"His battered Strat said all he had to say to the world." - Roger Glover, Deep Purple.
Rory Gallagher was a prolific Irish singer / songwriter, who devoted his life to playing the Blues.
It was also the title of his self-titled record, details of which are included below.
STYLE AND INFLUENCES
Before he was 10 years of age Rory was listening to blues artists from America that were receiving airplay in Ireland. During his life, particularly his formative years, he developed a great many influences of a predominantly blues-style persuasion such as Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Albert King and Leadbelly. These beginnings were evident in most of his releases, which always seemed to find space for some tracks reminiscent of these legends. On the subject of his songwriting, Rory commented in 1991 to Richard Skelly of All Music that:
"I try to sit down and write a Rory Gallagher song, which generally happens to be quite bluesy. I try to find different issues, different themes and different topics that haven't been covered before...I've done songs in all the different styles...train blues, drinking blues, economic blues. But I try to find a slightly different angle on all these things. The music can be very traditional, but you can sort of creep into the future with the lyrics."
However, recordings were not what he considered most important or his forte - instead he admitted later in his career that he had always been sustained by, and most responsive to, the power and feedback of a live audience.
"I love playing to people. The audience means a lot to me. It's not the whole thing, I love recording too, but I need regular and frequent contact with the people. It gives me energy."
Later on Rory developed a taste for acts such as the Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen who shared his bluesy orientation. Rory melded the Blues and Rock n' Roll, and then tinged that amalgamation with jazz to produce a sound that fans around the world grew to love. However he never alienated his fans by becoming arty or extravagant, in person or music. Rory once said:
"Rock`n Roll originally was intended to be non intelligent. Rock has to be instinctive, primitive and energetic - If you get highbrow it doesn't work anymore."
CAREER MILESTONES / BIOGRAPHY
Born in Ballyshannon (County Donegal), on March 2 1948 to parents Danny and Monica, it wasn't long before Rory's natural flair for the guitar manifested. At age nine Rory had his first guitar, an acoustic, with which he taught himself to play. His family moved to the city of Cork during the 1950's and it was here that he began to play in the amateur shows in the area when he was 10 years old. When he was 12 Rory bought his first electric guitar after winning a talent competition at the Cork City Hall.
In 1961, at age 13 Rory formed his first band and two years later he bought his now famous 1961 'Sunburst' Fender Stratocaster. He bought it from Crowley's Music Centre in Cork and it is rumoured to have been the first of its kind in Ireland. In 1990 during an interview with Q Magazine Rory commented on his trademark:
"It's a 1961 model. I got it second-hand. It was 100 pounds, which was an absolute fortune at the time. It was in good condition then, but it's got so battered now it's got a kind of tattoo quality about it. There's now a theory that the less paint or varnish on a guitar, acoustic or electric, the better. The wood breathes more. But it's all psychological. I just like the sound of it. It's also a good luck thing. It was stolen one time and it came back. It's kind of a lucky charm."
When he was 16, Rory joined the 'Fontana Show Band' while he continued to attend school. They played night time shows in the Cork area until sometime during 1964 when Fontana toured Britain and changed their name to Impact. Soon afterwards they played for a period at an American airforce base near Madrid. 1965 saw Fontana return to London and then moved onto Hamburg where they played shows in clubs until Fontana disbanded. However Rory continued to play around Hamburg in a trio including himself and the bassist and drummer from Fontana. In 1967 Rory created another band named Taste with Eric Kitteringham playing bass and Norman Damery behind drums. Taste played around Ireland and Hamburg, securing a regular booking at the Maritime Club in Belfast.
This part of Rory's life should be read with his discography in mind, to give you some impression of the staggering amount of work that Rory did over the years with various other musicians.
1968 and a new incarnation of Taste (now with Richard McCracken playing bass and John Wilson behind drums) move to London and continue to play around England and Germany. They then left to tour the United States and Canada in 1969 as the support group for the British band Blind Faith. In 1970, now aged 22, Rory continued to tour with Taste around Europe and Scandinavia. During this year they also made their final appearance at the Isle of Wight Festival. Soon after, Rory split from Taste to go solo with the Rory Gallagher Band. In 1972 the album 'Live in Europe' went platinum and also garnered Melody Maker's "Musician of the Year" award. Four years later, in 1976, Rory performed for in excess of one hundred million viewers via the first Eurovision television transmission of its kind. In addition to this, 1976 also saw Rory carry out his 10th American tour.
While the Rory Gallagher Band toured the world they underwent quite a few personnel changes.
- 1970 - 1994 | Rory Gallagher - guitar and vocals.
- 1970 - 1972 | Gerry McAvoy - bass, Wilgar Campbell - drums.
- 1972 - 1976 | Gerry McAvoy - bass, Rod De'Ath - drums, Lou Martin - piano.
- 1976 - 1981 | Gerry McAvoy - bass, Ted McKenna - drums.
- 1981 - 1991 | Gerry McAvoy - bass, Brendan O'Neil - drums.
- 1992 - 1994 | David Levy - bass, Jim Levaton - keyboards, Richard Newman - drums, John Cooke - keyboards. During this period Rory and company also played frequently with Mark Feltham on harmonica.
Death and memorial
Rory toured with the various incarnations of his band until his untimely death on June 14 1995 at the age of 47. Rory became quite ill while he was on tour in Europe and eventually passed away (at King's College hospital in London) from complications following a liver transplant he had undergone in April of 1995. Two days after his death, the citizens of Cork lined the streets as his funeral procession passed by on its way to the Church of the Descent of the Holy Spirit. On June 19 thousands honoured Rory's passing at Requiem Mass and his funeral. Rory Gallagher was buried at Saint Oliver's cemetery, Cork.
The short chain of events depicted above give a feel for the progression of Rory's career, but do seem to understate just how much he got out there and played - which is what he was all about. It should be made clear he was actively playing and recording for over 30 years, and he did it well. During the Cork Jazz Festival (October 25, 1997), a monument was unveiled to honour his memory. The scene at the newly named Rory Gallagher Place, depicts a guitar which is embossed with lyrics from his album Jinx. These are the lyrics that appear on the statue:
Don’t paint it all so sadly
I don't know you lately
I feel like a lost child, searching in the dark
I'll change it all
I'm just in town to have some fun
My heart’s at peace, my soul’s on fire
My mind knows all the things my eyes can't see
Please don't lock me out
Try again to hear a brand new tune
You found the thorn behind the rose
You used to fly and chase the wind
There is also a street/corner in the Temple Bar area of Dublin commemorating Rory, called 'Rory Gallagher Corner'. (Thanks to ryano for this information)
The Rory Gallagher Bar is yet another tribute to the artist and is located in Midleton, part of East Cork. The walls of the bar are covered in posters, album covers, pictures and various articles including ones from Melody Maker (who awarded him the 'Musician of the Year' award).
The following quotations indicate how Rory felt about himself and his music.
"Some people see me as the last crusader of the blues or some kind of independent because I do a certain amount of things my own way. I don't mind being an independent, but I don't want to be the last of anything."
- Triad magazine 1979.
"To live means digging the own grave all the time. That is hard, hard to accept work for the individual. But look, life is very short - you have to make best use of it, to enlarge your ideas. My lyrics and my playing are much better now. I'm more happy today than before - I'm not more happy as a human, but as musician I am."
- From an interview on July 12 1994, while ill, one year and two days prior to his passing away.
When trying to compile a discography for an artist who was as incredibly prolific as Rory was, it becomes difficult to discern what the details of each release are. Bootleg or compilation? Compilation or incomplete re-release of a previous work? The confusion abounds. This is an attempt, and is intentionally NOT perfect. These are confirmed releases by known record companies and are as far as I can gather, accurate. If you know of another release, or can offer more accurate information about one listed here, please /msg me and I'll include it.
Rory Gallagher Band albums
Compilation Albums / Box Sets
Originally recorded while in Taste, but not intended for publishing, it was released only after Rory became well known. According to the liner notes there were meant to be more tracks on this album, but they were accidently lost.
Rory Gallagher also appeared on many releases by other artists, such as Albert King, Peter Green, Lonnie Donegan, Box of Frogs, Muddy Waters and Mike Vernon. He performed a wide variety of parts on these recordings, including harmonica, sitar, vocals, guitar, bass and percussion.
Rory Gallagher: the album.
Released in 1971, the album was written and produced by Rory Gallagher himself. This was the Rory Gallagher Band's first release.
Rory Gallagher - Vocals, guitars, alto sax, mandolin, harmonica.
Gerry McAvoy - Bass guitar
Wilgar Campbell - Drums
Vincent Crane - Piano
- Just The Smile
- I Fall Apart
- Wave Myself Goodbye
- Hands Up
- Sinner Boy
- For The Last Time
- It's You
- I'm Not Surprised
- Can't Believe It's True
This album was re-released in 2000, sporting the additional tracks 'Gypsy Woman
' (written by Muddy Waters) and 'It Takes A Time
' (written by Otis Rush