Aug 05 2015

TIMELESS — Trevor Hodgett remembers Rory Gallagher

Published by under articles

R2 Magazine, issue 52

In the latest edition of R2 Magazine (previously known as Rock’n’Reel), there is a 3 page article on Rory Gallagher titled, “TIMELESS — Trevor Hodgett remembers Rory Gallagher”, with some interesting quotes from John Wilson, Gary Moore, Billy McCoy from the old Belfast group “Just Five”, and Billy Boy Miskimmin from Nine Below Zero and Yardbirds. Trevor Hodgett is a freelance music journalist, and co-wrote with Colin Harper the book Irish Folk, Trad & Blues: A Secret History; indeed, some of the quotes from Taste’s John Wilson found in this latest article are from that book. Sean McGhee, editor of R2 magazine has graciously allowed us to post this article on Shadowplays. Thanks Sean! Be sure to check out R2 magazines presence on the web at:

TIMELESS — Trevor Hodgett remembers Rory Gallagher

There are streets or plazas named after him in Paris, Cork and Dublin; there are theatres named after him in Ballyshannon and Cork; there are, variously, statues,sculptures and plaques commemorating him in Belfast, Dublin and, again, Ballyshannon and Cork; there is an Irish stamp depicting him; and there are annual festivals in his honour in Japan, Holland, Germany, Norway, Greece and Ireland.

And yet Rory Gallagher, in a recording career that began with Taste in the late 60s and lasted until his death in 1995, never had a hit single in the UK or America, only had one Top Ten album in the UK and none at all in America, and spent most of his career playing modestly-sized theatres, concert halls and clubs.

So how did a musician who commercially had an unexceptional career, who didn’t have big-selling records and who didn’t draw huge crowds, move people to the extent that there are few rock musicians who have had more memorials created in their honour or who are remembered with as much love?

Joe Bonamassa, speaking to this writer in 2008, captured the essence of Gallagher’s appeal: “When I listen to his music I hear a guy doing it for the right reasons. He had no pretense, he was just a guitar player and he loved the blues and he loved rock and he loved to entertain. There was no put-together show, it was just like he walked up there dressed like everybody in the audience and just killed it and walked off and would have a beer with anybody and talk to anybody. Those are things I could relate to – I grew up with people around me looking and acting like that so that’s why I love Rory Gallagher.”

Photo: Bob Hewitt

Gallagher was born in Ballyshannon in the Irish Republic in 1948 but spent most of his childhood in Cork. He became a professional musician in 1963 with The Fontana showband, who later changed their name to The Impact, playing the Irish ballroom circuit but also in Germany, England and Spain. “One night I heard Muddy Waters on the radio and it changed my life,” he once said. Forming Taste with Eric Kitteringham (bass) and Norman D’Amery (drums) enabled him to concentrate on the blues he loved.

When Just Five, a band from Belfast, the Irish city with the strongest blues scene, arrived in Cork for a gig minus guitarist Tiger Taylor, a local recommended Gallagher as a dep. The liaison proved significant for Gallagher. “He played guitar and harmonica with us and the band went down great,” recalls Just Five’s other guitarist Billy McCoy. “I asked him did he fancy coming to Belfast and joining the band but he said he was committed to Taste.” Soon, however, Taste themselves moved to Belfast and Gallagher arrived unannounced at McCoy’s door. “He stayed four months – and my mother and sisters wanted to throw me out and keep him because he didn’t drink or smoke and he was really polite and well-brought up and a really nice guy,” laughs

Taste became regulars in Belfast venues like Club Rado and Betty Staff’s. “Rory had the ability to take a song and make it his own,” recalls McCoy. “But it was more him as a person I liked. He was a sound dude, man.” Extraordinarily, another future guitar legend, Gary Moore, who, like Gallagher, died prematurely, in 2011, was also active on the Belfast scene at the same time. “We did loads of gigs together at the Club Rado,” he told me in 2008. “I was only a kid and he was the nicest guy in the world. I really did look up to him. I loved how he played and how graceful he was on stage. He really had the whole thing down. He was brilliant.” Taste were now managed by Eddie Kennedy who, in what many saw as a Machiavellian, divide-and-rule manoeuvre, replaced Kitteringham and D’Amery with local musicians John Wilson (drums) and Richard ‘Charlie’ McCracken (bass). Wilson and McCracken were, nevertheless, undoubtedly phenomenal players.

“The music would have been blues-based but there was lots of improvising and Rory’s inventiveness was endless,” Wilson enthuses of the new Taste.

He was, however, dissatisfied with their studio albums, Taste (1969) and On The Boards (1970). “There was never any thought put into them,” he sighs. “It was straight in and straight out. No overdubbing or nothing.”

Gallagher, an Ornette Coleman fan, occasionally doubled on alto sax. “There’s a fearlessness a lot of Irish musicians have so, yeah, there were gigs where he produced the alto much to the amazement of the masses,” says Wilson.

Rory Defender
Photo from Defender album cover shoot – 1987

Wilson remembers Gallagher’s abstemiousness: “Rory did virtually no drinking at all – maybe just the odd beer. Drugs? No, no. All Rory was into was playing and writing and exploring all kinds of music. He would have spent a lot of time on his own. He wasn’t a recluse; he just liked doing his own thing.”

Billy McCoy uses virtually the same phrase of Gallagher: “He just did his own thing. I don’t know why he never had any serious relationships with females but that was just Rory. He was incredibly shy.”

Tensions began to emerge in Taste that divided the band. “Rory realised that something did not smell right [financially],” recalls Wilson, “but Charlie and me couldn’t believe that [our manager], somebody from Belfast, could do that sort of thing.”

A feature of Taste’s gigs was Gallagher, mid-song, standing beside one or other of his colleagues, ostentatiously exhorting them to ever-greater intensity. With bad feeling over the band’s finances poisoning relationships, an irritated Wilson once lashed out with a drum stick, breaking, according to legend, Gallagher’s strings. “Well, I wouldn’t have broken any strings but the guitar may have gone out of tune,” concedes Wilson. “Which meant that Charlie and me would have had to play on our own!”

The band, seemingly on the verge of superstardom, broke up acrimoniously. “That nearly finished Rory,” says his brother Donal, Taste’s roadie. “He could have come out of Taste and hung his guitar up. Depression set in that it had all gone so horribly wrong.”

Donal found himself, incrementally, taking over management responsibilities which he then carried out for the rest of Rory’s career. As a solo artist Gallagher initially thrived with a backing band in which bassist Gerry McAvoy featured for twenty years.

“Even though he was playing blues you could hear some Irish-ness within that and he created his own style,” declares McAvoy. “He was a fantastic musician and an absolute gentleman. But he was very insular, a loner. He liked his own time.”

In the 70s, the bloodiest years of the Troubles, when many artists refused to play in Belfast, Gallagher’s regular visits were thrilling events. Bill Miskimmin, who later played harmonica with Nine Below Zero and The Yardbirds, remembers Gallagher’s Belfast gigs vividly: “I saw him many times in the Ulster Hall. I remember the anticipation and everybody dressed like Rory in checked shirts and jeans, with long hair

“The music was absolutely brilliant and the atmosphere was crazy. There were so many people the floor would be undulating – it actually gave in one time. Fabulous, fabulous, fabulous concerts.”

Rory with Debbie Harry, Bottom Line, New York, 1979 (Photo: Mick Rock)

Arguably Gallagher’s music became less adventurous after Taste but his fans lapped up albums like Blueprint and Tattoo (both 1973). His music did move away from blues, however, and albums such as Photo-finish (1978) had more of a hard rock sound.

But by the mid-80s, Gallagher, unexpectedly, had begun to falter, suffering from assorted phobias and neuroses. He had also, belatedly, begun drinking heavily

His old Belfast pal Billy McCoy noticed the change. “The last time he played the Ulster Hall I went to
the dressing room,” he says. “He was pacing up and down and he never spoke to me and I says, ‘Hey, boy, what’s wrong?’ And he says, ‘I always get really nervous before I go on.’

“We went back to the Europa Hotel that night. He had hit the bottle by then and we drank until four in the morning. [Before] he would have sat with a Coke.”

Donal denies that alcohol was Rory’s downfall: “He had problems, like he was a very nervous flier and he was on medication to calm him down. And the medication built up considerably and made a very active person, mentally and physically, draw back. He certainly had a drink
problem but medication was the poison that damaged his liver.”

Latterly Gallagher lived in a hotel, rather than in his own home, which seems sad. “I felt he was a lonely person,” explains Donal. “He was used to touring and hotel life and he wasn’t domesticated whatsoever, as regards simple things like laundry or eating and cooking, so I thought maybe the best situation for him was a hotel.”

Donal believes also that Gallagher’s failure to achieve the success his musicianship deserved disillusioned him: “He was popular but the record company weren’t getting the record sales up to match and he felt the effort he was putting in wasn’t being seen.

“I remember him going through his teenage years, completely obsessed, blanking out any interaction with friends other than people in the band. And through his twenties it was a complete vocation to him. And then when you’re in your thirties you say, ‘I’ve given it everything and it’s not giving me back, recording-wise at any rate, the recognition.’”

Gary Moore also witnessed Rory’s disillusionment. “Poor old Rory,” he sighed when we spoke in 2008. “He was living in the Conrad Hotel in London and I sat with him in the bar one night and he was drinking pints of Baileys. We sat up half the night and had a nice chat but he was in a bad way. He had eczema on his body and was very stressed out about the music business and upset about the way it had all gone.”

With Rory’s health and mental state ever more precarious Donal felt he was better off touring. “When he was off the road he was an absolute disaster,” he says. “He didn’t have a family around him and he couldn’t cope on his own. But on the road I could keep an eye on what he was eating and drinking.”

Rory was evidently so obsessed with music that it’s hard to imagine him indulging in the normal social niceties like chatting about family or remembering people’s birthdays. Donal agrees: “Yeah, absolutely. Anything in the arts – cinema, theatre, writers – you could discuss with Rory. And politics. He was extremely well-read. He’d get a few newspapers every day and in America, no matter what State you were in, he’d know the name of the Governor, the party in power, what the dirty laundry was.

“But I don’t know that you’d have personal conversations with him. I mean, we’d have conversations about my mother’s well-being. Would she be better off living closer to us? And he’d go, ‘I’ll leave that to you.’”

Having said that, Donal then laughingly remembers seeing another side of his brother when Bob Dylan visited Rory in his dressing room at the 1994 Montreux Festival: “The whole conversation was about Dylan’s kids! Rory knew what they were all up to. And I thought, ‘Hang on, this is a conversation you should be having with me.’”

Donal recalls how demanding Rory was: “He’d ring at two in the morning and say, ‘Do you fancy going to eat?’

“And he didn’t like anything too structured. You’d say, ‘We need to book an American tour,’ and he’d say, ‘Oh, don’t even tell me.’ And then he’d hold you to ransom. A week from the tour he’d say, ‘Well I never said I’d do it.’”

Rory died on 14 June 1995, aged forty-seven, from complications following a liver transplant. Many of his peers were devastated. Jack Bruce, for one, said to me soon afterwards, “It really got to me when Rory died. That was a great loss. Just very sad. I don’t know what happened because at one time he was spoken of in the same breath as the greats and he deserved to be, but for whatever reason he went out of the public eye a bit.”

Rory & Jack Bruce at the Rockpalast in Cologne, Germany in 1990

Since his brother’s death, Donal has managed Rory’s legacy diligently. Initially various of his albums were reissued with Tony Arnold remixes. More recently they have been remastered by Donal’s son Daniel Gallagher, using the original mixes, and reissued again.

And new Gallagher albums have been created including the acoustic Wheels Within Wheels and Notes From San Francisco, a remixed version of an album that Rory had recorded in 1977/’78 and then rejected.

Donal still winces recalling Rory vetoing the original album: “We were in Los Angeles and Chrysalis had brought in representatives from every State. I went to Rory’s room [for] the acetate to play for these guys and he said, ‘No, I’m not happy with it.’

“I said, ‘Look, I’ve got to face these executives,’ and lifted the acetate and he pulled it out of my hand and binned it.

“And I remember getting really angry. I said, ‘These people are going to barbecue me. I’m so angry I could break your leg.’ And I stormed out and had to go and talk my way out of that one.”

The album had been recorded in San Francisco and seeing The Sex Pistols at the Winterland on a night off had influenced Rory. “Rory got off on the ethos of punk,” says Donal. “It was about getting on stage and letting rip, the ethos of rock’n’roll itself.

“So he went out of curiosity, and later he said, ‘I don’t know whether it was one of the best gigs or worst gigs I’ve ever seen!’ But it certainly gave him a thrill.

“And he then had a desire to switch back to keeping [his music] simple and rocking. In the studio [producer] Elliot Mazer had had him layering guitars, which wasn’t entirely Rory’s thing, so when we went back to the album we dispensed with a lot of the layers of guitar.”

Chris Barber presenting award to Rory for most appearances at Reading Festival

Gallagher’s music has stood the test of time. It has been admired for decades not only by legions of fans but also by his rock star peers. But it is desperately troubling that a man who made so many others happy, who was seemingly liked by all who knew him, apparently couldn’t find happiness himself, could find so little meaning, so little to satisfy him, offstage.

Guitarist Andy Powell, of contemporaries Wishbone Ash, offers an insightful perspective on Gallagher’s sad demise: “Sometimes musicians mortgage everything in life to music and Rory was one of those guys. You do have to be passionate, you do have to be single-minded but you do need to live as well. You do need to open yourself to life. Then you’ll get longevity.”

  • Some John Wilson quotes here are from Irish Folk, Trad & Blues: A Secret History by Colin Harper and Trevor Hodgett.
  • Photos of Rory in the article provided by Donal Gallagher, Rory’s brother and road manager
Facebook Comments Box
Share on Facebook

4 responses so far

Jun 24 2015

A History of Irish Music by Larry Kirwan — Chapter 9

Published by under prose

History of Irish Music by Larry Kirwan

Larry Kirwan, is an expatriate Irishman from County Wexford who has made New York his home for the past 30 years. Leader of the recently disbanded Celtic Punk band Black 47, a mainstay in the New York City music scene, Larry hosts his show ‘Celtic Crush’ on Sirius radio, and writes a weekly column for the Irish Echo. He is a prolific writer of plays, musicals, and books, including the highly regarded Green Suede Shoes. His latest offering, A History of Irish Music is a must reading for anyone interested in Irish music culture.

“From Wexford town to New York, from folk to punk/new wave, from the fervour of youth to the consideration of maturity, from politics to polemics, Larry Kirwan invests his subjective view of Irish music with a keen eye for detail and a deft turn of phrase.” — Tony Clayton-Lea Irish Times music critic

Of particular interest is Larry’s chapter devoted to Irish legendary guitarist and singer Rory Gallagher. Larry has kindly allowed the posting of this chapter on my blog. Thanks Larry! You can purchase the book on, Amazon, and other major outlets.

  1. Black 47 Merchandise Shop
  2. A History of Irish Music – Amazon

A History of Irish Music by Larry Kirwan — Chapter 9

Let’s leave Donal Lunny for a while – never an easy task when dealing with Irish music – but I want to backtrack and deal with someone who’s rarely considered a Celtic artist yet is fundamental to any understanding of modern Ireland and the music that has sprung from it. He was born in Ballyshannon in County Donegal but moved to Cork City in his early years. He may have been the most thrilling guitarist I’ve ever seen – he was definitely the most consistent and passionate. His name was Rory Gallagher.


Hey Rory, you’re off to London
Playin’ the blues with a band called Taste
Gonna hit the big time?
You better – you’re the best
On your night you could even leave
Hendrix in the dust

I want to thank you for what you did
No more messin’ with the Kid

Hero came back to Dublin
The only one sober we’re all out of our heads
Long hair flyin’
Blue denims drippin’ with sweat
Volts of lightnin’ in your fingers
Pride of bein’ the best

(Larry Kirwan)        

Does that song seem bittersweet with a whole dollop of regret, and not a little sorrow wrapped around it? Well, that’s how I feel about Rory when I recall the love and energy he injected into each of his shows. Most of the time, though, when I hear his recordings I just get swept up in the excitement and pride we Irish felt in this force of nature – “old son,” as we fondly called him. When he’d walk offstage dripping in sweat, his long hair streaming down his denim jacket, we’d begin to bawl out to the rafters:

Nice one, Rory, nice one, son
Nice one, Rory, let’s have another one

Of course, we knew he’d be back on stage within minutes playing a number of encores and even upping the ante on the drive, creativity and showmanship that he’d already have doled out over an explosive couple of hours. But there was always the chance that some dumb-ass promoter might not want to pay overtime to his staff and bring the house lights up. If that happened we’d know full well that our hero would never play there again, for Rory Gallagher never allowed anyone to get in the way of the three-way bond between himself, his music and his audience.

Rory was another showband alumnus – his was The Fontana, Van’s The Monarchs; though showbands provided a great grounding in music, the key was to jump ship before you became stuck in their inevitably soul destroying, imitative groove.

My friend, the musicologist Jack O’Leary, once a sailor on British Rail Ferries between Ireland and the UK, recalls Rory and Taste departing Cork for London in 1968 to take a shot at the big time. The young band was pretty much unknown in Ireland. I was already a fan though I’d never heard Taste – my closest association was gazing in awe at a signed picture of the band in a Cork City chipper.

It didn’t take long for Taste to get notice in guitar-crazy London where the big three were Clapton, Beck and Page. Initially what made Rory stand out was his work ethic. The man just loved to play. He’s sold 30 million albums now, but stick to his live CDS; I don’t believe he was ever really captured at this best in the studio – that puts him in the revered company of Marley, Springsteen, and many other great performers. Apparently, while recording he was self-doubting, over-meticulous and a second-guesser non-paralleled. But onstage, he was a force of nature, living totally in the moment and, to my mind anyway, bolts of lightning did flow through his fingers. It was as if he was fighting for his life the minute he strode across that stage and tuned up.

Then again, I was such a fan, his tuning up sounded good to me! But his voice too set him apart from the big three. Rory could sing the hell out of anything – particularly if the tune had some connection to the Blues. His singing was raucous, pleading, passionate and strident, and yet there was tenderness behind it, a link to his own self-doubt, perhaps. Like all the really great performers he was touched either by some divine spirit or something fierce and feral within himself. It would have been hard not to get swept up in the torrent of inspired notes and cries that he unleashed from the stage. Talk about breaking down the fourth wall – Rory vaporized it. I brought many people to see him over the years, some were skeptical on the way in – all were converted and dazed on the way out. Only a supremely ironic and detached individual could resist what that man let loose at audiences. I’m sure there were some such souls, but I never met any.

Rory performing Bullfrog Blues on the French “Chorus” show in 1980

He once approached me in the Television Club in Dublin. He had won some award that night but yet had no assistant, entourage or anything of the like. It had to be the early 1970’s. I was slouching against a wall, shy and unsure of myself in the midst of all the celebration. I thought I might be hallucinating for suddenly he was heading straight towards me in his own shy off-stage manner. He must have mistaken me for some red haired guy from his hometown for he nodded kindly and asked me if he could cadge a lift back to Cork. I was so dumbfounded I didn’t know what to say. Whereupon he apologized and said, “Ah, you’re probably not going home, right?”

“No,” said I, “I’m not,” as he turned away, though I felt like running outside, hijacking a car, and driving him to the city on the Lee, just to give a little something back for all the joy he’d given me.

You see Rory was our first homegrown international star. He was like one of the lads – you could never accuse Van of that. Besides, Mr. Morrison was from Northern Ireland. Many people from the Republic were beginning to learn a lot more about the North than they wished. Van hadn’t a sectarian bone in his body but, though undoubtedly Irish, he had grown up in a very different culture. Rory was one of us, and we took enormous pride in him. We didn’t have a whole lot else; our national soccer team was a joke and the rest of the world didn’t play hurling, but now we had a guitarist/vocalist who could take on the best: “On your night you could even leave Hendrix in the dust.”

We did have Joyce and Yeats, but they’d both been dead a long time; meanwhile up the highway the North was careening from one atrocity to the next. The very centre had caved in big time, and old Willie Yeats’ blood-dimmed tide had well and truly broken its banks. Years of British refusal to deal with overt sectarianism had come home with the chickens to roost. Rory was the one beacon that lifted us above all that, and every Christmas, no matter how bad the political situation, he did a tour of the country that included Belfast. To top it all, everyone turned out; people who wouldn’t walk down the same side of the street together had to rub shoulders as they rushed towards the stage to be closer to the action.

Rory at the Ulster Hall in 1979
Rory at the Ulster Hall in 1979

He must have known what was going on – must have sensed the danger he was exposing himself to, a lone figure out front of stage soaking up the spotlight. He could scarcely have ignored the British army ringing the Ulster Hall to make sure there were no riots entering or leaving. But Rory was above all that. Music was his god. With the lightning coursing through his fingertips once he hit that stage he didn’t give a goddamn; he was a man possessed and everyone had to suck it up, put aside their politics, preconceptions, hurts, and aspirations. And we did because we wanted to share in the god-given magic that had been bestowed on this slight figure; life was stark enough, who wanted to ruin the few sparks of light that gave us hope in those dark and dangerous days.

Rory looked like us too – he didn’t go in for Hendrix gypsy-vagabond scarves, nor Beck’s velvet or Page’s spandex. No, he wore denim jackets and jeans, plaid shirts and sneakers or work boots in the winter. And, man, did that guy sweat? His very Stratocaster was streaked permanently with the buckets of perspiration that poured off him. And when he sang Blind Boy Fuller’s Pistol Slapper Blues:

You didn’t say you didn’t love me
When you were stretched out on my bed
Drinking moonshine whiskey
And talking’ all out of your head…

Those were the type of women we had in mind for ourselves when we’d finally get to some Mississippi of the soul that we’d always promised ourselves.

Rory seemed to be the only one not out of his head on booze during those shows. The drinking would come later. His brother, Dónal, once told me that Rory would have been better off if he’d started young like the rest of us – would have learned to deal with the condition earlier. There was one show at the National Boxing Stadium in Dublin when our collective alcohol fumes could have made a small nation tipsy – no booze was sold inside the hall so you had to fortify yourself for two plus hours of abstention before entering. I can’t remember the name of the song, but one audience member was so moved he shimmied up a pole onto a narrow beam and began to edge his way unsteadily over to the stage.

Rory was in the midst of a long solo and was the only person in the hall unaware of this lunatic escapade. The bouncers looked on in amazement – for once none of them willing to follow the perpetrator and kick the shit out of him. Eventually, when the aerialist realized he stood a better chance of joining Rory by rushing the stage, he shimmied on back down another pole and was positively dumbfounded to be turfed out on his arse. That was the effect this Cork guitar slinger had on his audience.

Rory at Dublin National Stadium in 1978

Although Rory was known more for his Stratocaster playing, he was a stunning acoustic guitarist and mandolin player. The Blues with its basic honesty of expression was Rory’s foundation, yet you could feel him edging towards Irish traditional music. He often spoke of his interest in the genre in interviews and he became good friends with Ronnie Drew of the Dubliners. There are videos of his last European tour in 1994 when he plays a riveting version of She Moves =Through The Fair. You can tell he had a great appreciation for the playing of Bert Jansch and Davey Graham. Perhaps even more revealing is his rendition of the old tune Dan O’Hara as you feel him meld the Irish Trad influence with a Lead Belly swing.

Irish composer Sean Ó Riada

It makes you wonder where Rory would have ended up musically. It’s not outside the bounds of possibility that he would have tackled some of the compositions of another Cork blow-in, Sean Ó Riada, and worked his considerable magic on them. Regardless of all his rock and blues influences, I’ve always considered Rory a Celtic musician – even a Celtic warrior in ways, for he took all the passion and melancholy of the irish psyche and wove it into his music, and left behind a testament of what one man with a huge should can achieve with a guitar.

Rory’s sudden death was like a kick in the head. I had heard rumors about his drinking and it was obvious that he had gained a lot of weight. I suppose all this makes sense now; overmedication and an ease of access to prescription drugs are a large part of our culture (if you don’t believe me, take a look in your medicine cabinet). All that aside, it just didn’t make sense to me – Rory was always the clean one while the rest of us were out of our skulls. It ust didn’t seem fair. I had also missed his last show in New York. I was on the road with Black47. I had never missed a local one before. Now there would be no more shows – no more moments when I’d soar to the seat-stained strings of Rory’s guitar. It was like a curtain closing behind me.

Ich gehe nicht zu den Stones

Like many, I was outraged by the showbiz banality of the obituaries in the American press. Their main point seemed to be that Rory had missed his chance – The Rolling Stones had considered him as a replacement for Mick Taylor, but Rory had either turned down the gig or hadn’t passed Mick’s muster. You gotta be kidding me! The Stones missed Rory way more than he ever missed them. He would never have allowed them to turn into a self-referential tribute band, and don’t get me wrong, I love the Stones and pretty much every song in their pre-1979 back catalogue. But what a difference Rory would have made to this great band. He could have single-handedly revived their creative spark. Imagine Keef trying to keep up with this bluesy dynamo? What a power duo they would have made. Talk about intertwining rhythm and lead lines – they were born for each other.

And think of the effect he would have had on Jagger – they could have reinvented the Blues together. But Rory knew better than to join. He wasn’t the type to be nailed to the floor in someone else’s tradition. Nah, he was on a different mission. He knew what he was after and those of us who were lucky enough to be uplifted by his presence at one of his thousands of gigs count ourselves blessed. How often do you get to see streaks of lightning shooting out of someone’s fingertips? In the end, it was like losing a real close friend: you’re left with the memories and the ultimate question, what if?

What the hell happened, head?
Where did the lightnin’ go?
Did it burn right through your fingers
To the cockles of your soul?
Leavin’ you stranded
A million miles away from the rest of us …

I want to thank you for what you did
No more messin’ with the Kid
So long, old son, that’s it
No more messin’ with the kid

      (Larry Kirwan)

Larry Kirwan reads an excerpt about Rory Gallagher from Victor Zimet on Vimeo.

You can purchase Larry Kirwan’s A History of Irish Music on his website –, or, or any number of major outlets.

  1. Black 47 Merchandise Shop
  2. A History of Irish Music – Amazon
Facebook Comments Box
Share on Facebook

2 responses so far

« Prev - Next »