SINCE GARY MOORE’S TRAGIC PASSING ON FEBRUARY 6, 2011, most news items have run some variation on the following: Moore was a guitarist from Belfast who was best known for playing in Thin Lizzy before gaining notoriety as a blues player. Although not untrue, that superficial description doesn’t begin to explain who Gary Moore was, and it ignores the most influential part of his music. In a career that saw him play amazing guitar in several different styles, Moore was not only accepted but also revered by the greatest musicians in those genres. His guitar work has always been characterized by great tone, soulful bends, stinging vibrato, impeccable technique, and an undeniable fire that very few players could ever match.
As a teenager in Ireland, Moore’s first big break came when he joined the band Skid Row. It was there that he met Phil Lynott, with whom he would later work in Thin Lizzy. Skid Row gigs opening for Fleetwood Mac got Moore in front of Peter Green, and their mutual admiration would have a tremendous impact on Moore’s development, career path, song selection, and gear choices. He would go on to play killer, Beck/Hammer-style jazz fusion in Colosseum II. Moore’s 1978 solo release, Back on the Streets, introduced his playing to an even bigger audience, one that included a young Randy Rhoads.
“He loved my tune ‘Parisienne Walkways,’” Moore told GP in 2007. “In fact, he liked that track so much he used the melody for the outro solo to ‘Mr. Crowley.’ Randy definitely got that from me.”
In 1979, Moore would join Thin Lizzy (he had only done some touring and played on a few cuts prior to this). The album that resulted, Black Rose: A Rock Legend, is one of Lizzy’s best and features gorgeous playing by Moore, particularly on the clean-tone pop-rock of “Sarah” and the title track, which shows Moore playing beautiful melodies and then having an absolutely shredding guitar battle with himself— Strat on one side, Les Paul on the other—at the end.
Moore wouldn’t stay with Lizzy long, however, and was soon back to his solo career. His releases Corridors of Power and Victims of the Future raised his stature amongst hard rockers even higher. Monster players such as John Sykes, Vivian Campbell, and George Lynch would all cite Moore as a huge influence during this period (as would younger guitarists like Joe Bonamassa and Gus G a few years later). Moore’s guitar on the Yardbirds’ “Shapes of Things,” in particular, would blow minds all over the world—with a crushing Strat tone and an epic, thematic solo—getting the stamp of approval from Jeff Beck himself.
The ’90s would usher in the blues phase of Moore’s career, which would land him gigs on late-night TV and garner a whole new fan base. His Still Got the Blues and After Hours albums featured guest spots from George Harrison, Albert King, Albert Collins, and B.B. King. He paid tribute to Peter Green (while playing Green’s famous ’59 Les Paul, which Green had sold to him) on Blues for Greeny.
Gary Moore had such an all-encompassing command of the guitar that he could play whatever he wanted, and what he wanted to play was the blues. Despite pleading from fans of his hard rock work, he stuck to his blues guns until the end. And he played the blues the same way he played everything: with guts, passion, and fire. Thanks, Gary.