Apr 29 2012

Did Rory Gallagher meet his match at Waterloo?

Published by at 12:56 am under radio interviews

Bob Dorr

Born and raised in Chicago, Bob Dorr has been a fan and supporter of the Blues since his early years as singer and harp player for bands such as The Little Red Rooster Band and The Baggs Revue. Since 1981 he has been the leader of Bob Dorr and The Blue Band. While attending University of North Iowa – Cedar Falls, he became music director and announcer for KUNI radio and has hosted a rock show at the station for over 35 years. Although officially retiring from the station in 2009 he continues hosting two weekend shows for KUNI: Backtracks, a look back to obscure Rock ‘n Roll from 25 years or more; and Blue Avenue, a look at contemporary as well as old-school Blues and its derivations. During his 35 years on public radio he has done countless interviews; from Blues legends like Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon, to Rock stars like Phil Lynott and Tom Waits.

Conway Civic Center — Waterloo, IA

On January 20, 1976, Bob got a chance to talk with Irish legend Rory Gallagher backstage at the Conway Civic Center in Waterloo, Iowa. Click on the link to listen to Bob Dorr’s conversation with Rory Gallagher. I’ve also transcribed the short interview as best I can.
  Bob Dorr interviews Rory Gallagher


Transcript of Bob Dorr’s interview with Rory Gallagher


Bob Dorr(intro): I feel very privileged to have spoken with the late Rory Gallagher. We met backstage at the Conway Civic Center in Waterloo and talked about Ireland, the Irish political scene, Glam Rock, and here he talks about his first band Taste:

RG: Taste was regarded as one of the bands of the British Blues Boom thing. We were but on the other hand we weren’t because we were more than just a straight blues band. We were kind of writing our own material we were more progressive but the Blues was a very dominant feel; and also the two guys, the other guys in the band, were from Belfast and I spent time there so there’s a lot of that Belfast influence and we spent some time in Germany so there’s that influence. You couldn’t really pigeonhole us into the British Blues Boom, because it was part of us but it wasn’t all of us.

RG: There’s a lot of musical activity in Ireland. There always is.

Bob Dorr: Like the whole political scene?

RG: Well that’s not helping. It’s still going on. People are still playing and learning instruments and stuff but a lot of Irish musicians rarely get the breaks because they find it hard to get up and leave home and move to England — and follow the old trail, the old Show Biz trail.

Bob Dorr: How about the Irish situation? Is there anything that a pop star can do?

RG: Well you can play there for one thing. It’s hard to really know. I mean it depends on how extreme you want to be. You can either go there and fight or you can be a pacifist and try to do something to soften the situation.

Bob Dorr: And what about that Glam Rock?

RG: Ah, I guess it’s all right. It gives the music scene a bit of a pep up. I don’t like it when the music becomes second and the theatrics become the first important thing. I can enjoy a bit of glam rock, the theatrics, but it never really appeals to me the way watching a blues artist would. I like a guy who could sit there in a chair with a guitar and sing and just do it all. It’s really natural. I love that.


Rory was on the bill that evening with Kansas and Canned Heat. The show was later reviewed by Deb Lorenzen of the Waterloo Courier who was clearly enthralled by headlining act, Kansas. The reviewer was critical of Rory’s vocals and his backing band, however she did admit that Rory was truly an amazing guitar player. Below is her short review of the Rory Gallagher portion of the show. You can read her full review of the entire 3-band show here: Kansas — Musical Moods.

It would not be hard to look good following a [Canned] Heat concert, but Rory Gallagher was amazing. He really is a great guitar player, just as the news releases say. There is a major problem with Rory’s act, however — his band. This lightning-speed guitarist is backed by a group that can’t keep up with Gallagher’s frenzied playing, so they just “try” to stay together. Rory also needs either a vocalist in the group who can sing, or a new, all-instrumental approach to his concerts. The people on the floor loved him; he was very electric and very loud and a rock-and-roll encore was demanded. — Deb Lorenzen

But that’s not the whole story of Rory’s show in Waterloo. It also marked the first meeting between Canned Heat’s lead singer Bob Hite and Rory Gallagher. During the concert the bands received word that Howlin’ Wolf had died, and both Bob and Rory dedicated their performances to the memory of the legendary bluesman. In an open letter to Blues Review Magazine, Jac Ttanna, former road manager for Canned Heat, recalled that fateful night and in particular what happened AFTER the show:

The first time I met Rory was one of the most memorable nights of my life. At the time, I was the road manager for Canned Heat, and we were on the bill with Rory on a cold, snowy night in Waterloo, Iowa. Halfway through the show, we received word that Howlin’ Wolf had died. Our lead singer, Bob “The Bear” Hite, immediately dedicated the rest of the evening to Wolf. When Rory came on he did the same. It was the first time I had ever seen Rory, and I was stunned.

That show in itself was enough to write about, but what happened after the show was even better: The theater was dark, the crowd had left and we were all sitting around the backstage area when Rory opened a bottle of Irish whiskey and passed it around. He then pulled out a beautifully ancient National and began playing. Well, no matter what lick he played, Bob knew the vocal, and what followed was 40 minutes or so of some of the most magically soulful–from the heart–blues singing and playing I’ve ever heard. The custodian and the rest of the building personnel, who normally would have been anxious to close up and go home, just stopped what they were doing and watched in reverence. Rory and Bob had never met before, but it sounded like they’d been working together all their lives. I’ve seen a lot of great performances, but I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been moved like that. Needless to say, it didn’t take long for the 12 or 15 people who were there to finish off that bottle of whiskey. By the time it was gone, we figured we had given Wolf a proper sendoff. A bond was formed that night between Rory and Canned Heat, and whenever we found ourselves in the same part of the world, we always looked each other up. Rory, with his inevitable bottle of Irish whiskey, was blues personified and quite simply one of the purest, finest people I have ever met. It was an honor to know him, and I treasure every moment I spent in his presence. — Jac Ttanna

Rory Gallagher’s stop in Waterloo may not have the historical significance of Wellington’s encounter with Napoleon, but it was a very special moment nonetheless. Despite Ms. Lorenzen’s claim to the contrary, I don’t think Rory met his match there. So now you have, as Paul Harvey would say, “THE REST OF THE STORY!”

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One Response to “Did Rory Gallagher meet his match at Waterloo?”

  1. bruce barretton 30 Apr 2012 at 1:10 am

    what the hell does a newspaper writer know about the blues ! Rorys band members have always been top notch. Gerry Mcavoy is a great bass player and Rod De’ath is a great drummer, along with Lou martin on keyboards.

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