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What Was Rory Gallagher Really Like?

March 22, 2012
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The past year has let loose a deluge of bliss for Rory Gallagher fans, as his brother Donal and nephew Daniel have guided not only a complete reboot of the late guitar legend’s entire catalog, but the duo have also unearthed lost recordings (Notes from San Francisco), released ferocious concert footage on DVD, and assembled a lesson book/CD (Play Guitar with Rory Gallagher) that lets you sit in with Rory’s actual band, or even Rory himself (via original master recordings). Here, the family members share some personal insights about Rory for GP readers.

He Wasn’t No One-Trick Pony

“Rory was a phenomenal guitar player,” says Daniel, “but it’s often overlooked that he was a fantastic and prolific songwriter, a great singer, a multi-instrumentalist, and a producer.”

“Rory was also an enormous reader and quite a good artist,” adds Donal. “He would constantly draw people—particularly musicians.”

He Came to Play

“He loved being on stage,” says Daniel. “It always seemed like he wanted to play for another hour or more. On a gig in Germany in 1986, the support band didn’t show up, so Rory simply played their slot, and then performed his headline slot. I always felt sorry for his band [laughs]. Rory got his stamina from playing all night in show bands when he was starting out. But I don’t know about the rest of the band. I think they just had to keep up.”

“A promoter in Los Angeles once told me, ‘Your brother doesn’t threaten me with not going on stage—like every other band,” says Donal. “He threatens me with not coming off.”

He Was Relentless

“In the studio, he always had in his head what the perfect take would be, and he’d go after it with a fury,” relates Daniel. “Early on, it was very much about getting a live sound in the studio. In fact, he often liked to go straight from a gig into the studio and start recording. He was tireless, for sure, but he also wanted to get tracks down when the band was hot.”

He Worked Hard to Hit the Road Again

“He wrote and recorded songs so fast because he hated not being on the road,” says Daniel. “He’d write down song ideas on scraps of paper while on tour. We have so many books of lyrics and scribbles! When he got home to Ireland, he’d pull all the scraps together and give himself two weeks to write the next album. I think he approached songwriting as a means to get himself back on the road.”

He Was Crafty

“Once, some of the guys in his show band lost the faith, and Rory went to Germany with just himself, the bass player, and the drummer—even though the contract was for a six-piece band,” remembers Donal. “He told the club owner the other three guys caught the flu, and needed a week to recover back in London, but he didn’t want to let him down, so he came with a trio. Seven days later, the club owner caught up with Rory and asked, ‘Those other guys are never going to come, are they?’ Luckily, by that time, Rory was really bringing the crowds in, and the club was doing quite well.”

He Was Committed

“Rory had the artistic gene—a compulsion to create art,” says Donal. “Music was an obsession. But this was at the divorce of everything else. There was a slight imbalance there with Rory. What he got from one hand was taken away by the other.”

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