Feature: Call Collect – An introduction to RORY GALLAGHER

Rory Gallagher’s legacy has been maintained with a raft of posthumous releases including the more recent ‘Blues’ anthology.  Joe Geesin takes up the story.

Rory Gallagher - Isle of Wight 1970

Irish born blues/rock guitarist/vocalist Rory Gallagher made his name in the 70s and 80s, and is name-checked by many including fellow Irish legends such as Thin Lizzy, Bernie Torme and Gary Moore.

Born in Ballyshannon, Co.Donegal, Rory grew up in Cork, and first started playing guitar aged 9. His first love was skiffle, after hearing Lonnie Donegan, it was Donegan’s blues covers that peaked Rory’s interests and he would listen to the likes of Muddy Waters, Woody Guthrie and Lead Belly, later teaching himself to play slide guitar.

After spending most of the 60s playing in showbands, beat and r’n'b groups, he formed his own band Taste, a three piece who worked in the UK and Europe, supported Cream and Blind Faith, and released two wonderful studio albums Taste and On The Boards.

They split shortly after their 1970 Isle Of Wight appearance. Two retrospective live albums followed, Live Taste and Live At The Isle Of Wight. And these showed, early in Rory’s career, his love of playing on stage, where everything was more fluid and often extended / jammed.
Gerry McAvoy - Giants Of Rock 2020

Gerry McAvoy in 2020

Rory went solo, with bassist Gerry McAvoy and drummer Wilgar Campbell, a line-up that soon became a 4 piece with keyboard player Lou Martin and drummer Rod De’Ath.

A string of classic studio albums followed, standouts including Deuce, Bluepring, Tattoo and Calling Card. Songs like ‘Daughter Of The Everglades’ highlight superb performance, feel, touch, and songwriting, whilst ‘Bullfrog Blues’ showcases blistering balls-to-the-wall blues boogie and rock.  And Rory played some mean slide guitar too.

But was always the stage where Rory excelled. Live In Europe is one hell of a live album, but the magnum opus has to be 2LP Irish Tour ’74.

Recorded over 3 dates, it is compiled superbly, but it is the 8 disc anniversary reissue that rules the roost. The 3 shows complete, 2 discs each, a seventh disc of live material and a DVD of the tour documentary.

I was at the launch show for that set, at the Irish Embassy where the ambassador spoke of Rory’s talents. I spent a while that night talking to blues guitarist Bernie Marsden, as well as Rory’s brother and manager Donal.

A change of line-up and three more albums (2 studio and the classic live Stage Struck) followed with top drummer Ted McKenna (ex SAHB, later MSG). Work in the 80s was more sporadic and 1990′s Fresh Evidence would be his last album in his lifetime, as in the mid 90s he died following complications of a liver transport. Yes he liked a drink.

I saw Rory live at the Irish Centre in Birmingham, late 80s, and few look so happy and relaxed onstage, like he’s playing in his own living room.

Rory lived for playing live, and used it to unite people, contentiously playing Belfast during “The Troubles”.

Wonderful, a full discography that still expands with posthumous releases, and an artist much missed.

Recommended albums
Irish Tour ‘74
Calling Card

Further reading
Album review (Check Shirt Wizard – Live In ’77, 2020)
Album review (Irish Tour’74, boxed set, 2014)

Photography
(ii) David Randall

© 2020  Joe Geesin/GRTR! All rights reserved.

2020 Vision - Rock. Reviewed. Revisited.


David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 20 September 2020.

UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 ( BST, GMT+1) as part of a five hour blues rock marathon “Tuesday is Bluesday at GRTR!”. The show is repeated on Wednesdays at 22:00, Fridays at 20:00). This show was first broadcast 22 September 2020.


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