Rory Gallagher (A-Z #45)

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Born in March 1949 in Ballyshannon, Donegal, Ireland, Rory Gallagher started his musical career in a series of school bands in Cork before forming his first true band – The Fontana Showband. A little later they changed this to The Impact and by 1965 had secured a residency in Hamburg mostly playing Chuck Berry covers.

In 1966, just as the British blues revival was gathering steam, Rory disbanded The Impact to form ‘Taste’ with Norman Damery and Eric Kitteringham. Although the band’s debut album failed to break through, Taste persevered and hit the top 20 with the 1970 release of the follow-up ‘On the Boards’.

The album established Rory Gallagher as Ireland’s ambassador of the blues guitar and set the stage for his forthcoming solo career. Releasing a self-titled debut which made the top 40 in 1971, Rory continued to build his audience base with an exhausting touring schedule. Described as ‘the working man’s guitarist’, mainly due to his non-conformist attire of checked shirts, jeans and ruffled hair, he followed the debut with ‘Deuce’ later in 1971. But it was the massive top 10 success of ‘Live in Europe’ released in 1972 that catapulted him to super-stardom.

For me though, excellent as ‘Live in Europe’ is, there are several other albums which are unjustifiably under-rated. ‘Blueprint’ (1972), ‘Tattoo’ (1973), ‘The story so far’ (1976) and ‘Fresh Evidence’ (1990) stand amongst his most overlooked.

Moving to Chrysalis records shortly after the release of the double live album ‘Irish Tour 74’, sadly his form began to slump a little faced with the pressure of a new, leaner breed of up and coming guitar acts. But, although his commercial appeal subsided a little with each subsequent album release, his live performances never waned.

Ultimately death was the only thing that could prise Rory Gallagher away from his guitar. He passed away in June 1995 after suffering complications following a liver transplant. However, even though it’s now almost twenty years, the excitement and sheer brilliance that sealed his entry into the ‘Rock n Roll hall of fame’ lives on in this electrifying version of ‘Bullfrog Blues’ from a French gig in 1980.

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