Rory Gallagher: Irish Guitar Maestro

Rory Gallagher

Rory Gallagher

The much-admired Irish guitar maestro Rory Gallagher, is a player whose fans include Johnny Marr, The Edge and Brian May.

William Rory Gallagher; 2 March 1948 – 14 June 1995) was an Irish blues-rock multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and bandleader. Born in Ballyshannon, County Donegal, and raised in Cork, Gallagher recorded solo albums throughout the 1970s and 1980s, after forming the band Taste during the late 1960s. He was a talented guitarist known for his charismatic performances and dedication to his craft. Gallagher’s albums have sold in excess of 30 million copies worldwide.

Gallagher received a liver transplant in 1995, but died of complications later that year in London, UK at the age of 47.

First coming to notice with Cork’s blues-rockers Taste in the late ’60s, his solo recording career started in earnest in 1971 with the release of his reflective, self-titled debut. Running concurrently with the hard-gigging guitarist’s incessant touring – including, of course, his fondly-recalled stop-offs in Belfast as The Troubles raged – his discography would include such outstanding works as Irish Tour ’74, Calling Card and Live In Europe. Sadly, Gallagher would die in 1995, but thanks to his estate, archival sets have continued to sate fans’ appetites with such packages as 1999’s BBC Sessions and 2013’s hard boiled graphic novel/album package Kickback City.

Influences he discovered, and cited as he progressed, included Woody Guthrie, Big Bill Broonzy, and Lead Belly. Initially, Gallagher struck out after just an acoustic sound. Singing and later using a brace for his harmonica, Gallagher taught himself to play slide guitar. Further, throughout the next few years of his musical development, Gallagher began learning to play alto saxophone, bass, mandolin, banjo, and the coral sitar with varying degrees of proficiency. By his mid-teens, he began experimenting heavily with different blues styles.

In 2003, Wheels Within Wheels, a collection of acoustic tracks, was released posthumously by Gallagher’s brother Donal Gallagher. Collaborators on this album included Bert Jansch, Martin Carthy, The Dubliners, Spanish flamenco guitarist Juan Martin and Lonnie Donegan.

Many modern day musicians, including The Edge from U2, Slash of Guns N’ Roses, Johnny Marr of the Smiths, Davy Knowles, Janick Gers of Iron Maiden, James Dean Bradfield of Manic Street Preachers, Glenn Tipton of Judas Priest, Vivian Campbell of Def Leppard, Gary Moore and Joe Bonamassa, cite Gallagher as an inspiration in their formative musical years.

Brian May, lead guitarist of Queen, relates: “so these couple of kids come up, who’s me and my mate, and say ‘How do you get your sound Mr. Gallagher?’ and he sits and tells us. So I owe Rory Gallagher my sound.” In 2010, Gallagher was ranked No. 42 on’s List of their Top 50 Guitarists of All Time. Gallagher was also listed on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time, ranked at 57th place.

And here, if you’re in need of inspiration, is a powerful dose of the man himself…


Rory Gallagher – Shadow Play – TV Show Germany


Rory Gallagher –  The Beat Club Sessions – 1971-1972


Rory Gallagher – 1976 – Live at Rockpalast (Cologne)