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Old 01-14-2022, 02:41 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Guitar Man: The Life, Blues and Music of Rory Gallagher

It's probably a fair statement to say that Ireland isn't exactly bursting with musical talent. Well, it's probably fairer to say that, while we've given the world bands like Thin Lizzy and U2, we're nowhere near the prolific output of say the UK or America. The point here is that we can't afford to lose the true stars we turn out, which is why I cried the day Rory Gallagher died.

My introduction to the bluesman from Ballyshannon, but who spent his formative years in the "rebel county," pretty much a Corkman through and through (and certainly claimed as one of their own by the natives of that fair southern paradise) was through perhaps one of his weaker albums, but I still liked what I heard and became a fan. I saw him live once, in an old concert hall which had once been a school, and with no flashbombs, video screens, dancers or orchestra, no frills and no backing tapes, he just burned the place down. If there is one word that could be used to describe Rory, it is honest. The man never sold out, remained true to the blues (even truer than his bluesmate, Gary Moore) and was, by all accounts, a hell of a nice guy.

He stuck with the people he knew, favouring for most of his career the "power trio" setup with himself on guitar and vocals, accompanied by just a bass player and a drummer, though of course on stage he would supplement these band members with a few backup players. He carved a reputation for himself as a true exponent of the blues, an Irishman whose music was touched and influenced by the poorer parts of the USA, who never betrayed his fans or his roots, and who is still remembered fondly today.

William Rory Gallagher (1948 - 1995)

Name: William Rory Gallagher (1948-1995)
Birthplace: Ballyshannon, Co, Donegal, Ireland
Born: March 2 1948
Died: June 14 1995
Cause of death: Complications brought on after he contracted a virus while waiting for a liver transplant. Also overprescription of antidepressants contributed to his ailing health.
First band: Fontana/The Impact
First solo attempt: 1970
Influences: Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, Lonnie Donegan, Woodie Guthrie, Lead Belly
Albums (Studio): 11
Albums (Live): 5
Compliations/Boxsets: 14
Singles: None
Hits: None
Legacy: Signature Fender Stratocaster, millions of adoring fans and the message that you don't have to compromise your ethics to make it in the world of music. A fresh honesty and a true dedication to the Blues.
A fitting epitaph: "Rory lived and died the Blues" --- Donal Gallagher

The Early Years: 1963-1966

Born into a musical family, both Rory and his brother Donal were musically-inclined, though it would of course turn out to be the older brother who was destined to become a star. His father had played in a ceili (pronounced kay-lee) band -- basically Irish traditional dance music - and his mother, in addition to being an actor, had a great singing voice. Listening to the radio at night Rory heard the greats of the day - Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters, Buddy Holly and Eddie Cochran - and knew from an early age that he wanted to do what they did for a living. Winning his first talent contest at age twelve on a self-taught acoustic guitar, he used the prize money to buy himself an electric guitar, and later a Fender Stratocaster, which would remain with him, and identified with him, for most of his career.

With the family hardly rich (his father worked for the ESB, the Irish electricity company) and a record-player a luxury far beyond their means, Rory had no choice but to listen to late night radio and occasional programmes on the television to try to hear the music he was beginning to feel a kinship with, and try to hunt down song books so that he could learn the songs he heard. Music was by no means as available or accessible in the 1950s and 1960s as it is today. There was no internet, hardly any computers at all, and only tinny, mono radios called transistors or "trannies" (Now... ) while video recorders were decades away, so if you wanted to see a TV programme you had to make sure you caught it then and there. Programmes, especially music ones, were rarely if ever repeated.

Though his first love, Rory decided he did not want to restrict himself to playing guitar only, and taught himself harmonica, sax, mandolin, bass, banjo and sitar, elements he would later incorporate into his live shows. In Ireland during the sixties there was only one outlet for a musician who wanted to be heard, who wanted to tour with other musicians, and that was the dreaded showbands. Twee, sentimental, cabaret bands who all dressed and sounded alike and played mostly ballrooms and dances, covering the popular hits of the time, this was not Rory's cup of tea but he bore the restrictions it put on his music, just to be out there playing. His exuberant displays on the guitar soon made him a minor legend, and he made a name for himself with Fontana, his first showband which he subtly moulded into more an r&b outfit, angering staid promoters and ballroom owners but speaking to the desperate need in the audience --- particularly the younger ones --- for a new kind of expression and freedom, a break from the boring traditions of their parents.

After guiding the band's sound sufficiently that they really no longer were the same band, Rory changed their name to The Impact, and they had minor success, especially in Spain. When they disbanded Rory continued on with the bassist and drummer and toured Germany. Returning home to Ireland, Rory was impressed and influenced enough by what he saw in cities like Hamburg to decide that his time in showbands was over, and he formed what would essentially become his first "real" or "remembered" band, Taste.
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