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Rory Gallagher

Rory Gallagher

William Rory Gallagher (/'r??ri? 'gæl?h?r/ GAL-?-h?r; 2 March 1948  – 14 June 1995) was an Irish blues-rock multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and bandleader. Born in Ballyshannon, County Donegal, and raised in Cork, Gallagher recorded solo albums throughout the 1970s and 1980s, after forming the band Taste during the late 1960s. He was a talented guitarist known for his charismatic performances and dedication to his craft. Gallagher's albums have sold in excess of 30 million copies worldwide. Gallagher received a liver transplant in 1995, but died of complications later that year in London, UK at the age of 47.Gallagher's StratocasterGallagher was always associated with his well-worn sunburst 1961 Stratocaster (Serial Number 64351), which his brother Donal has officially retired.It was reputedly the first in Ireland, and was ordered from Fender by Jim Connolly, a showband member performing with The Irish Showband. Connolly ordered a cherry red Stratocaster through Crowley's music shop in Cork in 1961. When Fender shipped a sunburst Stratocaster instead, it was put up on sale in 1963 as a second-hand instrument, which Gallagher bought in August 1963 for just shy of £100 at Crowley's Music Store on Cork's McCurtain Street. Speaking about Gallagher's purchase of the famous Stratocaster his brother Donal recalled: "His dream ambition was to have a guitar like Buddy Holly... This Stratocaster was in the store as a used instrument, it was 100 pounds... in today's money you couldn't even compare you might as well say it was a million pounds... my mother was saying we'll be in debt for the rest of our lives and Rory said well actually with a guitar like this I can play both parts, rhythm and lead, we won't need a rhythm player so I can earn more money and pay it off so the Stratocaster became his partner for life if you like." The guitar was extensively modified by Gallagher. The tuning pegs are odd (5 Sperzel pegs and one Gotoh), and all of these have been found to be replacements. Second, it is thought that the nut has been replaced and interchanged a number of times. Third, the scratchplate was changed during Gallagher's time with Taste.The pick-ups — none of which are original — were also changed. The final modification was that of the wiring: Gallagher disconnected the bottom tone pot and rewired it so he had just a master tone control along with the master volume control. He also installed a 5-way selector switch in place of the vintage 3-way one.The most notable effect that the years of touring have had on the guitar is the almost complete removal of its original sunburst finish. Although the Strat was left abandoned in a rainy ditch for days after being stolen from the back of a tour van in Dublin, this is not believed to have caused any ill effect. All of the wear was caused by Rory's playing, not misuse. A borrowed Telecaster was also stolen at the same time but never recovered. When the Strat was recovered after two weeks, Gallagher swore he would never sell it or paint it after that.It also had a period of time of having a replacement neck, with the original neck bowing due to the amount of moisture it absorbed during continuous touring. The neck was taken off and left to settle, and was eventually reunited with the Strat after returning to its correct shape. Other quirks include a 'hump' in the scratch plate which moves the neck pick-up closer to the neck on the bass side, and a replacement of all of the pick-ups, though this replacement was due to damage rather than the perception of a tonal inadequacy.One final point of interest is that one of the clay double-dot inlays at the 12th fret fell out and was replaced with a plastic one, which is why it is whiter than the other clay inlays.On Friday the 21st and Saturday 22 October 2011, Rory's brother Donal brought the guitar out of retirement to allow Joe Bonamassa to perform with it on his two nights at the London Hammersmith Apollo. Joe opened both night's performances with his rendition of "Cradle Rock" using Rory's Stratocaster. Photos and video of the performance can be seen on the official Rory Gallagher website.Rory's biographer Marcus Connaughton believes the Strat was the key to Rory's sound. Rory could talk about it all night. ‘It's dated November 1961 – in certain people's opinions this is when Fender hit their peak. I like the maple neck. Like on the earlier guitars, they’re probably a bit more crisp, but there's a warmth to this, a mellowness because of the rosewood neck. This is the best, it's my life, this is my best friend. It's almost like knowing its weak spots are strong spots. I don’t like to get sentimental about these things, but when you spend thirty years of your life with the same instrument it's like a walking memory bank of your life there in your arms.’Amplifiers and effectsGallagher used various makes and models of amplifiers during his career. In general, however, he preferred smaller 'combo' amplifiers to the larger, more powerful 'stacks' popular with rock and hard rock guitarists. To make up for the relative lack of power on stage, he would often link several different combo amps together.When Gallagher was with Taste, he used a single Vox AC30 with a Dallas Rangemaster treble booster plugged into the 'normal' input. Examples of this sound can be heard on the Taste albums, as well as the album Live in Europe. Brian May, of the band Queen, has admitted in interviews that as a young man, he was inspired to use a Vox AC30 and treble booster setup after meeting Gallagher and asking him how he got his sound. The British company, Flynn Amps, now makes a Rory Gallagher Signature Hawk Treble Booster pedal based on Gallagher's original unit. Gallagher also used Ibanez Tube Screamers, an MXR Dyna Comp, and various Boss effects, often using a Flanger and Octaver.In the early to mid-1970s, Gallagher began to use Fender amplifiers in conjunction with a Hawk booster, most notably a Bassman and a Twin, both 1950s vintage. An example of this sound can be heard on the Irish Tour '74 album. He also had a Fender Concert amplifier.In the mid to late 1970s, when Gallagher was moving towards a hard rock sound, he experimented with Ampeg VT40 and VT22 amps. He also began using Marshall combos. During this period and beyond, Gallagher used different combinations of amps on stage to achieve more power and to blend the tonal characteristics of different amps including Orange amplification.On the introduction of the BOSS ME-5 all-in-one floor based FX unit, Rory was known to have been an early adopter and used it readily it for his live work up until his death in mid 90s.Not that well known is his use of various German amplifiers. He used Stramp 2100a amps, which can be seen in his appearances on the German Beat Club program. Another company that hand built amplifiers for Gallagher was PCL Vintage Amp. The company is located in St. Wendel in the Saarland and they still produce high quality audio and guitar equipment.DeathIn the later years of his life Gallagher developed a phobia of flying. To overcome this he received a prescription for a powerful sedative. This medication, combined with his alcohol use resulted in severe liver damage. Despite this he continued touring. By the time of his final performance on 10 January 1995 in the Netherlands, he was visibly sick and the tour had to be cancelled. 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 13 weeks in intensive care, while waiting to be transferred to a convalescent home, his health suddenly worsened when he contracted a staphylococcal (MRSA) infection, and he died on 14 June 1995. He was unmarried and had no children.Gallagher was buried in St Oliver's Cemetery, on the Clash Road just outside Ballincollig near Cork City, Ireland. His headstone is a replica of an award he received in 1972 for International Guitarist of the Year.LegacyIn 2003, Wheels Within Wheels, a collection of acoustic tracks, was released posthumously by Gallagher's brother Donal Gallagher. Collaborators on this album included Bert Jansch, Martin Carthy, The Dubliners and Lonnie Donegan.Many modern day musicians, including The Edge from U2, Slash of Guns N' Roses, Johnny Marr of the Smiths, Davy Knowles, Janick Gers of Iron Maiden, Glenn Tipton of Judas Priest, Vivian Campbell of Def Leppard, Gary Moore and Joe Bonamassa, cite Gallagher as an inspiration in their formative musical years.Brian May, lead guitarist of Queen, relates: "so these couple of kids come up, who's me and my mate, and say 'How do you get your sound Mr. Gallagher?' and he sits and tells us. So I owe Rory Gallagher my sound." In 2010, Gallagher was ranked No. 42 on's List of their Top 50 Guitarists of All Time. Gallagher was also listed on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time, ranked at 57th place.TributesOn 25 October 1997 a tribute sculpture to Gallagher was unveiled in the newly renamed Rory Gallagher Place (formerly St. Paul's St. Square) in his hometown of Cork. The sculptor was a childhood friend of Gallagher, Geraldine Creedon. The two grew up together in the McCurtain Street area of the city. The band who played at the unveiling of the statue was the Dave McHugh band, who formed Ireland's first tribute to Gallagher, 'Aftertaste' in 1995.There is a Rory Gallagher Corner at Meeting House Square in Temple Bar, Dublin, where a life-size bronze statue in the shape of his Stratocaster has been installed. Some of those who attended the unveiling include The Edge of U2 and the Lord Mayor of Dublin.In 2004 the Rory Gallagher Music Library was opened in Cork.In 2006 a plaque was unveiled at the Ulster Hall in Belfast.A street in Ris-Orangis, a commune in the southern suburbs of Paris, was renamed Rue Rory Gallagher.New York City-based Celtic rock band Black 47 paid tribute to Rory Gallagher on their 1996 major-label release, "Green Suede Shoes." The track titled "Rory" features vocalist/guitarist Larry Kirwan delivering a passionate and heart-felt tribute to Rory Gallagher's talent and unrealised stardom.Flynn Amps manufacture a Rory Gallagher signature Hawk pedal, cloned from Gallagher's 1970s pedal.On 2 June 2010, a life-sized bronze statue of Gallagher was unveiled in the town centre of Ballyshannon. An award-winning annual Blues festival is held in his honour at the same location.


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