Irish guitar great Rory Gallagher has been honoured at Fender guitars Irish HQ during a special event attended by President Michael D Higgins and Rory’s brother Donal Gallagher.
President Higgins officially dedicated the boardroom of Fender’s offices in Dublin to the Ballyshannon-born guitarist, who passed away in 1995 aged 47 and who would have turned 70 on March 2.
Always a Fender man, Rory’s iconic 1961 sunburst Fender Stratocaster was the instrument he played the most and the one which featured in many of his legendary live performances.
Speaking at the naming event on Friday, Donal Gallagher told RTÉ Entertainment about the day Rory bought his most trusted guitar at a secondhand guitar shop in his adopted home town of Cork.
"I remember Rory said to me there was something extraordinary in Cork so he took me down to Crawley’s Guitar Shop, Merchants Quay, and in the window was what he described as Buddy Holly’s guitar because he was so influenced and in love with Buddy Holly’s music. We saw the sunburst Stratocaster and it was like looking at a spaceship that had just landed.
"I have an image in my office of Rory playing with Phil Lynott in 1982 in Punchestown." - President Higgins
"We were standing there for hours looking at it and the next thing, Rory goes into the store and a hand appeared and Michael Crawley took it out of the window and let him try it. It cost 100 pounds. Michael allowed Rory to take it home for a few nights and it was hidden under the bed so my mother wouldn’t know and as youngsters I thought we were going to get into so much trouble."
The sunburst Stratocaster, thought to be the first ever Strat to be shipped to Ireland, went on to be heavily modified by Rory. After it was stolen and then recovered in the late sixties, he vowed never to have it painted again. A replica of the guitar is mounted on the wall in Fender's new Rory Gallagher boardroom.
Managing Director of Fender, Graeme Mathieson, spoke about how he swapped his passion for football with music after hearing the debut albums by Rory Gallagher’s breakthrough band Taste and Eric Clapton’s power trio Cream.
President Higgins, who arrived at Fender’s offices from the funeral of piper Liam O’Flynn who passed away on Wednesday, also unveiled an artwork by Alec Galloway, especially commissioned for the occasion.
"Rory was so influenced and in love with Buddy Holly’s music and to see a sunburst Stratocaster and it was like looking at a spaceship that had landed." - Donal Gallagher
Speaking to RTÉ Entertainment about Rory Gallagher’s impact on Ireland in the 1970s, the President said: "I think when one looks back on it the possibilities of music were just being laid out. I think one of the most striking things about the images of Rory Gallagher was the connection between the guitar and the person and the genius who is handling this instrument.
"I have an image in my office of Rory playing with Phil Lynott in 1982 in Punchestown and by then I think those who are now global stars were almost supporting acts and they recognised the extraordinary person that he was.
"But if you wanted to see excellence of which is something you can be very proud reaching an incredible level, unconditionally delivered at such a level, it was a privilege to be at Liam Ó Floinn's funeral this morning and it is a privilege to be here this afternoon."
President Higgins, who wrote a column for music magazine Hot Press between 1982 and 1992, was presented with a new box set of re-mastered 180-gram vinyl LPs of Rory Gallagher albums by Universal Music Ireland at the naming ceremony.
Alan Corr @corralan