a story of ordinary, unpretentious people, unconcerned by the fact that
stardom is passing them by. REX ANDERSON talks to ROD DE'ATH, LOU
MARTIN and GERRY McAvoy- Rory Gallagher's back-up men and a
credit to the profession.
OFTEN wondered what it's like to be the band behind the man. I mean,
how does it feel not being the star and watching all the accolades and
bouquets going to some cat who shares the stage with you.
I suppose it was the split in
the Elton John set -up that brought it to my mind just now. Backing
musicians must get to feel, "Well, I'm as good as he is at what I do.
What. can't I be the
Much of it is down to musicians
wanting to express their own music, and you can understand Nigel Olsen and Dee Murray
feeling like doing their own thing instead of somebody else's all the
But there are plenty of bands
that centre around one person where this sort of professional jealousy
never seems to arise. It's particularly interesting because so many
bands that are just forming or just starting out on the road to stardom
must be faced with a similar problem.
I mean, you may be realistic
about it and accept that because the guy has the charisma and the sex
appeal, and he's something of a technical show-off, the band deserves
to be centered on him - because that is the
easiest way to get known and put a good image across to the punters.
But the truth seems to be that
he has to be a helluva nice guyfor the rest of the band to
tolerate being constantly upstaged.
This seems to be the case with
Rory Gallagher. I just spent an interesting lunch hour conversing and
drinking- . mainly drinking - with Rod de’Ath (drums), Lou Martin
(keyboards) and Gerry McAvoy (bass) who form the band behind Rory.
They've been together for three years now, and known each other a lot
longer. They are contented with their lot because they say they respect
Rory as a bloke and as a musician and are contented to take a back
I think it comes down to an attitude of mind. None of the boys behind
Rory, competent ,though they are as musicians, have got upfront
personalities. They don't want to be the king-pin. They are born
Rod, for example, explains his attitude to drums in terms of keeping
things simple and driving and not attempting to show off his technique
all the time. He sits behind his Slingerland kit (don't forget the
Paiste cymbals) and rattles out a beat that is highly complementary to
Rory's upfront work .
Interesting sideline here - Rod reckons that new drums are
Most drummers I have met have use such-and-such a brand of drum,
but really any drum would do because it's all down to how it is set up
Rod disagrees. He says he is very particular about his drums and
prefers old Slingerland. He has had offers from most of the major drum
manufacturers, but prefers to stick to this kit.
He puts it down to the wood shortage, a sentiment echoed by Gerry who
plays an ancient Fender he picked up for a song in the States. Gerry is
the archetypal bass player.... he really did play lead guitar in a band
and was switched to rhythm because he wasn't any good, and he really
was threatened with the sack unless he packed in rhythm and took up
His attitude is similar to Rod's. Keep it simple. Lou, of course, also
tends to keep it simple, complementing Rory's guitar and vocals with
fill-in piano riffs and block organ chords which every band seems to
need nowadays for something they tell me is called a "thicker sound".
These are bread and butter musicians. They all get on well together and
they all groove on the same plane as Rory. They get a good screw
(old-world, slang for adequate conkers) because of Rory's pulling power
and they are becoming increasingly aware that they are among the few
successful blues bands left on the road.
But what about the writing? Surely everyone contributes an equal part.
Don't they get an urge to contribute their own material, do their own
thing, take the front spot on occasions?
Apparently not. Rory is the creative source. They consider their own
contributions so minor they don't even want co-credits on songs. This
is despite the fact that very often Rory writes a new song in the
middle of a blow on stage.
This, apparently, is how "Hot Coals" was written, although they can't
be sure what they were playing at the time.
Rod: "I realised he was playing something new. I looked at Gerry
and he looked at me and we were into it. We are that together
At other times the songs will be written at rehearsal. Rory will tell
the individual members of the band the sort of thing he wants, but he
doesn't dictate to them how they play it - so that everyone's
creativity really contributes.
But the guys don't seem to see it that way. Rory is a good mate and his
ideas are all the initial ones. The fact is, I think, that to these
fellows, being a musician is being creative on your instrument, but
being a writer is something else that Rory has and they are content to
It is a very unusual, though highly satisfactory, situation I think.
When a band splits, over 'musical differences" it invariably means that
someone with a backline sort of job wishes to make more of a
contribution or receive more recognition for his contribution.
It can also mean that someone in the front line wants to move in a
musical direction that no one else is particularly grabbed by.
And how often do bands split? And often are musical differences given
as the reason? Perhaps a lot of bands can learn something from studying
the attitude of the Gallagher line-up.
I' d like to say I think they are talented and all capable of far more
than they appear to believe. But I won't because they might get
big-headed and I'd blow the whole thing. From the May 17, 1975 issue of New Musical Express background is a photo from an unidentified 1975 Dutch magazine
that I modified reformatted by roryfan