Any time fans or critics are asked to pick the most influential and innovative guitarists in rock history, iconic names such as Eric Clapton and Queen’s Brian May invariably crop up. But if you asked those legends which guitar god they respect the most; chances are they’ll cite Rory Gallagher.
Clapton once told the BBC that Gallagher should be credited with “getting me back into the blues,” while in the film What’s Going On: Taste At The Isle Of Wight, Brian May says, “I bought this little AC30 amp and Rangemaster Treble Booster, just like Rory’s set up, and plugged in my home-made guitar with it. It gave me what I wanted, it made the guitar speak, so it was Rory that gave me my sound.”
May and Clapton are just two of numerous luminaries who have keenly expressed their admiration for the trailblazing Irish guitarist, bandleader, and singer-songwriter. He died aged only 47 in 1995. Still, Rory Gallagher’s music continues to cast a long shadow over rock’n’roll, with fretboard wizards from successive generations, among them U2’s The Edge and Guns N’ Roses’ Slash, singing his praises.
For starters, while The Beatles may have impacted on the nation’s youth, Ireland had no bona fide rock stars in the mid-60s. When Gallagher formed his initial power trio, Taste, in 1966, the country’s rural venues were still being rocked by the showbands – in effect, the highly efficient covers outfits of their day.
Yet the young, idealistic, blues-loving Gallagher broke that mold, with his work ethic, self-penned material and incendiary live shows building his band’s reputation from the Shandon Boat Club, in Cork, to London’s famous Marquee, and eventually brokering a deal with Polydor. This dedication led to hit albums such as On The Boards and prestigious shows with Cream at London’s Royal Albert Hall and at the 1970 Isle Of Wight Festival alongside The Who, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, and Free.