Rory Gallagher only played in Victoria once. It was 1974 and he was on a tour with the British rock band Status Quo. The English rockers were supposed to play Victoria by themselves, but apparently Rory said that he would also like to perform. I was a young guitar player who was totally immersed in the whole music scene at the time, and Rory Gallagher was my guitar hero. I couldn’t wait to see him play….
One of my friends at the time, Mike Griffiths (then editor of music magazine Cobwebs & Strange), ran into Gerry McAvoy and Rod De’Ath (Rory’s bassist and drummer) wandering around downtown. “They were very surprised that I knew who they were!”, Mike said later. They invited him to go backstage before the show and meet Rory, so when Mike showed up at the Memorial Arena (the infamous “echo barn”), he was ushered into a room where Rory was by himself and in the middle of re-stringing his famous ’61 Strat. Mike proceeded to ask Rory about some of his early influences and both Buddy Holly and Eddie Cochran were mentioned. When I asked Mike recently what Rory was like to talk to, he recalled – “Rory was real soft spoken and modest. I talked to him for about fifteen minutes and he never showed the slightest hint of being inconvenienced in any way. He was totally cool and gracious.”
Rory hit the stage like a raging tornado. Never before had I seen a performer that exuded so much energy. He blasted through a whole string of his original songs and blues favorites, astounding us with his raw brand of rock `n blues. It would be an understatement to say I was blown away! He is one of only two performers that gave me shivers of excitement up and down my spine (the other was BB King). I was electrified! It was the only time I was to see Rory perform live, but I have never forgotten it. To me, Rory’s performance was the epitome of what rock `n roll and blues is all about – honest, raw, in-your-face musical inspiration. I have attempted to follow his guidance ever since – give the audience everything you’ve got, no-holds-barred! He was my teacher, the main man on guitar – a musical big brother. When a friend relayed the news to me that Rory had passed away, I broke down and cried. I had been deeply saddened to learn of the passing of other great, inspiring musicians – Albert Collins, John Lennon, Stevie Ray – but it was different with Rory… I had “known him” for so long.
I had been planning a trip to see my elderly relatives in England next year and was hoping to seek out Rory. I just wanted to let him know how much his music meant to me. I had visions of jamming with him on stage….. Life has a funny way of not turning out the way you would hope, but on thinking deeply about it, Rory is still here. Every time I play, Rory is there along with Albert and Stevie Ray and all the others who have influenced me. If you have been touched by the music, then they are there with you as well…. and that is something that transcends life and death. As a five-year-old Sean Lennon said when he was told that his Dad had been killed, “I guess when you die you become much more bigger because you’re part of everything.” Rory may have left us on the physical plane, but for a whole generation of guitarists and music lovers who were influenced by him, he lives on…..