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Rory Gallagher

Born in Ireland in 1948, Gallagher was a self-taught prodigy who acquired his initial love of the blues from the recordings of Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly.

At fifteen Rory joined a showband, touring Ireland, and also playing in Spain as well as a few gigs in England.

“I was playing guitar and singing. You know, doing my stuff. We used to do Chuck Berry, and it was alright to do that as long as we did Jim Reeves as well.”

After paying his dues on the showband circuit, Gallagher formed a trio called Taste in 1965.


Taste went from strength to strength, building up a huge live following and becoming very big all over Europe.

Following their acclaimed second album, On The Boards (1970), and a powerful performance at the Isle of Wight festival the same year, the group was poised to follow in the footsteps of the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Cream.

But poor management contributed to an acrimonious split, instilling in Gallagher a deep-seated loathing of the business.

As a solo act, Gallagher rejected the star-making process, concentrating instead on performing his beloved blues-based rock & roll.

He always looked more like a roadie than a rock star in his stage gear of work shirt and blue jeans. Likewise, his favourite Stratocaster had half the paintwork worn off – but he played it so well that The Rolling Stones invited him to audition after Mick Taylor left in 1974

Gallagher declined – he was happy doing his own thing, and his blistering technique and loner temperament made him a singularly unsuitable candidate.

Instead, he poured his heart and soul into doing what he loved best – touring to sold-out arenas and never turning out a bad album – until early in 1995 when, at the age of 47, his health failed him.

rory_53In March 1995 Gallagher underwent a successful liver transplant but suffered subsequent complications triggered by chest infections and, ultimately, pneumonia. He died in a London hospital on 14 June 1995.

He had been unwell for years, but there were still numerous unfulfilled projects in the air when Rory Gallagher died. A Taste reunion, for a peace concert in Belfast, had already been agreed; a recording date with Bob Dylan had been arranged, with Dylan wanting to record Gallagher’s Could Have Had Religion with the main man on guitar.

Dylan was Gallagher’s songwriting hero – the last books he read were Dylan biographies, given to him at the hospital by Mark Feltham – and it would have overwhelmed him to find, as Donal did subsequently, that Dylan already owned all of Rory’s albums.

In the centre of Cork City, pedestrianised and bustling with activity, there is a pleasant little square called Rory Gallagher Place. Off to one side is a stone and copper sculpture in memory of the city’s 20th-century hero; just around the corner is the art college where he took night classes in painting, fitting it in around the showband.

On the corner of McCurtain Street, where he lived, there’s a bar called Gallagher’s. It’s fleetingly but significantly referred to in Roddy Doyle’s The Commitments (1991).