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Apr 20 2024

The Young Lad from Cork

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The Young Lad from Cork


On the 20th of April, 1961 a young lad living at No.27 MacCurtain Street in the city of Cork won a music talent competition at Cork City Hall. The talent show was sponsored by “The Evening Echo” in conjunction with Ideal Homes Exhibition. The young lad in question was one Rory Gallagher who had only recently turned 13. Yes, that Rory Gallagher! Five years later he would seek his fame and fortune: first with his band Taste, and then later on as a solo artist.

      Rory atop the Examiner’s building

He would return often to play sold out concerts at this same City Hall, most notably in 1974 when Tony Palmer was filming his documentary on Rory, the well received “Irish Tour ’74,” that chronicled his shows in Dublin, Belfast and Cork. Rory’s live album from that tour was mostly recorded at Cork City Hall and is estimated to have sold in the millions worldwide.

This picture of Rory was published on the front page of Cork’s Evening Echo two days after his winning the talent competition. The photo was taken on the roof of the Examiner building on Academy Street.

The roof was used as an outdoor studio for generations. Natural light, privacy, and — possibly the clincher — convenient, as the photographic department occupied the top floors of the building. — Blake Creedon, a sub-editor at the Irish Examiner Group


Below is an advertisement for the talent competition placed in the Cork Evening Echo



Ideal Homes Exhibition


    Roy Croft, compere for the talent show

The talent competition and home exhibition ran for 10 days between April 12 – 22, with 50 stands of home furnishings, kitchen displays, demonstrations of waterless cooking, wine and cheese exhibits, free samples, free film shows, a fully licensed bar, and 3 shows a day showcasing many of the most talented entertainers in Munster. The Talent show was compered by Roy Croft of Radio Eireann fame. His former radio programme, Beginners Please, was Ireland’s first broadcast talent show. Clearly Roy was in his element here!


An advertisement for this new T.V. talent competition pointed out that this wasn’t to be any old competition but a serious effort to discover talent for Television. Ireland was set to get their very own T.V. station later that year, and it was time to find the talent for it! The new T.V. channel was launched as Telefis Eireann on 31 December 1961, later renamed RTE in 1966. Rory’s brother Donal remembers the contest:


  I remember going to the City Hall to see my brother perform at this contest being held in the balcony area of the City Hall, which was screened off with large theatrical drapes from the main downstairs (which was being used by the exhibitors) and the space had its own stage constructed.
  From memory, Rory performed Lonnie Donegan’s Rock Island Line or and maybe The Big Grand Cooley Dam (Woody Guthrie). In his summation, the compere Roy Croft referred to my brother’s fire, energy and passion, in the delivery of the songs. After his qualification, he was asked to go to the Examiner’s offices the following day to have his picture taken.
  I hadn’t done my homework and wasn’t allowed to go with him, but when the picture was published, the family and I were all so thrilled and proud of Rory. — Donal Gallagher


Some of the winners from the competitions were: the Harmonicats, the Wanderers Vocal Group, the Drifters Modern Dance Band, and the Cranitch Quartet of Rathduff. The last one is of particular interest.



Cranitch Quartet of Rathduff

The lad on the right in the picture of the Cranitch Quartet is Matt Cranitch. He went on to establish a significant reputation as a traditional fiddle-player, winning All-Ireland Fleadh Cheoil titles, The Fiddler of Dooney and Oireachtas Crotty Cup. He has performed in many parts of the world — at concerts and festivals, as well as on radio and television. He is also the author of The Irish Fiddle Book which is in its 4th printing so far.


Besides both of them competing in the T.V. Talent Competition, they had also met at a cousin’s farm near Blarney, as Rory’s brother Donal relates:

Matt Cranitch and Rory would have met on our cousin’s farm, at Birch Hill, near Blarney, Co. Cork (Matt’s folks were neighbors). I remember a farmyard party for a relative returning to New York, my brother brought his guitar and the Cranitch family played, encouraging Rory to join in with the traditional playing. –Donal Gallagher

And there is another connection between Matt Cranitch and Rory Gallagher. On the 18th of November in 1993, the Cork Institute of Technology convinced Rory to headline their inaugural Cork Arts Fest, playing an acoustic gig in the West Atrium of their Bishopstown campus. It was Matt Cranitch who organised the concert.


Rory Playing the Cork Arts Festival in 1993

I did know Rory, and indeed I was responsible for organising the concert… It took place at Cork Regional Techinical College (Cork RTC). It was subsequently renamed as Cork Institute of Technology (CIT), and very recently designated Munster Technological University (MTU)! Rory’s uncle Jim Roche had been principal of that institution, and there had been a long-standing family promise that Rory would do a concert in the college. Jim died prematurely, but still the promise held good. I was a lecturer/professor in Cork RTC at the time, and it fell to me to follow up on the Rory concert. — Matt Cranitch

Uncle Jim had been an inspiring figure to the Gallaghers and Rory readily agreed to the concert. Donal recalls though that Rory didn’t think that a full rock band would lend itself to the college’s atrium and that an acoustic set would be more appropriate:

Our uncle Jim Roche had been principal at CIT and he had passed away some time before so Rory agreed to do the concert as a tribute to Jim as they were very close. I think Rory felt a full band rock concert would have been too raucous as a tribute to Jimmy but he was a bit daunted at the prospect of doing a set on stage by himself so he brought over Lou Martin to play piano and Mark Feltham joined in as well on harmonica so it was quite the night — Donal Gallagher, Irish Times 2018

According to Peter Somers, Timetabling Coordinator of CIT, his concert was the highlight of the inaugural Cork Arts Fest and was also an acknowledgement of his uncle – the late Jim Roche who was the first principal of the then Regional Technical College – with whom Rory had a very close bond.

Rory died less than two years after his performance in the West Atrium of the Bishoptown campus, a concert organized by Matt Cranitch, a contestant from that long ago talent search at Cork City Hall. There were many key moments in the life of the lad who once lived at no. 27 MacCurtain Street, but on that day, the 20th of April, 1961, Ireland found their television star. He was Ireland’s first Rock Star and boy did he shine ever so brightly.


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Aug 08 2023

Auf Wiedersehen

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Auf Wiedersehen


Auf Wiedersehen. That’s how Pete Haycock ended his last message to me. Pete was one of the founding members of the Climax Chicago Blues Band, later shortened to Climax Blues Band, a great innovative bluesy band with Pete on slide guitar.

      Pete Haycock and Bev Bevan with ELO II at Wembley

But by the 80’s the band had seemingly left the blues behind, switching to a more pop style with the release of the single I Love You from the album Flying the Flag. Pete eventually left the band in disgust in late 1984.

It was purely the producer’s idea. I hated most of it. Unfortunately the producer was nominated mainly by the record company, and turned out to be an idiot. I ended up writing bland pop crap, too, thanks to him. — Pete Haycock, article in LouderSound

After CBB, he formed Pete Haycock’s Climax and did numerous collaborations with other artists including a stint with Bev Bevan in the resurrected ELO Part II. He also collaborated with Hans Zimmer on a number of Hollywood film scores such as Thelma and Louise and The Dilemma. In 2013 He started up Pete Haycock’s Climax Blues Band featuring Robin George, who he had worked with in the LovePower Band and various other projects, in what he envisioned as a return to the blues roots of the true Climax Blues Band. He had just recorded a new album, Broke Heart Blues, and was rehearsing for an upcoming tour when on the 30th of October 2013 Pete died of a heart attack at his home in Frankfurt.

And yesterday I get a call from the dead, an email from Pete with the words Auf Wiedersehen! Creepy isn’t it? I’m reasonably sure it’s just someone who has hacked into Pete’s old account, but the hairs on the back of my neck stood straight up nonetheless and I sat staring at the message for quite a long time remembering a long ago lost opportunity to interview Pete. The message came with an unexplained link that I didn’t dare click on for fear of being hacked myself. But I’m sorely tempted!

    Rory and Pete Haycock, Haiger 1984

So why was a Rory Gallagher fanboy trying to contact Pete Haycock? I had found a picture of Pete with my all-time favourite guitarist, Rory Gallagher, and was curious of the where and when of it. It showed Rory and Pete on stage somewhere trading licks on slide guitar, two of the finest slide guitarist in the history of Rock.

I was first able to contact Pete through an old Stafford schoolmate of his, Reg Godwin, who had helped Pete with his website and I think co-produced one of his albums. Pete remembered the picture of Rory and him but couldn’t place the gig or year. All he could think of was that it was at an outdoor festival at maybe a racetrack in Germany, and that the shirt he wore in the pic he had bought in Thailand. Oh, and Rory had a really good harp player with him. That last bit of information got me going, because Rory’s harp player Mark Feltham joined the band at the start of his Italian tour in 1984. All I had to do was follow Rory’s quite extensive concert timeline until I came across a German tour after that Italian tour and before Rory’s weight gain in the late 80’s and 90’s.

Unfortunately I can’t remember exactly where this festival was…but I seem to remember a perimeter or even small stands…maybe a racetrack or something similar? The shirt I was wearing was bought in Bangkok by the way…….so maybe you can dig into the CBB archives somehow to discover which year we toured both the Far East and Germany? Probably early 80’s then….?? Rory had a harp player….which was new to me……and he was great! The lad from Nine Below Zero perhaps? Mark Feltham? — Pete Haycock, conversation with the author 2011

Pete Haycock1

Pete Haycock with Rory and band in Haiger in 1984


In the end, my best guess was that they played together at the Open Air festival in the Grasrennbahn in Haiger-Allendorf on the 2nd of September 1984. It was the only thing that fit. Unfortunately, when I found a flyer for the show there was no mention of the Climax Blues Band. Scheduled for the festival was Wishbone Ash, Golden Earring, and headliner Rory Gallagher. There was also a couple of local warm-up bands including the band Jinx, originally a tribute band named after Rory’s album of the same name! I would eventually find out that Climax Blues Band was a last minute replacement for Wishbone Ash. Yes!

I think you have pinned it down there Milo. In fact “Grasrennbahn” means grass racetrack as you probably know …. and that fits my memories perfectly. I don’t think we played Dust My Broom. I think I just joined in on slide regardless of what Rory was playing…. but it was a great sound… and a dream job….to have his killer guitar to add my slide to! I can only compare it to my other “career highlights of jamming” with Lynyrd Skynrd in Birminghan Odeon or perhaps Steve Miller wandering onstage with a little amp in the middle of my slide solo “Country Hat” some where in the USA…Detroit I think! — Pete Haycock, conversation with the author 2011

The thing is, I have a live recording of Rory playing the Tegelen Blues festival just one day before the Haiger show. You can’t tell me that nobody recorded the next day’s show. If I ever find a recording of those two slide masters jamming together I’ll die a happy man! I’ve found some photos of Pete’s jam with Rory, and one of Colin Cooper, Climax Blues Band’s Sax player, jamming with Rory too. One day I’ll find that audio.


Pete Haycock2

Pete Haycock with Rory on stage in Haiger in 1984


After the show Rory and Pete got together at the hotel bar and talked about olden times when Rory was with Taste and Pete was just starting out with Climax Chicago Blues Band and about music and the responsibilities of the musician to the fans and to themselves, of staying true to themselves.

We both ended up in the hotel bar afterwards talking very seriously about music and “our” responsibilities. Rory was indeed a friend …after very many years of occasional meetings, our first being in Durham Uni I think…with a still semi-pro Climax (Chicago) Blues Band supporting Taste, so that was approximately 1968/9. Of course we didn’t meet very often…maybe three or four times a year sometimes….but we had a mutual respect, no doubt. — Pete Haycock, conversation with the author 2011

And I think back to an article in Melody Maker back when Rory was in Taste. In it, Rory talks about hit singles and how they can change you. He said, If you release a single, and it’s a hit, you’ve got to follow it up and then you’ve got to bend and bend. And I wonder if Rory had that conversation with Pete, about singles and how they change you and maybe nudged him a bit away from that and back to what he loved best, back to the Blues. Because it wasn’t long after that conversation that he left Climax and went his separate way. But I’ll never know. I didn’t get to ask.

Pete was eager to do an interview. He had his own recording studio in his home in Frankfurt and we’d tape the interview there, by phone if necessary. Unfortunately, I had several interviews in front of me needing my attention and had to delay Pete’s until I could get the time to research it properly. Weeks turned to months and then to years and the opportunity slipped away. His final words to me, about Rory’s passing, I could easily have said about him:

It breaks my heart that I can’t take the lad for a pint of Guinness in our local Irish pub here in Frankfurt now…….just one.
I managed to survive the excesses apparently….he didn’t. Although I’m not religious in any conventional sense I say:Bless his heart and soul. — Pete Haycock, conversation with the author 2011

Pete, I wish I could have taken you out for a pint as well and learned more about your life, your time with the Climax Chicago Blues Band, and maybe a bit more about your time talking with Rory during the occasional meet-ups on the road. Bless your heart and soul!

I fear I’ll be forever haunted by that missed opportunity, and especially that final goodbye, that email from the void. Auf Wiedersehen to you too, Pete!


Pete Haycock1

Pete and Rory backstage at Haiger ©Annelies Vink


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