"Give me a Stratocaster, and I'll move the world"

By Massimo D'Angelo

Archimedes said that he needed ‘a lever long enough, and a fulcrum on which to place it, and he would move the world’. Rory Gallagher only needed a Stratocaster and 6 strings. With that, and a whole lotta love, he revolutionized everything. 

William Rory Gallagher was born on March 2, 1948 in a tiny village called Ballyshannon, County Donegal, north of Ireland, and when he was  just a wee lad, they moved to Cork city, in the south, where he has lived most of his life. So long as he wasn’t on tour. 

The Irishman represents the strongest expression of blues/rock ever born on the island to date. Gallagher joins a long list of guitarists whose addictions -liquor in his case-, took them away from us too soon. 

Gallagher was a good mate  before becoming a guitarist, an example before he became a star. He never wanted to be (perhaps it’s this side of his character that the History of Rock and of Blues never fairly placed him among the gods of this genre). For Rory was a lot of things, but especially a pure humble soul. All he wanted was to play and play well: being critically acclaimed only made him play every day, better and better, until he ate up that Stratocaster from 1961, bought secondhand in 1963 for £100, which already had no varnish or hardly any paint on it, when it was left in its case forever, on the cursed 14 of June, 1995.

 

The Irishman, a fan of folk, rock ‘n roll, skiffle, blues, of Lonnie Donegan, Woody Guthrie and Muddy Waters, among others, gave us a true blues and rock, original, which was -and still is- absolute magic, something delivered with love, eyes shut and a sad smile to the public that filled every dive that was lucky enough to host him.

He was a clubman alright, “to look people in the eyes”, to feel like just one more lad enjoying the music, his blues, “something you’re born to do that’s not learned...it’s just in you.”

Yet, he wasn’t nervous that Friday, 28 of August, 1970 at the Isle of Wight Festival, when he shone with his power-trio Taste in front of 600,000 people. Before him, there was only Buddy Holly in 1957 who dared go on stage with such a ‘small’ band ,The Crickets.  And that’s no coincidence; Buddy Holly was the reason Gallagher wanted a Strat hanging from his shoulder. Trios weren’t in fashion, but became one, in the same year the Irishman joined The Taste, 1966, also gave birth to Cream (Clapton, Baker, Bruce) and the Experience of Jimi Hendrix, Redding, and Mitchell, to name a few. 

As mentioned above, Rory Gallagher was an example of, an approachable fellow, always willing to chat with those who came to see him play and to enjoy the music.

It was in the 60s, when after a gig at the legendary Club Marquee in London, a tall young long-haired dude came over to ask him about his sound, about the magic that flowed from his shitty old guitar, plugged into a VOX AC30 (he changed to the Fender amps in the early 70s) and a treble booster. This sound found love in, and stayed with, a young Brian May forever.  The lead guitarist of Queen recalls that there is a direct link between his Tie Your Mother Down and Morning Sun, or What’s Going On by Gallagher. May learned a great deal from him and his way of playing...but he also learned to “always be a gentleman and have time for people.”

Gallagher was a simple man and remained that way until after having won the award for best international guitarist, championed by the prestigious English mag Melody Maker, on September 30, 1972, dethroning the king Clapton  (winner of the 2 previous editions).
  

That’s what the blues is; the real blues, with no need of useless glitter nor glitzy adornments. The Blues is all about what’s inside and feeling it. Only then can you move the whole world, just like Rory Gallagher did in his blue jeans, plaid shirt, a  shitty old Strat and a Fender amp.  

Photogallery

Find your way to Rory Gallagher sound!