Belfast Telegraph

Treat for fans as rare Rory Gallagher recordings are released

Rory Gallagher on stage during his heyday. A ‘new’ album of his music is released today
Rory Gallagher on stage during his heyday. A ‘new’ album of his music is released today
Ivan Little

By Ivan Little

A 'new' album of long-lost music by Irish guitar hero Rory Gallagher has been released today - almost 24 years after his death at the age of 47.

And in interviews to promote the hidden gems the former Taste man's brother and manager Donal has revealed how Rory first showed an interest in blues music in the Bogside area of Londonderry.

The new album called Blues has been hailed by fans as a "treasure trove" of previously unheard tracks which were unearthed from among hundreds of tapes that Rory made before his death in London in June 1995 from complications following a liver transplant.

More than 90% of the music on the 36-track collection has never been released before, and some of it features collaborations with American bluesmen who'd been Rory's childhood heroes like Muddy Waters and Albert King.

Rory's New York-based nephew Daniel, who is Donal's son, has been responsible in the past for the posthumous release of compilations of more familiar Gallagher songs, but he has spent years sifting through the tapes in the archives of the family estate.

Among the tapes that he sent to be digitised he found a number of tracks that even Rory's family and former bandmates had been unaware of.

Belfast man Gerry McAvoy, who was Rory's bass guitarist from 1970 to 1991, was one of the musicians who were contacted but he didn't remember recording some of the material. The legendary guitarist was born in Ballyshannon in Co Donegal but for a time he lived in his father's native Derry before the family moved to Cork.

Donal said in one interview in the Guitarist magazine that Rory's love for the blues had its roots in the Bogside.

"That was just post-war. The Port of Derry had been given over to the American navy. That was their base for Europe, which had been through the Second World War, and the Americans had lingered on because of the Cold War," he explained.

He said his brother listened to the American Forces Network, tuning in to a programme called the Jazz Hour, which also included blues music.

Donal added: "I suppose he saw parallels with the traditional music in Ireland and coming from the background that we were coming from there was a growing civil rights movement as well. So he'd sort of taken blues on as his adopted music."

After moving to Cork Rory played in a showband before setting up the first incarnation of Taste, who moved to set up base in Belfast in 1967 when the blues scene in the city was one of the most vibrant in the British Isles.

Rory lived along with his fellow Taste musicians of the time Norman Damery and Eric Kitteringham in a house in Ballyholme, but eventually replaced them with northern musicians Charlie McCracken and John Wilson.

Taste played at a number of blues venues in Belfast including the Maritime, which had also been a stage for a young Van Morrison and his group Them before setting off to find a bigger audience in England.

Donal says that Rory had been influenced in Belfast by visiting English musicians like John Mayall And The Bluesbreakers and Cream, who he recalls played three gigs in the north including one in a Portstewart ballroom.

On the new album, released in what would have been the 50th year of Rory's recording career, Daniel has included a tribute from his uncle to Fleetwood Mac Peter Green, who played a number of gigs in Belfast in the late Sixties at the Ulster Hall.

The album, which also includes newly discovered radio sessions, comes in a number of different formats including a deluxe edition featuring a book of photographs and performances with English jazz and blues greats including Lonnie Donegan, Jack Bruce and Chris Barber.

Several years ago plans for a statue of Rory were given the green light by Belfast City Council. Fans in the city had campaigned for the tribute to recognise the part that the guitarist played in keeping music alive in the city during the worst years of the Troubles.

In a bleak era when English musicians refused to come to the city, Rory always returned at least once a year to play sell-out shows, mainly at the Ulster Hall, which bears a plaque in his honour.

On one night of almost unbearable tension in 1976 after 10 Protestant workmen were shot dead in Kingsmill, Rory refused to call off or cutt short a concert in the Grosvenor Hall.

Concerts are held every year in Rory's memory in Belfast, and in Ballyshannon there's an annual three-day festival celebrating his music.

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