Born 2 March 1948
Ballyshannon, Co Donegal, Ireland
Died 14 June 1995 (aged 47) London, England
Genres Blues, Rock, R&B, Hard Rock
Notable guitars 1961 Fender Stratocaster
Years active 1963 - 1995
Rory Gallagher (2 March 1948 - 14 June 1995) was an Irish blues/rock guitarist, born in Ballyshannon, County Donegal, grew up in Cork City in the south of Ireland. He is best known for his tenure in Taste and his solo work.
Life and works
Gallagher's first bands were showbands which played the popular hits of the day. In 1965 he turned The Impact into an R'n'B group which played gigs in Ireland and Spain. He formed Taste in 1966, but the line-up which became legendary was formed in 1967, featuring his guitar and vocals, the jazz-tinged drumming of John Wilson and intricate bass playing of Richard McCracken. Recordings of the earlier version of Taste are still available and it's interesting to compare Gallagher's rudimentary guitar playing to the virtuosity that became evident fairly soon after in the later Taste. This was the group who released two studio albums, Taste and On the Boards, and made two live recordings, Live at Montreux and Live at the Isle of Wight. The latter appeared a long time after the band broke up at that same Isle of Wight Festival in 1970. A legend of blues music, Gallagher played with many of the genre's biggest stars, including collaboration with Muddy Waters and Jerry Lee Lewis on their respective London Sessions in the mid 70s and Gallagher received invitations to jam with The Rolling Stones following the loss of their lead guitarist Mick Taylor, and Canned Heat after the departure of The Eagle.
After the demise of Taste, Gallagher toured under his own name, hiring bass player Gerry McAvoy to play on his first eponymous 'solo' album (a relationship that would last twenty years on the road) and Wilgar Campbell on drums.
The 1970s were Gallagher's most prolific period. He produced ten albums in that decade, including two live albums, Live in Europe and Irish Tour '74 which for many captured best his bands' raw and naturally dynamic qualities. The classic line-up is largely considered to be with Rod De'Ath' on drums and Lou Martin on keyboards between 1973 and 1978. Other release highlights include Against the Grain and the jazz tinged Calling Card album, assisted in production by Roger Glover (bassist with Deep Purple) and the hard blues-rocking Photo Finish and Top Priority albums with Ted McKenna on drums.
In 2003 Wheels Within Wheels a collection of acoustic tracks was released posthumously by Gallagher's brother Donal Gallagher. Collaborators on this album included Bert Jansch, Martin Carthy, The Dubliners and Lonnie Donegan.
He played and recorded what he said was "in me all the time, and not just something I turn on ...". Though he sold over thirty million albums world wide it was his marathon live performances that won him greatest acclaim. His passion and skill for the blues is well documented in the 1974 film Irish Tour '74 directed by Tony Palmer.
In 1972 he was voted Melody Maker's Top Musician of the Year, dethroning Eric Clapton. His album Live in Europe has been a big selling album not only in Ireland but also internationally. Generally regarded as one of the most influential guitarists ever, many of today's top musicians, including The Edge from U2, Slash of Guns N' Roses fame, Johnny Marr of the Smiths, Glenn Tipton of Judas Priest, Vivian Campbell of Def Leppard, and Brian May of Queen cite Gallagher as an inspiration in their formative musical years. It is also well documented that the Rolling Stones auditioned Gallagher among a number of other guitarists for the band in the 1970s.
Gallagher lived for a time in Belgium, but from the late 1980s suffered increasingly poor health yet he continued touring. By the time of his final performance on 10 January 1995 in the Netherlands, he was visibly unwell. His health and eventually his ability to perform were profoundly compromised by excessive use of alcohol combined with drugs that had been prescribed to alleviate his anxiety of flying. A liver transplant became necessary and was nearly successful, but just before being discharged from the hospital, a MRSA developed. He quickly worsened and died in London on 14 June 1995. Gallagher never married and had no children.
Guitars and Equipment
Gallagher was always associated with his well-worn sunburst 1961 Stratocaster, which his brother Donal has officially retired. It was reputedly the first in Ireland, ordered by a showband member who changed his mind about the colour. Gallagher bought it for just shy of £100 at Crowley's Music Store on Cork's McCurtain Street. The guitar was extensively modified by Gallagher. The tuning pegs, for a start, are odd (5 Sperzels and one Gotoh) and all of these have been found to be replacements. Secondly, it is thought that the nut has been replaced and interchanged a number of times. Thirdly, the scratchplate was changed during Gallagher's time with Taste. Another change was the pickups of which none are original. The final modification was that of the wiring. Gallagher disconnected the bottom tone pot and rewired so he had just a master tone control along with the master volume control. He also installed a 5-way selector switch in place of the vintage 3-way one. The most notable effect that years of touring have had is the almost complete removal of the guitar's sunburst finish, partly through being left out in the rain in a ditch for days after being stolen. Other quirks include a 'hump' in the scratch plate which moves the neck pickup closer to the neck on the bass side and a replacement of all of the pickups, though this replacement was due to damage rather than a perception of a tonal inadequacy. Reproductions of the guitar have recently been sold by Fender, though with smaller frets and lower action than the original.
Gallagher owned a number of other instruments, including:
Coral Sitar Purchased for $2000 in Florida by Donal Gallagher. Used on the song "Philby" in 1979.
Danelectro Silvertone This guitar was bought for $15 from a pawnshop. It was often used in Gallagher's live set to play "Cradle Rock" and "A Million Miles Away".
Fender Esquire This guitar dating to 1959 was heavily modified. It started off as a stock Esquire in cream and ended up as a black Telecaster. At one point in between, Gallagher put a Strat pickup in the middle position and added a 5-way selector.
Fender Telecaster (1967) This was very similar to the Esquire after the Esquire had undergone all of its modifications. It can be seen in action on Gallagher's Live at Rockpalast DVD in the song "Bullfrog Blues".
Acoustic Guitars His main acoustic guitar was a Martin D-35. In his later years, he used an Electro-Acoustic Takamine (a prototype model given to him by Takamine while he was touring Japan) that was much easier to amplify in a live context.
Martin Mandolin This was used most famously in Gallagher's joint effort with Lonnie Donegan, "Goin' To My Hometown".
National Resonator (1932) Gallagher used this to play blues standards and acoustic sets and often used a heavy steel slide with it.
Other Instruments Gallagher also played the saxophone, showcased on the song "On The Boards" by Taste, and harmonica which can be heard on the Taste song "I'm Not Surprised".
Amplifiers and Effects
Gallagher used various makes and models of amplifiers during his career. In general, however, he preferred smaller 'combo' amplifiers to the larger, more powerful 'stacks' that are popular with rock and hard rock guitarists. To make up for the relative lack of power on stage, he would often link several different combo amps together.
When Gallagher was with Taste, he used a single Vox AC30 with a Dallas Rangemaster treble booster plugged into the 'normal' input. Examples of this sound can be heard on the Taste albums, as well as the album Live in Europe. Brian May, of the band Queen, has admitted in interviews that as a young man, he was inspired to use a similar amplifier and treble booster setup after meeting Gallagher and asking him how he got his sound. Gallagher has also been known to have used Ibanez Tube Screamers and various Boss effects.
In the early to mid 1970s, Gallagher began to use Fender amplifiers, most notably a Bassman and a Twin, both of a 50s vintage. An example of this sound can be heard on the Irish Tour '74 album. He also had a Fender Concert amplifier.
In the mid to late 1970s, when Gallagher was moving towards a hard rock sound, he experimented with Ampeg VT40 and VT22 amps. He also began using Marshall combos. During this period and beyond, Gallagher used different combinations of amps on stage to achieve more power and to blend the tonal characteristics of different amps.
"Playing on stage with him in LA was one of the biggest thrills for me ever." Slash (Guns N' Roses)
"A beautiful man and an amazing guitar player. He was a very sensitive man and a great musician." The Edge (U2)
"It was all about him playing the guitar, it got into your soul." Cameron Crowe (Writer/Film Director)
"In the 70s he built himself a reputation as a live performer of tremendous vitality." "He was even headhunted to join The Rolling Stones." Niall Stokes (Editor, Hot Press)
"One of the things that was crucial for me I got from Rory Gallagher, which was the idea of, like, being a guitar player for life and living it." Johnny Marr (The Smiths/ The The/ Electronic/ Johnny Marr and the Healers/Modest Mouse)
"Rory's death really upset me. I heard about it just before we went on stage, and it put a damper 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." Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin
"So these couple of kids come up, who's me and my mate, and say 'How do you get your sound Mr. Gallagher?' and he sits and tells us. So I owe Rory Gallagher my sound." Brian May (Queen)
"Rory's death is a tragic loss of a great musician and a very good friend." Van Morrison
"The man who got me back into the blues." Eric Clapton
"An uncompromisingly serious musician" The Times, 16 June 1995.
Reference for musician quotes: UK Guitarist 265 / The Rory Gallagher Story, BBC Radio 2
On 25 October 1997 a tribute sculpture to Gallagher was unveiled in the newly renamed Rory Gallagher Place (formerly St. Paul's St. Square) in Cork. The sculptor was a childhood friend of Rory, Geraldine Creedon. The two had grown up together in the McCurtain Street area of the city.
A pub in Cork City at 32 McCurtain Street was named "Gallaghers" in his memory.
Comic book artist Timothy Truman is also a fan, and GrimJack #4: Legacy has a cover and story line utilizing Gallagher's image.
There is a Rory Gallagher Exhibition located in Ballyshannon, Ireland which contains a detailed history of his life and many items of memorabilia.
There are a number of Rory Gallagher tribute bands, many of whom perform at the Rory Gallagher International Tribute Festival in Ballyshannon.
A theatre in Ballyshannon has been renamed as the Rory Gallagher Theatre.
There is a Rory Gallagher Corner at Meeting House Square in Temple Bar, Dublin.
A life-size bronze statue in the shape of his Stratocaster has been installed at Rory Gallagher Corner in Dublin's Temple Bar. Some of those who attended the unveiling include The Edge of U2 and the Lord Mayor of Dublin.
In 2004 the Rory Gallagher Music Library was opened in Cork.
The French town of Bedoin in Vaucluse at the base of Mont Ventoux has a street named after Rory Gallagher in the old town "Impasse Rory Gallagher"
In 2007, a German blues band called "Ritchie Arndt and the Bluenatics" released a tribute album called "Rorymania", including 12 songs. The CD was recorded on the fly with only lead guitar and vocals dubbings at the Axtrak Studios in Aachen, Germany.
Rory Gallagher - 1971
Deuce - 1971
Live In Europe - 1972
Blueprint - 1973
Tattoo - 1973
Irish Tour - 1974
Against the Grain - 1975
Calling Card - 1976
Photo Finish - 1978
Top Priority - 1979
Stage Struck - 1980
Jinx - 1982
Defender - 1987
Fresh Evidence - 1990
BBC Sessions - 1999
Let's Go To Work - 2001
Meeting With The G-Man - 2003
The Story So Far - 1974
In The Beginning - 1975
Sinner... and Saint - 1975 (previously from Rory Gallagher and Deuce)
Take It Easy Baby - 1976
A Blue Day For The Blues - 1995
Last of the Independents - 1995
Etched In Blue - 1998
Wheels Within Wheels - 2003
Big Guns: The Very Best Of Rory Gallagher - 2005
Live At Montreux - 2006
Irish Tour 1974 - 2000
At Rockpalast - 2004
The Complete Rockpalast Collection - 2005
Live at Cork Opera House - 2006
Live In Montreux - 2006
The London Muddy Waters Sessions - Muddy Waters - 1972
The Session - Jerry Lee Lewis - 1973
Drat That Fratle Rat - Chris Barber - 1974
London Revisited - Muddy Waters - 1974
Gaodhal's Vision - Joe O'Donnell - 1977
Live - Albert King - 1977
Tarot Suite - Mike Batt - 1978
Jammin` With Albert - Albert Collins & The Icebreakers - 1983
Box of Frogs - Box of Frogs - 1984
Strangeland - Box of Frogs - 1986
The Scattering - The Fureys and Davey Arthur - 1989
Out of the Air - Davy Spillane - 1989
Words and Music - Phil Coulter - 1989
30 Years A-Greying - The Dubliners - 1992
The Outstanding - Chris Barber and Band - 1993
Nikos Deja Vu