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Rory Gallagher born William Rory Gallagher (2 March 1948 – 14 June 1995) was an Irish blues-rock multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and bandleader. Born in Ballyshannon, County Donegal, Ireland, and raised in Cork, Gallagher recorded solo albums throughout 1970s and 1980s, after forming the band Taste during the late 1960s. 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, England aged 47.
Although Gallagher was born in Ballyshannon, his family moved, first to Derry City where his younger brother Dónal was born in 1949, and then to Cork, where the two brothers were raised, and where Rory attended the North Monastery School. Their father Daniel played the accordion and sang with the Tir Chonaill Ceile Band in Donegal, and their mother Monica was a singer and acted with the Abbey Players in Ballyshannon. The Theatre in Ballyshannon where Monica once acted is now called the Rory Gallagher Theatre. Both sons were musically inclined and encouraged by their parents. At age nine, Gallagher received his first guitar from them, and began to teach himself to play, performing at first at minor functions. After winning a talent contest when he was twelve, Gallagher began performing in his adolescence with both his acoustic guitar, and an electric guitar he bought with his prize money. However, it was his purchase three years later, of a 1961 Fender Stratocaster for £100 that became his primary instrument most associated with him for the span of his lifetime. Initially playing skiffle, after hearing Lonnie Donegan on the radio, who frequently covered blues and folk performers from the United States, Gallagher began experimenting with folk, blues, and rock music. Unable to find or afford record albums, Gallagher stayed up late to hear Radio Luxembourg and AFN where the radio brought him his only exposure to the actual songwriters and musicians whose music moved him most. Influences he discovered, and cited as he progressed, that 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 learned to play slide guitar, using a plectrum and metal slide on his smallest finger. Several years later he also became proficient on the alto saxophone, bass, mandolin, banjo, and the coral sitar, utilizing a glass slide made from an American Coricidian bottle, on his electric guitars (as did many contemporaries, such as Duane Allman), instead of the metal slide. Gallagher stated that his ability to track down the actual original songwriters and performers of blues numbers which he had first heard performed by others like Lonnie Donegan took time and dedication, and had not been easy. Having no role models in Cork, Ireland, he continued to rely entirely on radio programs and television. Occasionally, the jazz programs from the BBC would play some blues numbers, and he was able to slowly find songbooks for guitar, where he found the names of the actual composers of blues pieces. While still in school, playing songs by Buddy Holly and Eddie Cochran, he discovered his greatest influence in Muddy Waters. By his mid-teens, he began experimenting heavily with different blues styles.
Gallagher began playing after school with Irish show bands, while still a young teenager. In 1963, he joined one named Fontana, a sextet playing the popular hit songs of the day. The band toured Ireland and the United Kingdom, giving him the opportunity to acquire songbooks for the guitar, where he found the names of the actual composers of blues songs, in addition to earning the money for the payments that were due on his Stratocaster guitar. Gallagher began to influence the band's repertoire, beginning its transition from popular music, skirting along some of Chuck Berry's songs and by 1965, he had successfully molded Fontana into "The Impact", with a change in their lineup into an R&B group which played gigs in Ireland and Spain, finally disbanding in London. Gallagher left with the bassist and drummer to perform as a trio in Hamburg, Germany. In 1966, Gallagher returned to Ireland and, experimenting with other musicians back home in Cork, decided to form his own band.
The line-up which included Rod de'Ath on drums and Lou Martin on keyboards, performed together between 1973 and 1978, however, he eventually dropped down to just bass, guitar and drums, and his act became a power trio. Other releases from that period include Against the Grain, Calling Card, Photo-Finish and Top Priority. Gerry McAvoy has stated that the Gallagher band performed several TV and radio shows across Europe, including Beat-Club in Bremen, Germany and the Old Grey Whistle Test.Along with Little Feat and Roger McGuinn, Gallagher performed the first Rockpalast live concert at the Grugahalle, Essen, Germany in 1977
Gallagher collaborated with Jerry Lee Lewis and Muddy Waters on their respective London Sessions in the mid 1970s. He played on Lonnie Donegan's final album. He was David Coverdale's second choice (after Jeff Beck) to replace Ritchie Blackmore in Deep Purple. Gallagher chose to perform in his own band.
In the 1980s he continued recording, producing Jinx, Defender, and Fresh Evidence. After Fresh Evidence, he embarked on a tour of the United States. In addition he played with Box of Frogs which was a band formed in 1983 by former members of The Yardbirds, who released their first album in 1984. Former Yardbirds guitarists Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page also guested on their first and second albums respectively. Becoming obsessive over details and plagued by self-doubt, Gallagher nevertheless retained a loyal fan base. During this period he stated "I agonize too much".