Looking back on Irish guitar legend Rory Gallagher’s solo career

Local Castlebar cover band Halyard and The Humbert Inn on Friday night’s in Castlebar always spring to mind every-time i hear Rory Gallagher’s name mentioned and obviously that fine stratogaster he used to play!

What can one say about Rory Gallagher that hasn’t’ being already said , admired by so many across the world, there is even a successful festival that takes place in his hometown in Ballyshannon once a year! A festival that has being ongoing for the past number of years! There is even a statue erected in his home town of Ballyshannon as a tribute to him.

So of his most respected fans in the world come from the likes of Slash, Johnny Marr of the Smiths, Alice Cooper, Stevie Van Zandt and The Rolling Stones.

Rory Gallagher’s real name, William Rory Gallagher was  born 2nd March, 1948, Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal – died 14th June, 1995, London)

A absolute legend amongst the Irish and international music scene. I just wanted to briefly discuss his solo career. 

The man, the stratogaster, the legend Rory Gallagher

He was also a stage “beast” (proof of which the various great live albums). A musical purist who refused to release singles or music videos and turned down the opportunity to join The Rolling Stones  in the 1970’s. A rumoured chronic alcoholic, Rory became ill on tour in the Netherlands and later died in London due to complications arising from a liver transplant.

But lets have a quick look at his some of the highs (and lows) in his life.

In Rory’s early life he performed in a lot of show bands. He was also in a band called TASTE, the band were a blues rock n roll group, TASTE did not last long until Gallagher decided to go solo.

 

The 1970s were Gallagher’s most prolific period.He produced ten albums in that decade, including two live albums, Live in Europe (which is one of our favorites) and Irish Tour 74.  November 1971 saw the release of the album Deuce. 

In the same year he was voted Melody Maker’s  International Top Guitarist of the Year, ahead of Eric Clapton. However, despite a number of his albums from this period reaching the UK Album Chart, Gallagher still did not attain major star status. 

Though he sold over thirty million albums worldwide, it was his marathon live performances that won him greatest acclaim. He is documented in Irish Tour ’74, a film directed by Tony Palmer.

During the heightened periods of political unrest in Northern Ireland, as other artists were warned not to tour, Gallagher was resolute about touring Ireland at least once a year during his career, winning him the dedication of thousands of fans, and in the process, becoming a role model for other aspiring young Irish musicians.

 

Gallagher admitted in several interviews that at first there were not any international Irish acts until Van Morrison, Gallagher, and later, Phil Lynott and Thin Lizzy grew popular during the 1970s. The line-up which included Rod de’Ath on drums and Lou Martin on keyboards, performed together between 1973-1976. However, he eventually dropped down to just bass, guitar and drums, and his act became a power trio.

In January 1975, when the Rolling Stones  gathered in Rotter Dame in the Netherlands, to continue working towards their album Black and Blue   they auditioned new guitarists, to replace Mick Taylor, as they recorded. Gallagher went over for a jam with the band “just to see what was going on,” but did not join the group, happy with his solo career. We wonder what would have happened to his career if he became a member! 

Through out his Gallagher also performed with Jerry Lee Lewis and and Muddy Waters amongst many others. 

The Irish guitar legend Rory Gallagher

 

In the later years of his life, Gallagher developed a phobia of flying. To overcome this, he was prescribed various drugs. By the time of his final performance on 10 January 1995 in the Netherlands, he was visibly ill with severe abdominal pain and the tour had to be cancelled. He was prescribed paraceto for the pain, a drug that can be extremely harmful to the liver, especially with a heavy drinker such as Gallagher. 

Gallagher was admitted to King’s College Hospital  in London in March 1995, and it was only then that the extent of his ill health became apparent: his liver was failing and the doctors determined that, in spite of his young age, a liver transplant was the only possible course of action. After thirteen weeks in intensive care, while waiting to be transferred to a convalescent home, his health suddenly worsened when he contracted a MRSA  infection, and he died on 14 June 1995, at the age of 47. He was unmarried and had no children.

Gallagher’s body was buried in St Oliver’s Cemetery, on the Clash Road just outside Ballincollig near Cork City, Ireland. The grave’s headstone is in the image of an award he received in 1972 for International Guitarist of the Year.

We highly recommend checking out the most recent release from Rory Gallagher titled “Blues” that came out on vinyl in Ireland only a few weeks ago.

The most recent release on Chess records from the departed Rory Gallagher simply called Blues

 

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