was the People's Guitarist. Unassuming, but tenacious,
the Irish blues man devoted his life to touring and playing his beloved
Fender Strat to adoring audiences. He never stopped working, and could
always command a crowd, but resolutely eschewed the trappings of
good-looking and modest, Gallagher attained a dedicated
following when he burst on the British rock scene in the late Sixties
with his first band, Taste. In an age of guitar heroes, dominated by
players like Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck, Gallagher offered a passionate
dedication in his playing, born of a desire to give audiences maximum
music and minimum fuss. He was competitive and knew what he wanted as a
band leader, but he avoided the confrontational politics of rock.
Rory Gallagher was born in Ballyshannon, Co.
Donegal in 1948 and grew
up in Cork. He was given his first guitar at the age of nine and played
in various local bands until he left school. He played guitar with the
Fontana showband, later named the Impact. He took the rhythm section
from the latter band to form a trio which went to Hamburg in 1965. This
became the first version of Taste, which spent two years touring
Britain and Europe. Then in 1968, as Gallagher modernised his previous
backing musicians with John Wilson (drums) and Richard "Charlie"
McCracken (bass) and the band signed to Polydor records. They cut four
albums, including Taste, On the Boards, Live at the Isle of Wight and
hailed as one of the best power rock blues bands of the day,
and they supported Cream at their farewell concert at the Royal Albert
Hall in London in 1968. In 1971, Taste split up and Gallagher formed a
band under his own name with Wilgar Campbell on drums and Gerry McAvoy
on bass. The Gallagher band released a succession of albums and
among the most successful were Rory Gallagher (1971), Deuce (1971) and
Live in Europe (1972).
toured extensively throughout Britain and America at this
time, but one of his memorable tours was a visit to Ireland at
Christmas 1973 with sell-out shows in Belfast, Cork and Dublin, which
were celebrated on a double live album, Irish Tour '74 and a 90 minute
documentary movie directed by Tony Palmer, which was shown at the Cork
"Rory was one
of the hardest working musicians around" the Melody Maker
journalist Rory Hollingworth remembers. "The biggest shame about him
was that he never really made it in the United States; yet he was one
of the best blues guitar players. He had true grit...that Irish soul to
his playing that the British blues guitarists never had."
As well as
playing powerful lead blues solos, Gallagher was also a fine
singer and lyricist. "He was an exceptional songwriter, " Hollingworth
said. "He could play loud and exciting guitar, but the guy was also a
poet in the Irish tradition. Some people said he was hard to work with
but it was always his band and he had to be the boss.....He liked his
Guinness, but he was not a raver. He just wore himself out over the
years, playing night after night."
habitually wore a check shirt, black jeans and a pair of
baseball boots and he was famous for playing a beat up old Fender
Stratocaster guitar that he had bought in Ireland in 1961. He wandered
onstage at the Montreux Festival, in Switzerland, one night, wearing
this ensemble ready to take on the participants in a superstar jam
session that included leading players like Larry Coryell. He waited
until they had all finished laying turgid jazz-rock riffs, then
launched into a rocking blues theme that set the pace alight and had a
previously silent and sullen audience cheering. It was the same story
when Gallagher played the annual Reading Festival. Whatever the
competition, he always brought the crowd to their feet as he rocked
out his best known numbers like "Sugar Mama", "Messin with the Kid",
Such was the
respect Gallagher gained among his fellow musicians that
he was invited to play on Chess Records "London Sessions" during the
seventies with Jerry Lee Lewis and Muddy Waters. He also recorded with
the Rolling Stones and was once in the running to replace Mick Taylor
the Stones, until he decided he would rather keep his own band.
However, he toured alongside Bob Dylan, who greatly admired him, and
was firm friends with Van Morrison.
years, Gallagher had shown signs of exhaustion and began to age and put
on weight, but recorded more well-received albums including Defender
and Fresh Evidence.
From May 1994
until January this year, Gallagher played a sold-out European arena
tour to audiences of up to 8,000 a night. He was due to play a full
Irish and British tour later this year and had been writing and
rehearsing material for a new album. A Best of Rory Gallagher CD is
also being compiled.
fans will remember his saying farewell at the end of those tumultuous
gigs he performed night after night, for some 20 or more years.
Dripping with sweat, he would put his thumbs up and offer a breathless
cry of "Thank you very much. I hope you enjoyed it."
Rory Gallagher, singer, guitarist,
composer: born Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal 2 March 1948; died London 14
From The Independant June
Thanks to Declan Doyle for passing it
reformatted by roryfan