Asked how it felt to be the
world’s greatest guitarist, Jimi Hendrix
purportedly replied, “I don’t know. Why
don’t you ask Rory Gallagher?” Yet the
Irish ax-slinger, who died in 1995, never
achieved the American fame bestowed on
British blues players like Eric Clapton, Peter
Green, or even Mick Taylor.
You wouldn’t have known that from the
fans who packed Iridium on May 23rd to
celebrate Gallagher’s life and music. They
roundly cheered the discussion panel, which
included Rory’s brother Bob Donal Gallagher,
Ed Christman of Billboard magazine,
producer Elliot Mazer, and Mike Carden,
president of Eagle Rock Entertainment.
Mazer produced a record for Gallagher
in 1977, Notes from San Francisco, which is
only now seeing the light of day thanks to
the evening’s sponsor, Eagle Rock Entertainment.
Mazer explained how a show
they attended together might have had
something to do with its initial abandonment.
“Rory was blown away by the Sex
Pistols. I saw a change in him. He realized
the record we were making was not
exactly that; it had a tremendous amount
of energy but was different than the raw
guitar, bass, and drums records that Rory
had always made,” he related. “At the mastering
session Rory said to me, ‘I don’t like
the hi-hat sound.’ I thought that was odd,
but something we could fix. He walked
out and I never saw him again.” Today, it
is hard to fathom Gallagher’s reaction, as
he was perhaps the wildest, most energetic
performer of all the guitar gods from
across the pond.
The Iridium crowd raucously bonded
with the artists that played after the panel.
The guitarists included Scott Holt (Buddy
Guy), Jim Suhler (George Thorogood), Innes
Sibun (Robert Plant), Jon Paris (Johnny
Winter), Isle of Man wunderkind Davy
Knowles, and others. Their musical tributes
reflected the honoree’s style, often favoring
vigor over finesse. Though both Louis
and Marshall combos graced the stage, all
the guitarists ended up using a Fender Hot
Rod Deluxe, while ripping through Gallagher
classics like “Tattooed Lady” and “A
Million Miles Away.”
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