He wanted the stage black, the background black and he wanted the lighting done his way. All of which was perfectly grand, but I begged him not to wear black jeans for the set because I told him his legs will disappear. All we would see is this floating strat with the checked shirt above it.
“So I said to him ‘Please will you wear blue jeans ‘ He sort of looked at me and said ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah sure.’ This was at lunch time of the day. I asked him had he got a pair of blue jeans and he said ‘Yeah of course, I have."‘ And, naturally he comes out that night wearing black jeans. I nearly slaughtered him. We adjusted things a bit so he didn't lose his legs, though it looked at one point that he would. But that was Rory. He would be charming and nice and then do exactly what he had intended all along
“But you never would have got Rory into an Armani suit, that's for sure. Denim jackets usually. But occasionally leather jackets and a black t-shirt just to ring in the changes. He did have variety. He wasn't entirely monochromatic. It had to be a plain t-shirt as well. No logos.
“I think people who are very, very shy and private are lonely and to an extent Rory probably was lonely. Not that he didn't have people. There were always people there for him if he wanted them. But one of the reasons why Rory was such a great musician was because that's where it all came out. That's where he expressed everything. He was so shy I don't think he expressed himself in the normal kind of way or the way most people do which is in talk or ringing people up. He was a very gentle man as well. Rory would write a song when he felt miserable. Or he would play and it would all come out in his music. He was never short of people to talk to, but very often he didn't want to be with people.
“Donal Gallagher was incredibly close to him and a solid and loyal support to Rory throughout the years. Brothers often aren't as they grow up, but Donal and Rory were two sides of the same coin and Donal was the front man and Rory liked the background and that's the way it worked.
“Rory loved films, especially French films and he would talk for hours about movies. People like Bunuel he loved. And the Taviani Brothers. He also read an awful lot. Musically, two of the people he quoted most were Lonnie Donnegan and Muddy Waters. Rory always mentioned Lonnie.. In fact, I think when Rory was thirteen and Donal was eleven, Rory won a talent competition in Cork wearing short trousers, singing Lonnie Donnegan and carrying this big guitar. As it turned out, Rory was robbed of his prize and Donal at the age of eleven took it upon himself to go and sort out the fella who was organising the competition. So he was managing him even than.
“But Tom O'Driscoll and Donal were the foundation stones of Rory’s life apart from his mother, who he was very, very close to as well. He used to ring his mother every single night before she went to bed no matter where he was and no matter what the time difference.
“By complete coincidence, I was in New York before Rory died, working on a film that we're doing for the BBC on the Isle Of Wight Festival in 1970.. None of that footage has ever been seen apart from the half-an-hour of the Jimi Hendrix set. I'm coproducing it. We're going to show it in August as part of the twenty-fifth anniversary of that festival. It was Jimi Hendrix' s last ever public performance. He died nine days later. And that was The Doors last public performance. It was an absolutely amazing event.
“But it's also the last film version of Taste. They broke up after that. Looking at Rory in that, he was just dead gorgeous. Long, long flip floppy hair, gorgeous face and howling guitar. I’d never seen that footage before. Well nobody has. Donal hasn't even seen it. We're including a track from Taste in the film — which we were doing anyway before Rory died — and I’d arranged for all the rest of the footage of Taste to be transferred from him to tape so that I could give it to Rory cause he'd never seen it either and sadly he never will now.
“On the BBC on 14th of July, we're also going to show the '76 Old Grey Whistle Test Special which has Rory in the most fantastic form. It hasn't been seen since it was first broadcast, I think. And we're putting that out as a tribute to him “
Rory Gallagher's brother and manager
"Last of the Independents"
"It's hard to find the words that could remotely express or give an insight into my brother, Rory."
"Suffice it to say that he was the most extraordinary, intuitive, intelligent and sensitive man I have ever known and he was full of integrity. His mission in life was to make music and with his sad passing he has rendered his work timeless. He has certainly left his calling card. He will ever be present for all those who love him.
"I'll admit you're gone when I think I'm able" ( I'll admit You're Gone', Rory Gallagher)
PAUL RODGERS, ex-Free
& Bad Company
"I heard the news last night sitting in a bar in Edmonton and I have to say it completely took the wind out of my sails. We played together, what, six months ago in a place called Vistolia in Italy.
"There's a 16th century square there where they have gigs and he was terrific. The sound he got out of his guitar was totally unique.
"The first time we'd
have been on the same bill would have been in the early '70's at the Marquee.
I was with Free and I remember thinking to myself, "God, what I wouldn't
do to have that guy in this band!"
“Rory is really up there with the best. For the excitement factor, he was definitely one ot the top three live performers I ever saw. His shows were stunning. Early U2 was comparable, when they were at their best, a great high energy band. When Bruce Springsteen was at his best, he was comparable too. Those three were the best high energy acts I ever saw.
“You didn't have to be a blues fan to like Rory Gallagher. His performance was so powerful that it was impossible for anyone to resist. What I admire about Rory, too, was that he didn't try and conquer the world like those other two acts did. He was content to fill a space and lease it at that. There was something more humble and less pretentious about him than all those other people.
“I saw Taste for the first time in The Opera House in Cork, and I couldn't believe it. The hysteria was incredible. The crowd was rushing the stage and there were bodyguards protecting him. And this was when showbands were ruling the roost here! He was a phenomenon. The first Irish rock star.”
JOHN SHEEHAN, The
“The Dubliners recorded one of Rory’s songs,'The Barley And Grape Rag’ for our thirty years celebration album, and Rory agreed to play on the track himself. We were in awe of playing with the great Rory Gallagher, with his big name and reputation, especially doing one of his songs which is very different from our normal repertoire. When the session was finished, I told Rory that it had been great working with him and generally expressed our relief that it had gone well. And he says. “Jesus. you've no idea how nervous I was about recording with Dubliners."
Even though he was living in London, he had a great knowledge and feeling for what was going on at home. He seemed to have all our albums and had read the sleeve notes and knew all sorts of minute details about Irish acts. His roadie, Tom O' Driscoll, told me at the funeral, that he always carried a couple of Dubliners tapes in a plastic bag when he was on tour and would play them in the car while he was driving around.
“He was a very shy guy and quite nervous when it came to recording It took awhile in the studio for him to psyche himself up until he was ready to go for a take. He was a perfectionist, but a very humble sort of a character, not the type that you'd expect to find in show business at all. An absolutely lovely character."
"For me, Rory's death is like an end to a whole part of my life. I was very fond of him. I admired him as a man and as a musician. I admired his attitude and his independence. He had a great maverick spirit. In 1967, I saw Taste for the first time the night my inter Cert results came out, in the 006 Club in Leitrim Street. He was a huge influence. To hear somebody who was Irish, and from Cork, and playing the blues, at that level, was really, really exciting and got me involved in music from day one.
"As the years passed, I struck up a relationship with Rory. When I was teaching in the tech in Dundrum, Rory played The Carlton one night. After the gig, I met Rory and chatted away. I went into school the following morning and there was this bunch of kids who were normally very noisy. This morning, there was dead quiet in the room. One guy got up and said "Was that you with Rory Gallagher last night?" When I said it was, he said, "It fuckin' was not." A big debate then erupted as to how such a bollox of a teacher could be into Rory Gallagher. It broke down a barrier in a funny sort of way.
"I invited Rory to take part in Bringing It All Back, but it never came to pass. But we have been talking really seriously with the BBC about doing a serious piece of work, probably to based around the now never to be acoustic record. There is a great film to be made and I'd love to do it."
"We worked a lot with Rory and really they didn't come any bigger. I mean, he played a week at the Stadium on countless occasions. Likewise, Rory could fill The Ulster hall for a week at a time, something which any artist nowadays would find extremely difficult. You must remember there was no Point Depot in those days. Both myself and Jim obviously had a lot of contact with Rory and Donal Gallagher and, basically, you couldn't meet two nicer people. Rory was always very polite and, as has been said a lot already, he was an absolute gentleman. As I was a fan since I was in short trousers, I consider myself lucky to have met and worked with him."
Come again, did you say Rory Gallagher was dead? Jesus. When my manager said you were doing a tribute to Rory, it never connected with me that it was because he was dead. I'm on the road in Finland at the moment and I haven't heard anything. Well, that sure as hell ruins my day.
“Rory was a really
big influence on me. When I was younger, I bought all of his stuff and
listened to it devotedly. As far as I'm concerned, he's one of the all
time great guitar players, though I mean I never went out to copy him or
anything. I didn't listen to him either to study him, because I don't think
you should do that really. You should just enjoy the music. And I loved
“Playing with Rory in LA was one of the biggest thrills for me ever.”
“I used to live at the top of St. Patrick's Hill in Cork City. Rory and his family had a pub on the street at the bottom of that McCurtin Street. When I became old enough to get into music, Rory was a quite familiar sight when he would come off tour. He was unique at the time. It's probably hard to believe, but there weren't that many people with long hair and he had a very particular hunched over and bouncy gait. And, of course, he had the trademark check shirt always.
“Sightings of him would be reported avidly all over the school You'd never approach him. You'd just stand starring at him with your mouth open.
“We all had the records naturally and there would be great discourses about them. I remember particularly we all preferred 'On The Boards ‘ cause I think at that age, the first Taste album was actually very heavy, even though there were good tunes like 'Blister on The Moon’. But On The Boards was more accessible and we would have these ridiculous conversations for thirteen or fourteen-year-olds like, 'Yeah, Rory’s sax playing is really getting good’. He played sax on ‘Railway And A Gun’ which blew us all away.”
“When you're in your early teens you also want to emulate your heroes and Rory was easy to emulate because he wore jeans and a lumberjack shirt. There was a shop in Cork — which as far as I know is the biggest retail outlet for Levi and Wrangler denims in the country - called Leaders which sold nothing else except jeans and lumberjack shirts and this was a very practical form of apparel for a thirteen or fourteen-year-old. Your parents would go, ‘Oh, you wear one of those. That's brilliant’ So he was a great hero to have for all sorts at reasons, but he made you particularly proud because he was one of your own, even though at that age you didn't know what that meant.
“He was unbelievably committed to the music that he played and he wasn't into the flash. I have no doubt he was a very wealthy man, but that was never Rory’s thing. He never went down that road of selling himself and for a young lad interested in rock music, growing up in Cork, he was a hero. Tailor-made. Perfect.”
A statement on
behalf of JEFF BECK
Unfortunately Jeff is away from home rehearsing at the moment, but we have spoken many times about Rory since the news of his illness.
It is particularly sad to lose Rory as he was a kindred spirit to Jeff, both might have been a Rolling Stone, but good sense prevailed, and he never sought fame at the expense of musical integrity, but continued to make music of the very best quality.
They met only occasionally, did not work together, and were not 'mates' as such, but this in no way diminished Jeff's admiration for a great artist.
There are precious few 'rock' musicians with integrity, his place in history is secure.
© Hot Press 1995
Tributes compiled by Patrick Brennan for Hot Press
Rory Gallagher died it touched a chord with everybody on the island. People
who didn't even know his music loved him. I barely knew him but I liked
the look in his eye. I don't see this as a sad song. I always feel good
when I sing it. Blacks and whites and blues and greens all mixed together...
from The Denver Post
That show in itself was enough to write about, but what happened after the show was even better: The theater was dark, the crowd had left and we were all sitting around the backstage area when Rory opened a bottle of Irish whiskey and passed it around. He then pulled out a beautifully ancient National and began playing. Well, no matter what lick he played, Bob knew the vocal, and what followed was 40 minutes or so of some of the most magically soulful--from the heart--blues singing and playing I've ever heard. The custodian and the rest of the building personnel, who normally would have been anxious to close up and go home, just stopped what they were doing and watched in reverence. Rory and Bob had never met before, but it sounded like they'd been working together all their lives. I've seen a lot of great performances, but I can count on one hand the number of times I've been moved like that. Needless to say, it didn't take long for the 12 or 15 people who were there to finish off that bottle of whiskey. By the time it was gone, we figured we had given Wolf a proper sendoff. A bond was formed that night between Rory and Canned Heat, and whenever we found ourselves in the same part of the world, we always looked each other up. Rory, with his inevitable bottle of Irish whiskey, was blues personified and quite simply one of the purest, finest people I have ever met. It was an honor to know him, and I treasure every moment I spent in his presence.
Jac TtannaSherman Oaks, Calif."
This letter was written
to Blues Review magazine and published in Oct. 1999. An article was written
about Rory in the July/August '99 issue.
Many thanks to Greg Pincott for sending it to me.