Rory Gallagher Was the Workingman's Hero
Rory Gallagher's Enduring Fan Base
The second wave of bands from the UK, usually on their first US tour, would always make it a point of booking The Whisky, wanting to add their names to the list of prominent artists that have graced its stage over the decades. I was reminded of this recently when a friend, touring Cork, Ireland, sent me a link to the Rory Gallagher Music Library as a tribute to one of Ireland's most gifted and influential musicians, a national hero with an adoring international fan base that few artists achieve during their lifetime.
Rory released his first solo album in May, 1971, yet most of his fans already knew of his guitar playing prowess as the founder of Taste, a popular Irish band from the late '60s. What I liked about Rory was his absolute mastery of the Stratocaster. For me, there was no one finer. Nothing fancy. His Strat, a treble boost and an old Fender tweed. Like all the other accomplished masters, no need for a second guitarist. With his fluid runs and and innovative rhythm, all he needed was a solid drummer and a driving bass player to deliver an outstanding performance. He crossed national borders with his fan base, and he was loved worldwide for his workingman approach to music and his thorough understanding of the Blues.
Rory Gallagher Plays the Whisky 1972
In high school, I was fortunate enough to score one of the most coveted jobs in LA at the time, Records LTD. Thanks to the distribution connections the ex-pat British owner had, we became the sole importer of English LPs in the US. With their 140-gram weight, glossy, sometimes different cover art and alternative tracks, they quickly became in-demand by collectors worldwide. Back then, without the Internet, musical news from overseas traveled slowly, however since we also imported Melody Maker magazine (unavailable anywhere in LA) we were still up on the latest releases, tours and super-groups that would be coming to town.
One of those performers was Rory Gallagher who played The Whisky on October 4th, 1972. Needless to say, his two sets were phenomenal. He was a performer who gave it all to his fans every night. He seemed to draw that extra energy from the audience and that special fall evening in Hollywood was no exception. However, what really made it special was meeting Rory in person and buying him a beer between sets. There was a dedicated group of friends of mine that would cruise over the Canyon from Van Nuys to catch all these great shows at the The Whisky. Guy Shiffman (Guy Mann-Dude) and Kevin DuBrow were with me that evening. Rory could not have been nicer, mingling at the bar, blending in with his flannel shirt and Levi’s. No “Rock Star” airs about him. An incredible memory.
Rory Gallagher and Muddy Waters
The old masters loved him as well. Muddy Waters insisted that along with all the “Rock Stars” recruited for his London Sessions LP, that Rory was to be included. I love this story related by his brother Donal about these sessions and how due to Rory's popularity and his 4th encore of the night, he almost missed working with one of his all-time idols.
“In the end, it must have been after 11pm when we got to the session. Rory thought, ‘I’m going to be fired from this,’ and he was getting, ‘You’ve only yourself to blame,’ sort of thing [from me]. But when he got in the door, Muddy just poured out a glass of champagne for him. Rory was all apologetic, but Muddy was saying, ‘That’s what musicians do. They work at night time. So, don’t worry about it. Relax. I want you to enjoy the session.’ He was so genial and polite, and no pressure whatsoever, you know.”
My Favorite Rory Gallagher Videos
There are many videos that represent Rory's connection with his fans. I love this one showing what appears to be a pretty sedate audience in Montreux turning in to absolute raving maniacs by the end of the song – they loved him.
The Fender Custom Shop Rory Gallagher Signature Stratocaster
In 2004, Fender, with Donal's guidance, created the Rory Gallagher Custom Shop Stratocaster modeled along specs from his 1961 workhorse. Painstakingly authentic down to the replacement of the low E tuner with a Gotoh when a suitable Sperzel couldn't be located while on a tour. Occasionally, these show up in the Pure Vintage Marketplace, but not very often. I sold one of these Custom Shop models to a fan in France back in 2011. He went to great lengths to tell me about his wonderful chance encounter with Rory in Paris in 1972 and why this custom shop model meant so much to him. “I'll never sell it”, he told me. That's Rory's enduring international fan base.