Rory Gallagher (1948-1995)
Photo Gallery -
Band Lineups -
- Audio samples -
Where Are They Now?
There is little that can be said or written about Rory, arguably the
greatest guitarist Ireland has ever produced, which hasn't been
covered elsewhere, in more depth. On this page, we will
limit our discussion to his career as part of the showband era and
Irish rock groups,
but he spent such a short time in the ballrooms it will be a short
Rory was born in Ballyshannon, Co.
Donegal, but the Gallagher family
moved to Derry the following year and on to Cork when he was only seven. He started playing very young
and by the age of twelve, Rory won a local talent contest, taking the
money and putting a down payment on his first electric guitar, a
Rosette, Solid Seven. He would still owe £25 which would not be paid
off for four years.
In 1963, Rory got a job with his
first showband, the Fontana Showband. Shortly after joining
the band, he purchased the 1961 Stratocaster which he would play
until he passed away in 1995. Rory's brother, Donal, tells the story
of Rory purchasing the guitar in a great article at the website
www.roryon.com. If you are interested in reading the story, please
follow this link:
http://www.roryon.com/fenderstrat254.html. Originally owned by
Jim Conlon of the Royal Showband, the guitar was traded in for a red
Strat which would better match the Royal's new uniforms (or so the
legend goes) and match Hank Marvin's signature red Strat. One way or another, the guitar became Rory's trademark
and a symbol of the hard working musician whose hard driving career
was reflected in ever scratch and dent on his trusty axe.
was a regional showband at the time, playing mostly from Cork to
Limerick. The band's lineup was: Bernie Tobin (trombone), his
brother Oliver Tobin (bass), Rory (lead), John Lehane (sax), Eamon
O'Sullivan (drums) and Declan O'Keefe (rhythm). In 1964, the Fontana
headed of to England as all showbands did during Lent and Rory got a
taste of the London scene.
decided to change their name to the Impact Showband in 1965.
They added Michael Lehane on keyboards and John Campbell replaced
Eamon on drums. As Rory started to establish himself as one of the
country's premier guitarists, the band incorporated more blues and
rock n' roll into their programme. The same year, they performed on
RTE's Pickin' The Pops.
With their new blues and rock
programme, the Impact went to London and played extensively at the
US air bases across Europe. However, before the end of the year they
split and Rory, Johnny Campbell and Oliver Tobin went on to Germany
to play the Hamburg clubs. In 1966, Rory returned to Cork and formed
the first Taste, a trio featuring Eric Kitteringham on bass and
Norman Damery on drums. The band lasted only a couple of years,
spending an increasing amount of time in the UK.
In 1968, Rory formed his second
Taste which featured John Wilson on Drums and Richard McCracken on
bass. In an article in Spotlight, it was stated that even then, Rory
was unsure whether he would retain the name "Taste", which he
eventually did. This lineup would move to London and enjoy success touring the
US and Canada, playing support to major acts and releasing two
albums, Taste and On The Boards. In 1970, Taste
performed at the Isle of Wight Festival.
In October, 1970, Rory and Taste
came home to Ireland for a short tour. They played a series of gigs
around the country ending up in Belfast at the Queen's University
Hall prior to which Rory announced it would be their last gig.
According to drummer John Wilson in an article in the Spotlight
issue of October 23, 1970, the split in the band was over money.
According to the article, written by Donal Corvin, Rory wanted to
put the two boys on wages while he took the lion's share of
earnings. Said John, "after playing together for so long and looking
back on the days when we were paid only 12 pounds a show, Richard
and I were very hurt by this suggestion."
In the aftermath of the split, of
course Rory went on to even greater international fame with his own
band which he formed with Wilgar
Campbell and Gerry McAvoy. In the meantime, McCracken and Wilson
formed the band, Stud, which released three albums but only lasted
for about eighteen months.
From then on, Rory was a solo
artist, but he still maintained his connections to Ireland,
frequently touring the ballrooms in the 70's.
Although Rory's rise to
international fame is now the stuff of legends, it was his start in
the showbands which he shares with so many Irish musicians. From the
late fifties through the early 1980's very few Irish musicians made
their way to the International scene without first serving their
apprenticeships in the ranks of the showbands. From Morrison to
McCullough to Rory, they all played the ballrooms.
click on thumbnails for full image
Rory Gallagher - RIP:
Of course, after Taste, Rory went on to be one of the
greatest blues guitarists arguably in the world and
definitely in Europe. From humble beginnings in an Irish
showband, Rory blazed a trail across Ireland's musical
landscape and has been cited by many international musicians
as inspirational. Of course, countless showbands were also
influenced as young guitarists (including myself) learned
their craft listening to his licks over and over again.
Sadly Rory's hard living lifestyle caught up with him and he
died after undergoing a liver transplant of a staph
infection on June 14, 1995. His stamp on the world and
especially Irish pop and rock music is undeniable.
||Gerry McAvoy: Gerry
ended up playing with Rory for twenty years. In 1991, with
Rory's health having deteriorated to the point where he had
all but given up touring and recording, Gerry reluctantly
left the band to help reform English R&B legends Nine Below
Zero, with whom he has recorded nine successful albums. Nine
Below Zero continue to tour Europe almost incessantly and
remain one of the UK's hardest working bands. Today, Gerry
plays with the band he created called Band of Friends - an
informal reunion of ex-Rory Gallagher band members play
tribute concerts and festivals all over Europe.
Wilgar Campbell -
After he left Gallagher, Campbell played with Terraplane,
and then formed The Wildcats. In 1976 he joined the
1950s-style rock and roll band Yakety Yak, with whom he
stayed until 1980. In 1981 several members of Yakety Yak,
including Campbell, formed another 1950s-style band called
the Dragons, who subsequently changed their name to Sonny
King & the Sons of Swing in 1982. Campbell continued to play
with them till 1987. Wilgar sadly died on October 1, 1989
after suffering from alcohol-related illnesses.
||Rod de Ath: After
leaving Gallagher's band, de'Ath joined Ramrod (with Lou
Martin) and then he played with the Downliners Sect before
moving to the United States. In the mid-1980s, he suffered a
serious accident which led to the loss of one eye and some
brain damage and he was no longer able to play. Little or
nothing was known of de'Ath's whereabouts after 1996, until
an interview with him was published in Classic Rock magazine
in May 2012, within a feature about Rory Gallagher. He
attended the funeral in August 2012 of former Rory Gallagher
and Ramrod band member Lou Martin.
Lou Martin - RIP:
After leaving Gallagher's band, Martin and drummer Rod
de'Ath formed Ramrod, after which Martin played with
Downliners Sect and Screaming Lord Sutch, and also toured
with Chuck Berry and Albert Collins.Martin played in the
Nickey Barclay band in London in the 1980s, alongside
Barclay on keyboards. The band played across London on the
blues rock circuit during the 1980s. He then joined Killing
Floor which released an album in 2004 named Zero
Tolerance, on which Martin participated. Sadly Lou
passed away on the 17th August 2012.