Rebel With A Guitar
Telefís Eireann Studios, Dublin, April 1965.
Rory Gallagher causes a big upset on Pickin' The Pops, Telefís Eireann's Saturday evening music show, by dropping a pre-arranged Buddy Holly number, Valley of Tears. Instead, he plays a Larry Williams' R&B classic, Slow Down. A panel of guests, invited to predict showband disc hits and misses, is shocked at the sight of a rocker with long hair breaking the rules. The studio audience loves it. "Rory made a great impression," recalls DJ Larry Gogan who succeeded Gay Byrne as compere of the half-hour pop show in '65. "He surprised everybody by doing something completely different. He had a style that was unique. He was one of the people who changed the showband scene."
Gallagher and the Impact band had just made a demo disc of Slow Down in London when they were given a valuable TV spot. It wasn't typical showband material - but neither was Rory. "The Impact rehearsed the Buddy Holly track before going on Pickin' The Pops," recalls his brother, Donal. "The show had a Juke Box Jury element. The panel listened to the latest releases, gave their verdict, and guest showbands came on. The Impact appeared on the same night as a Dublin band, the Young Shadows, a kind of cover version of the Shadows. The emphasis was on showbands. When Rory switched to Slow Down at the last minute, there was a bit of consternation at first. But there wasn't anything anybody could do about it. They said, 'you can't do that sort of thing.' But it was great for viewers who were dying for some rock on television. Instead of listening to the usual dross, Rory got people up from their seats and rocking."
Gallagher had a habit of doing it his way, regardless of convention, in an age when rock was frowned upon. While he served an apprenticeship in the ballrooms, he refused to be governed by showband conventions. Pickin' The Pops was one of many acts of defiance. As 'relief' act to the top bands, he regularly provoked the wrath of managers and promoters by working the crowd into such a frenzy that they stopped dancing to watch him. Support bands like the Fontana - later renamed the Impact - risked losing work by trying to upstage headliners such as the Royal, Capitol or Dixies. "We were often warned, 'either you quit doing these numbers, or else no more gigs,"' says Declan O'Keeffe, rhythm guitarist with the band. "Rory didn't go along with that, and neither did we. you weren't supposed to put the pressure on in the final lap of your set. Keep it simple. Don't play anything from the Top Ten, or put on stoppers. But we didn't hold back for any of the top bands. Our attitude was: if they were better than us, so be it. If they weren't: then tough luck."
Some top bands never wanted the support acts to sound too good, and they discovered ways of keeping them in their place. 'Relief' bands were allowed to use the equipment of the headliners, since the logistics of having two sets of gear on stage were impractical. One important gadget was a Binson echo chamber that enhanced the sound. It was beyond the financial reach of the smaller bands. A common trick played by some top bands was to alter the settings so that the 'relief' failed to achieve the same powerful sound. "They'd have changed the echo off into different weird sounds, and you'd spend the night trying to find the right level and balance," says O'Keeffe. "That confused a lot of relief bands. But we had one of our own and knew how to use it properly. So, when we went on stage to use theirs, we just changed the settings back straight away. That's why they could never catch us."
Irish popular culture of the mid-'60s was suspicious of rock: it was a musical form that conjured up images of sex and drugs. In this climate, Gogan upset the powers-that-be in RTE by playing Gallagher on his sponsored radio programmed "I was one of the few DJs who followed his career. it was dicey because they didn't like me playing things that were 'too noisy.' They used to say, 'a lot of the stuff you're playing is too heavy'."
Gallagher's musical values were tested against the tide. His devotion to the blues never wavered. Defiantly, he did it his way. "It would have been very easy to take the [[sterling]] 50 a week gig with the showband and enjoy an easy life. But it didn't enter my mind," he says. His flowing dark hair set him apart from the showband establishment, even before he played a single note. When Gallagher appeared on Pickin' The Pops, it was the first time anybody had seen a showband musician with long hair. Offstage, it exposed him to public criticism, particularly in Cork. People even lost their tempers in the street. "Rory took a lot of stick," recalls Donal, who has stayed at his brother's side throughout his career. "That used to infuriate me because when it comes down to it, your brother is your brother, and I used to look up to him. Rory was a pacifist and never allowed anybody to faze him. A lot of people wanted to provoke a reaction and they wouldn't get one. That made them even more angry. My temper made up for both of us."
Nobody knows precisely when Rory Gallagher first displayed a love of music. Donal's carliest memory is of his brother, aged four or six, making a small toy banjo with the aid of a round cheese box, a ruler and some elastic bands. Rory was born in Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal, on March 2, 1948. The Gallaghers moved to Cork, where the boys spent their schooldays. The family home was at MacCurtain Street. Play for the boys and their friends meant pretending to be musicians. Rory was the ringleader. "He wanted us to be in a band instead of in a gang," says Donal. "He gave us all different duties to do and instruments to play. They were supposed to be little skiffle bands which were popular al the time. We made a double bass with a tea-chest, broom handle and string. I remember him telling me about Chuck Berry and Woody Guthrie whenl he was only eight because he'd listened to all the Lonnie Donegan stuff."
Rory discovered Leadbelly and Guthrie through Donegan. Radio was his lifeline to the music of the '50s. Later, he listened to blues radio recordings of Leadbelly and Big Bill Broonzy on American Forces Network and the BBC. With the exception of BBC jazz programmes and AFN who played the odd Muddy Waters track, Donegan was the only source to hear such material. Other influences were Benny, Eddie Cochran, and Jimmy Reed. Young Gallagher listened to Radio Luxembourg at night, and tuned in to jazz and blues on the American forces.
At nine, Rory got his first acoustic guitar, and never put it down. He taught himself to play, using tutorial books. He practised folk, skiffle and early rock'n'roll numbers. Inspiration came from the blues, his first love. He saw photographs in Melody Maker of the Chris Barber Band touring with Waters and Big Bill Broonzy. He was fascinated by the blues, and couldn't play traditional Irish music like jigs or reels nearly so well. In his own words, he had a 'good ear' for blues. That motivating force would remain constant throughout his career.
At ten years of age he began entering talent competitions and playing at variety shows, charity concerts, school fetes and community events. At twelve, his picture was published in the press. He won a talent contest at the City Hall, Cork, and the photo made the front page of the Evening Echo - he was still in short trousers. Rory played a lot of shows around Cork: it was the only vehicle to perform on stage before an audience and gain experience. He acquired his first electric guitar at twelve, and tried to emulate the great American musicians he'd heard on the radio. He had natural flair and ability. Amateur shows dictated that he play "tame stuff," but he didn't always comply.
He once took part in a week-long student variety show at school, North Monastery C.B.S. For the first few nights, he played The Four Legged Friend, a quiet cowboy tune. one night the show was disrupted when the tape recorder broke down. The Brothers asked Rory to go back out and keep the crowd entertained while it was being fixed. Rory said: "I've run out of material." The Brother-in-charge replied: "Play anything you like." He launched into rock'n'roll. The Brothers "went absolutely insane," recalls Donal. "That's how severe it was. Rory was taken out of the show from that moment. The Brothers had asked him basically to save the show, which he did. Now they felt that he'd played the devil's music."
At thirteen, Gallagher formed his first band. They played a couple of dates at the Cork Boat Club in Blackrock. "A lot of it involved just getting little groups together to rehearse, rather than play serious dates," he says. "To get a group together in those days was just about impossible." Gallagher knew what he wanted, but the outlets were limited. He was going nowhere. The pop culture of the early '60s was dominated by showbands: if you wanted to be a musician, you joined up. Gallagher answered an advert in the Cork Examiner: 'Guitarist wanted for showband'. He was hired by the Fontana. "I wasn't a fan of showhands, but at fourteen or fifteen you don't quibble. I was betwixt and between, but I decided to reply. Luckily, they had a reasonable amount of work around Cork, Kerry and Limerick. I thought it would be better to play a couple of nights a week than get nowhere with make-up groups. The idea of jumping into a van, doing gigs in other counties and playing through an amplifier appealed to me."
At fifteen, Rory bought the Fender Stratocaster which he still plays. "It's a 1961 model," he explains. "I got it second-hand. It was [[sterling]]100, an absolute fortune at the time. It was in good condition then, but it's got so battered now it's got a kind of tattoo quality about it. I just like the sound of it. It's also a good luck thing. It was stolen one time and it came back. It's kind of a lucky charm." In '64, aged 16, he took to the road with the Fontana. While studying for his Leaving Cert at St. Kieran's College, Camden Place, Cork, the band played the ballroom circuit an average of four nights a week. Gallagher now had regular gigs and got paid for doing what he liked best. It wasn't always easy to find time for schoolwork. "I was able to cope because, at that age, you can live without sleep. I'd come home early in the morning after a journey in a slow van. I managed. By some miracle, I did get as far as my Leaving Cert. I did the one-year version at St. Kieran's. I scraped through the exam."
The Fontana had its origins in West Cork: leader Bernie Tobin and his brother, Oliver, another member, were from Drinagh. The line-up was: Gallagher, lead guitar; John Lehane, saxophone; Eamon O'Sullivan, drums; Declan O'Keeffe rhythm guitar; Oliver Tobin, bass guitar; Bernard Tobin, trombone, and later saxophone. Bernie Tobin was the force behind the Fontana and worked hard to keep the show on the road. The band either played or rehearsed every night. There was regular work at the Arcadia, Cork. They played 'relief' there to the top showbands and visiting British groups such as the Animals and Searchers. Says O'Keeffe: "We covered a lot of road. We often left Cork at one o'clock, drove to Westport, played from ten until two and drove back. I remember arriving into Cork at half-seven in the morning. I'd still be at work in Egans Jewellers by eight. It was crazy."
The Fontana (later Impact) built up a wild reputation and made some of the bigger bands look subdued. "We went mad on stage," recalls O'Keeffe, "we were a total loony band. We'd be up on each other's backs playing guitars, twisting over. Most bands that time had the Shadows-style moves. But we went bananas, shaking and jumping around. Bernie used to hang by the heels of his boots from a railing over the old stage in the Arcadia. One of the heels fell off once and he came tumbling down. I suppose we were more than just a showband. We were mad - but we didn't go as far as shoving guitars through speakers like the Who. Most of the bands were regimented, but we freaked out on stage. Rory was fairly wild like the rest of us."
Gallagher agrees it was all great fun, but teenage exuberance did not quench his desire to accomplish much more musically. He was a purist who wanted to play the kind of music that touched his soul. Box office returns were not his yardstick of success; he didn't believe in showband publicity strokes to grab headlines and he was never ruled solely by commercial values.
In the beginning, he had to play by the rules, however reluctantly. "I didn't like doing stock copies of pop and country and western tunes," he says, "I was keen to get the band aiming towards more rhythm and blues properly. That was my preoccupation. But when you had to play three, four or five hours at a dance, you couldn't be that high-minded. You just got on with it. In the early stages, it was the usual showband mix: you'd learn the hits of the day, and then add some popular songs from different styles. After a while, I was allowed to do a couple of rock 'n roll numbers by Chuck Berry, Fats Domino or Eddie Cochran. But you wouldn't be allowed to do rock-and-roll all night. You'd have to do whatever was popular in the charts, even Jim Reeves covers. My main influences were all the American rock and rollers plus, at that stage, the Beatles and Rolling Stones. I hated doing the novelty numbers most of all: things like the Paul Jones and waltzes. You had to play whatever the people wanted, or whatever the band leader wanted. I don't think we were the corniest showband around. It was fun in a showband, although it was frustrating too. You'd get a great jazz saxophonist having to play The Twist by Chubby Checker, and you'd get a drummer who really wanted to be playing in a ceili band or you'd get someone like me who just wanted to play Chuck Berry and R&B. But you do it for a laugh at a certain point. Some of the bands had quite a serious attitude. They'd spend a lot of time getting good uniforms and hoping to make it in Las Vegas. I had a uniform, God forbid. I actually wore the jacket with the group Taste for a bit. It had double buttns, kind of like a Beatle jacket. But I knew from Day One that I was just passing through."
Unlike most musicians on the circuit, Gallagher did not look up to the top-earners. In his own words, he wouldn't "sit in the balcony and be in awe of the big showbands." He thinks that the Freshmen were the best, and speaks highly of Arty McGlynn, the Platters' lead guitarist who, years later, worked with Van Morrison. The Fontana joined the showband exodus to Britain during Lent. For Gallagher, it was a welcome break from the limitations of the ballrooms and it exposed him to new influences.
In 1964, Gallagher saw how the Beatles had established the idea of rock bands as independent, self-defined units who performed their own songs. He was influenced by the phenomenon, and began to lobby for an image change for the Fontana. He went to see the Rolling Stones in London, whom he had already watched in action in Cork a year earlier. At that time, Brian Jones came to Gallagher's hometown along with the other Stones. He vividly remembers Jones' skill as a guitarist. "It was the first time I'd seen anyone playing the slide guitar. A very underrated musician."
Gallagher listened to upcoming groups at the Marquee Club, London, on his nights off during British tours in '64. Musically, London was moving at a faster speed. It was a culture shock for the Fontana: they ran foul of the police when their flashing showband lights gave an unexpected clear path through busy Oxford Street. Many showbands had their name illuminated in lights on the wagon roof. In London, police warned the Fontana that only emergency vehicles could display flashing lights.
The period '64/'65 marked a turning point for Gallagher and the Fontana: the band changed their name to the more upbeat Impact and secured a six-week summer residency at an American air base outside Madrid, while Gallagher made his debut in the clubs of Hamburg. Pressure for a name change came from Gallagher who wanted to move away from the showband genre towards a rhythm-and-blues style group. He met with resistance. "I wanted to get away from the showband tag, but some members were quite happy to remain in the showband scene," he says. "We still had to go out and make a living and play gigs. Instead of the usual showband suits, with little bow ties and things, we'd dress in black polo neck sweaters and Beatle jackets. That doesn't seem very adventurous by today's standards, but at the time it was unusual. More and more, we started doing a couple of original songs, a lot of Chuck Berry or whatever we'd get away with. Obviously, we had to do a couple of hits of the day to get through a set. You played whatever was required at a dance. The Impact would be classed as a beat group, but to some people we were still a showband...that's the bit I didn't swallow too well."
The name change coincided with a minor reshuffle in the ranks: John Lehane's brother, Michael, joined on organ for a period, and in came Johnny Campbell on drums. Philip Prendergast - whose brother, Peter, ran the Arcadia in Cork - took over as manager. It was a time of transition, and Gallagher was fast approaching a crossroads. "The Impact wasn't totally into the Beatles style, but we did Beatles numbers," says Declan O'Keeffe. "We were a cross between the real old showband and the incoming beat groups. We did a lot of Rory's stuff. But then if you were out in the country you'd have to do a few old time waltzes. We tended more towards the beaty side than to showbands. However, back in that era!,you had to play the showband stuff."
For Gallagher, the Spanish trip was a welcome break from the limitations of the ballrooms. The American airmen wanted to hear rhythm and blues and rock'n'roll. "It was tantamount to living in the States," he recalls. "It gave us some freedom." A military policeman called Nero was bowled over by Gallagher's spontaneous rocking and regularly joined the band on stage to sing his own personal party-piece, Great Balls of Fire. Gallagher had more in common with Americans who understood his love of the blues than with ballroom dancers who only wanted to be entertained.
On their return home, Gallagher became increasingly disillusioned with the circuit and thought of starting his own group. His talents were obvious to the rest of the band. "Rory had something special from day one," says O'Keeffe. "As a guitarist, he was streets ahead of anybody else. you could feel it coming out of him. We once went to see the Byrds in England, and they used a twelve-string guitar to get the intro of Mr Tambourine Man. Rory found the same effect on his Strat by plucking two strings at one time. He found the harmonies himself. I was just a basic three-chord-trick player, but his chord formations were way ahead. It was all his own work. I can't ever remember him getting lessons. He studied a lot of books, and worked out chords."
When Prendergast once prepared a press release for the Impact, he asked each member to state their favourite composer. O'Keeffe named Gallagher who had written several compositions for the group. "I can't remember all the titles," says Gallagher. "I wrote You Fooled Me All The Time, and I Want You To Be Happy. I'd only written about a half dozen. It was a start anyway. They were fairly derivative of the beat groups of the time."
In late '65, the Impact returned to London in search of work. The cracks widened as they prepared for a stint in the clubs of Hamburg, Germany. Gallagher finally went his own way and the group split up. He decided to honour the three-week commitment in Hamburg and packed his bags, along with drummer Johnny Campbell and bass player Oliver Tobin. Most clubs demanded a four-piece beat group, so Gallagher got a friend to pose with an organ for a publicity photograph. Back home, a three-piece would only be regarded as a brass section. On arrival in Hamburg, Gallagher informed the club owner that the organist had taken ill with appendicitis on the ferry journey.
The sleaze-pits of Hamburg opened his eyes to a world far removed from that of the showbands. He was out on a limb, and he knew it. He remembers times when there would be nobody left in the club at 3.30am.
The trio played six sets a night with fifteen minutes off every hour. It was hard-gained experience, but paved the way for dates there with Taste later on. It also marked his rock'n'roll liberation. "The whole atmosphere was still very Beatle-esque. The beauty of it was that, aside from playing forty-five minute sets a night, you could play as much Chuck Berry as you wanted, and do as much jamming as you wanted. You still had to play a couple of pop hits every so often to keep the dancers happy and avoid the beer bottles. I never felt that my life was to do six nights a week around the Irish danceband scene. I basically had enough of it. I just wanted to get into a serious group. The band had only limited success apart from anything else. My main reason for quitting was that I felt I'd compromised enough. It was time to get a bit more serious about the whole thing. It wasn't my goal in life to smash the showbands. I wanted to play my own style of music. I probably helped to break the kind of attitude of some of the dancehall owners about letting beat groups in to play. I could live with showbands doing their thing and playing for their audiences. But I didn't want them to rule the whole roost entirely, which they did for a long time. It was very much tied-up: there was a strong ballroom management thing going on."
Meantime, the rest of the band re-grouped, reverted to the original showband concept and even resurrected their old name, Fontana. At the time of the break-up, some members were keen to go back to being a band, rather than attempt to be a beat group. The Fontana returned to the circuit and continued to tour Britain. They recorded an album of Irish songs, which sold well. A combination of little money, uncertain gigs and a lack of acceptability for a three-piece rock band put an end to Gallagher's own experiment. It would take time to alter the balance of power.
Gallagher may have been ahead of his time, but he wasn't giving up easily. In 1966, he returned to a more active beat scene in Cork. Among the most popular clubs were the 007 in Drawbridge Street, formerly known as the Cavern, an army club in MacCurtain Street and another club in the St. Luke's district. Gallagher decided to experiment with a trio once again, teaming up with Eric Kitteringham (bass) and Norman Damery (drums) during the final days of the Axills, a local beat group. He played some remaining dates with them, filling in for one of the guitarists. "Naturally, when the drummer and bass player and myself formed a new group, people thought that I had been with the Axills, too. But that's only minor confusion. Once the last dates with the Axills were over, that was the end of the group. We got on well together. So we decided to form a new group and call it Taste."
This embodied Gallagher's vision: bass and drum instrumentals and lyrics were based around his guitar. Gallagher played the blues and kept his musical integrity intact, despite the poor financial returns. The group collected [[sterling]]30 a night, a fraction of what could be made in the showbands. Gallagher was content stubbornly doing it his way as long as he earned enough to keep the van on the road. Unlike other musicians, he wasn't tempted to retreat to the sanctuary of a showband. Taste played their own material. "We made a serious attempt at not doing too many covers. We started doing original material as well as a lot of Chuck Berry, rock'n'roll and blues. We wouldn't do anything that was pop as such, or danceband stuff."
Taste went to Germany in early '67 where they worked a punishing seven-hour-a-night schedule in Hamburg. At home, Taste played in the ballrooms, but there was strong opposition from the showbands in '67: promoters met three musicians and thought they were being short- changed when told there was nobody else in the band. The Federation of Irish Musicians laid down rules about the minimum number of musicians required - usually seven or eight -and even sent representatives to the halls to count heads. Smaller bands and groups found a way around the rules by asking friends to stand-in at keyboards or on trombone. Donal Gallagher was occasionally called on to perform the task. "For fifteen or twenty minutes, you'd stand there in embarrassment pretending to play an instrument when the Fed guy came in," he says; "it was easy to get away with standing at the keyboards."
The Fed came down hard on Taste when they got their first booking at the Arcadia, Cork, and tried to prevent the dance going ahead. The controversy split the union locally. Showband elements who felt threatened were against allowing a 'threepiece' perform. However, they were opposed by younger musicians in the beat groups. The showbands were under pressure in '67: many semi-pro outfits found it difficult to survive with so many musicians in their line-ups. The dispute had other implications: the Arcadia had booked Taste and weren't going to be pushed around by the Fed. In the end, an extraordinary union meeting was called at the Metropole Hotel one Sunday morning. A compromise offer emerged: if Taste agreed to do an audition for the Fed, then they would consider giving the 'gig' their blessing. Rory replied: "I've been in a showband long enough and I've proven myself. I'm not going to do an audition for anybody." The union backed down and the performance went ahead. It was a significant victory.
Gallagher brought his music to halls around the country and built up a strong following in Cork and Dublin throughout '67. "At that stage, some ballroom owners would accept the odd 'beat night', so to speak, or they'd have us as 'relief' for a showband," he recalls. "The smaller dancehalls would take a chance, but the bigger ballroom owners were dubious about anything that was non-showband. They'd prefer more adult dancing. They were just a bit scared of the idea of a beat group, the fans and the image."
Promoters may have been blind to Gallagher's talents, but accomplished touring musicians, who shared dance dates with Taste in Cork, recognised his flair. The Dave Glover Showband from Belfast were impressed when Taste played support to them at the Arcadia. Bass player George Jones, who had previously played with Van Morrison in The Monarchs Showband, advised Gallagher to aim north of the border. Jones recalls: "We weren't due on stage until ten or half past ten, or even later. So there was always a warm-up group. We turned up early and sat up in the balcony. There was a three-piece on stage, Rory Gallagher and Taste. Rory was doing his thing, leaping in the air and playing brilliantly.
"We were knocked out by this guy. We thought he was tremendous. The funny part about it was... these guys were making unbelievable music which we were really into, but yet the crowd down the front were shouting 'we want the Dave Glover showband,' simply because we were the name then. Whatever showband was on that week was the big name. We just laughed. We couldn't believe it. We spoke to Rory afterwards and complimented him on his guitar playing. He was advanced for that period. I had come back from Germany where I'd been playing blues and rock'n'roll with Van Morrison".
"I was really into blues. I found it very hard to believe that a young guy down in Cork had immersed himself so much into the blues. On the showband scene, you didn't see that, especially when you went so far down below the border. It was all country'n'western or typical showband material. But to hear this guy in Cork - who had obviously been training the other two boys in the group how to play the blues and rock'n'roll - was amazing. His guitar playing was so far advanced, it was unbelievable. You're talking about the same standard as Jimi Hendrix. We were knocked out. I said that he should get over to England. He thought it would be very difficult. I said, 'at least get up to Belfast where there's a blues scene'. The Maritime blues club, where Van started his career, was happening. I contacted Rory when he came up for the first gig and we continued to meet afterwards. I was totally delighted for the young lad because he had a great way with him. He was a very polite young man."
Belfast made Taste feel at ease. The city was more in tune with the Corkman's obsessional love of the blues. It was a more sophisticated scene than Dublin or Cork: Van Morrison and Them had already converted audiences to rhythm and blues and made the music industry sit up and take notice. Belfast, says Gallagher, "took to us." Taste secured a regular residency in '67 at the Maritime Hotel, an old Belfast dancehall turned R&B club, where Morrison and Them had been the house band four years earlier before they left for London and got a recording contract with Decca. Gallagher and Morrison shared a blues tradition and their careers followed similar paths. Morrison also started his career in a showband, and wanted to steer their programme to R&B. He, too, served his time in the ballrooms before taking the club trail to Germany and sweating through seven-hours-a-night "gigs." Both were free spirits who put their heart and soul into their music. Their values were forged by live performance.
Gallagher soon acquired the status of a top-class blues guitarist and launched a prolific recording career in the '70s. As the showbands faced extinction, rock bands began to take over, and Gallagher led the way. The youth of the '70s revered the long-haired crusader for the blues, especially for his Fender guitar, and storming performances at open air festivals. The rocker not only became respectable; but was acclaimed as one of the greatest ever blues guitarists. Gallagher hauled a battered Stratocaster, a bass player, drummer and minimal road crew across the European festival circuit. Messin' With The Kid and Bullfrog Blues, from the Live! In Europe album of 1972, were anthems of the new generation. Millions of record sales have been notched up since Gallagher first applied for a job in a showband. The passage of time has not changed his views.
"I have mixed feelings about the showbands. It was a start. I learned a lot and had good fun. But I was always restless to do my own thing. It will always be that way. The Freshmen were excellent at what they did. But, ultimately, what's the point in being a copy band? That was the sad part. In fairness, you'd find excellent musicians in some of the bands. But they were wasted really because they just had to play covers and copies. Billy Brown was one of the better musicians. You could say that showbands, at least, brought some different music to the dancehalls and gave young people a chance to play. That's the positive side of the story."
Gallagher - who never married and lives in Chelsea, London, where he runs his operation with younger brother and manager, Donal - remains true to his deep-seated philosophy. He lives by the tough standards of the working bluesmen who did what they did best, and kept on doing it... Muddy Waters, B.B. King, John Lee Hooker and Albert King. His last release Fresh Evidence, one of his finest blues albums, confirms that dedication to the great tradition. The guitar playing remains as potent as ever. Critics praised the album as yet another sturdily dependable collection of high grade boogie music that sustained his career down through the years. The compass, says Gallagher, has come around again for blues.
Gallagher, at forty-two, the indefatigable rock'n'roll journeyman, plans to carry on... just like his blues heroes. He won't be beaten into submission by commercial values in an age of stage pyrotechnics and video packaging... just as he refused to be caged in by the showbands. Genius, after all, is boundless.
Copyright c 1990, Vincent Power.
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