Watch Rory Gallagher Define Classic Blues Rock Stratocaster Tone

Rory Gallagher
(Image credit: Fin Costello/Redferns)

In this mesmerizing video of Taste’s 1970 performance at the UK’s Isle of Wight Festival Rory Gallagher demonstrates why he is still regarded as one of the greatest guitar players that ever lived.

Stratocaster tones don’t come much purer than this. Performing the blues standard "Sugar Mama" using just his 1961 Fender Strat plugged into a Vox AC30 via a Dallas Rangemaster, Gallagher explores the whole gamut of classic blues rock Stratocaster tones from sparkling clean-up to biting saturation.

Rory Gallagher's Vox AC30 amp, Dallas Rangemaster booster, and 1961 sunburst Fender Stratocaster

Rory Gallagher's Vox AC30 amp, Dallas Rangemaster booster, and 1961 sunburst Fender Stratocaster (Image credit: Future)

With a huge palette of sounds available at his fingertips courtesy of his Stratocaster’s volume knob (a much-underexplored approach these days!) Gallagher’s performance is the epitome of raw expression and a masterclass in playing dynamics.

Introduced to the burgeoning transistor-based electric guitar effects market of the mid ‘60s as a ‘treble booster’ by London’s Dallas Musical Ltd the Rangemaster was originally intended to brighten up darker-sounding British guitar amplifiers. Working in tandem with the amp, the Rangemaster drives its front end while shaping the EQ, adding treble, midrange and a unique grittiness.

Ex-Rory Gallagher Dallas Rangemaster booster unit

This Dallas Rangemaster booster unit once belonged to Rory Gallagher (Image credit: Future)

In this clip, Gallagher’s famous ’61 Strat appears with substantially more of its sunburst finish intact (although even at this stage it would certainly fall into the ‘heavy relic’ camp!) 

For many a player, this guitar represents their favorite Stratocaster specs, including a ‘mint green’ nitrate pickguard (1959-1965) and ‘slab’ rosewood fretboard (1959-1962).

Close-up of Rory Gallagher's 1961 sunburst Fender Stratocaster

Rory Gallagher's 1961 Fender Stratocaster features a 'mint green' nitrate 'guard and 'slab' rosewood fingerboard. (Image credit: Future)

Taste were originally formed in 1966 in Cork, Ireland, by Gallagher along with bassist Eric Kitteringham and drummer Norman Damery. Following the disbandment of the trio’s second line-up as featured in this film (comprising bassist Richard McCracken and drummer John Wilson) Gallagher went on to pursue a successful solo career.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Rory Gallagher’s eponymous 1971 debut album release – an occasion highlighted by an exciting reissue of the original recording. Half a century on and the Irish bluesman’s legacy as a guitarist’s guitarist continues, with Joe Satriani, Joe Bonamassa, and Slash all citing him as a major influence.

Rory Gallagher 50th Anniversary

(Image credit: UMC)

Click here to pre-order your copy of Rory Gallagher’s debut album 50th Anniversary Edition.

Rod Brakes

Rod Brakes is a music journalist with an expertise in guitars. Having spent many years at the coalface as a guitar dealer and tech, Rod's more recent work as a writer covering artists, industry pros and gear includes contributions for leading publications and websites such as GuitaristTotal Guitar, Guitar WorldGuitar Player and MusicRadar in addition to specialist music books, blogs and social media. He is also a lifelong musician.