3. Rory Gallagher
Rory Gallagher is the man who, without question, spearheaded and influenced the entire Irish rock movement. Remarkably, nearly 15 years after his untimely passing in June 1995, Rory’s music is as popular as ever with his legion on faithful followers. Rory’s music was his religion. The conviction and sincerity with which he projected it have assured him a place in rock history and earnt him critical acclaim as one of the greatest torchbearers of driving, effusive rock and blues.
Born in 1948 in Ballyshannon and raised in Cork, Gallagher’s rock ‘n roll odyssey began at an early age when he saw Elvis Presley on TV and became inspired to get his first guitar. Rory would listen and learn from the likes of Lonnie Donegan, Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly, Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters and Jerry Lee Lewis, many of whom Rory went on to record with. While still at school during his early teens, Rory began playing with professional show bands throughout Ireland, whose repertoires included all the popular hits of the day. Not musically satisfied with this, Rory converted his latter showband The Impact into a six-piece R’n’B outfit and headed for Hamburg in the mid-1960s. On arrival, this line-up was soon trimmed down to his first trio.
Rory went on to form Taste in 1967 a band who soon met with wide acclaim, and subsequently headed for London where they were an immediate success at London’s famed Marquee Club, counting among their fans John Lennon.
June 2010 is the 15th anniversary since Rory’s passing, his legacy will be commemorated in Ballyshannon by the unveiling of a statue of him in action by renowned Scottish sculptor David Annand’s. This precedes the annual four day festival ‘Rory’ festival of that town. Adding to the civic honours of; Cork’s Rory Gallagher music library and Institute of Technology naming their theatre after local hero, Belfast placing a plaque at the Ulster Hall, to name but a few.
Currently, a documentary on Rory nears completion and is expected to have it’s ‘premier’ screening with RTE in June. Concurrent to that footage, work has commenced with director Declan Quinn to produce a film on Rory’s life and times. Further audio-material of Rory’s American recordings are being worked on in the studio and Polydor Records are to issue a box-set celebrating 40+ years since Rory founded his Taste – Rory Forever.
In ‘91 Gallagher undertook a World tour at the end of which saw the dissolution his old band. With a new line-up formed in ’93 (Richard Newman drums, David Levy bass, Gerient Watkins keyboards / accordion and retained Mark Feltham on harmonica), delighted with his new sidemen Gallagher undertook an extensive European tour, after which the musician intended entering the studios to record two further albums simultaneously; one acoustic and one with his new band. But Rory’s ‘Walkin’ Blues Tour’ was curtailed in Holland, January 1995 due to illness.
Following his admission to hospital, Rory underwent transplant surgery. Sadly, though having made a strong recovery, he died on June 14th from an infection.
Tributes to the great musician came from people throughout the World, locations were named in his honour but importantly his music was not to forgotten with an array of tribute bands, gigs, festivals, songs and poems dedicated to him. Fender Instruments produced a tribute in the form of a Rory ‘Stratocaster’ and Martin Guitars made an acoustic in his honour.
Garnering Rory’s musical legacy, his brother Donal went into the studios with Tony Arnold (whom Rory was planning to record with), to restore and re-master the Gallagher recordings, whilst putting many of Rory’s filmed appearances to DVD. Placing these and the Capo label through BMG, later to become Sony, making it one of the best selling artist catalogues and scoring no 1 places and platinum status for the DVDs – selling some five million copies since reissue.