Donal Gallagher, the brother of late guitar hero Rory, has been reliving the day Rory recorded a version of The Rolling Stones (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction with Jerry Lee Lewis in London in 1973.

Rory, then 25, hit it off with The Killer but while working on a cover of the song, the legendary rock `n’ roll pioneer from Louisiana nearly stormed out of the studio because he was so disgusted by the lewdness of the lyrics. 

Rory and Jerry Lee; opposites attract

The semi-legendary cover of the song, recorded for Jerry Lee’s London Sessions album, has now been unearthed from the guitarist’s extensive archives and appears as a bonus track on a new 30-track The Best of Rory Gallagher compilation.

"There is an element of the Donald Trump about Jerry Lee, you don't know what’s going to happen next,"

Speaking to RTÉ Entertainment, Donal Gallagher said, "I was in the studio for those sessions and it was a mega honour for Rory, we both loved Jerry Lee Lewis, particularly his Live at the Star Club album."

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Rory and Jerry Lee, who is now 85, rattled off all the rock `n’ roll standards in the first two days of the sessions but when a discussion started about covering Satisfaction, tensions arose.

"There is an element of the Donald Trump about Jerry Lee, you don’t know what’s going to happen next," Donal says. "It soon came to the point where there was a discussion of doing Satisfaction and there was word that Mick Jagger might be coming to join the session, so Jerry Lee had to learn a Stones song.

Rory in 1972

"Rory was disappointed overall that Jerry’s album didn’t use new material or take him in a new direction. It meant Jerry would have to learn the song. Jerry said he knew everything, you hum it, I’ll play it, but when it came to Satisfaction, he looked around the room and I remember his eyes flashing in disbelief.

"He said, `you’re saying that song was Number One in the states? I would have been arrested; I would have been in jail for lyrics like that!’ He was quite shocked and then he went into a little bit of paranoia, thinking it might have been a wind-up. But he’d kind of bonded with Rory. They liked him because of the country aspect and Rory’s training in the showbands had stood him well.

"So, he turned to Rory and said is there such a song and Rory said yes, there is. So, they cleared the room and Rory taught Jerry Lee Satisfaction."

How Rory won over the biker rockers at an English festival 

Rory and Donal's first meeting with The Killer some six years previously had already been a baptism of fire.

"We’d seen him a couple of times, in fact we shared a stage with him when Rory was in Taste at what was the forerunner to the Reading Festival, the National Jazz and Blues Festival in ’67," Donal recalls.

"Taste were the opening act on the Friday night and Jerry Lee was closing the show and of course it was a very tough Jerry Lee Lewis rock `n’ roll audience.

"Dylan turned up and I had to break the rules. He wanted to meet Rory because of Rory's acoustic blues stuff, that’s what impressed Dylan."

In fact, the old rockers in the crowd took such a dim view of The Herd, featuring a young Peter Frampton, that they grabbed some scaffolding and shoved it through the band’s drumkit. Bales of straw were also set on fire behind the stage to prevent some of the other less rock `n’ roll bands from playing.

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Donal had to set up a new kit for Jerry Lee’s already terrified session drummer and then took to the mic to appeal for calm. "I said, Jerry Lee needs a drummer and if he doesn’t have a drummer he won’t play. From then on, the crowd were my best friends!"

However, Rory and Taste still had their work cut out for them when they took to the stage early on Friday evening at the festival. "We were fans of Jerry Lee and the real biker rockers were initially a bit dubious about Taste but they kinda gave them a break. But any of the bands who had a pretty boy image were definitely given a bad time."

The new Rory Gallagher best of follows the release of Blues in 2019 and this year’s Check Shirt Wizard - Live ’77 and spans the self-taught virtuoso’s whole career, from tracks by Taste in 1969 to his final studio album, 1990’s Fresh Evidence.

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The album bristles with prime time Rory songs such as Shadow Play, Follow Me, Tattoo'd Lady, I Fall Apart, Philby, and Blister On The Moon, and the new compilation was put together by Donal’s son Daniel, who manages Rory's back catalogue.

"Daniel can take all the credit because I see it as a different generation picking up on the music, a different set of ears picking up on the music. I always find that very interesting." says Donal.

However, Donal himself does find something new every time he listens back to his brother’s work. "For me it’s a time machine," he says. "The opening track on the new album is What’s Going on by Taste and he didn’t know what the future was so it’s a strange thing looking through a telescope in reverse."

"I do remember Jimi Hendrix coming in to see Rory in a club called Blazes in London because his normal hangout, the Speakeasy, had gone on fire."

25 years after his death at the age of just 47 in 1995, Gallagher remains one of the most venerated guitarists of all time. He captured the hearts and minds of a whole generation at home and abroad and his spirit and playing were a huge influence on numerous famous guitarists, including Johnny Marr, Slash and The Edge.

"He always wanted to be the best possible musician he could be, and he was always striving to do that, so he knew how hard it was for other musicians," says Donal. "When the stardom and fame factor kicked in, it was very hard not to be taken off the highway and put down another avenue of having to do promotion and all that.

"Rory would be the same talking to Bob Dylan as he was to a 14-year-old kid who was learning his first chords."

"Oh! Hi, Bob!" When Rory met Dylan . . . 

In fact, an especially reclusive Dylan turned up at Rory’s first gig in LA’s Shrine Auditorium in 1976. "It was a very serious show and I had to protect the band’s gear and Rory said he didn’t want anyone in the dressing room for at least an hour," Donal says.

"But Dylan turned up and I had to break the rules. He wanted to meet Rory because of Rory’s acoustic blues stuff, that’s what impressed Dylan.

Bob Dylan

"Dylan has been off the radar for years. I knocked on the door to alert Rory and he said, `I thought I said I don’t want anyone in the dressing room. I said, `look, Rory, if Buddy Holly was alive today . . . ' I opened the door and said, `it’s this man." And Rory was, `Oh! Hi, Bob!’ They ended up chatting for half an hour."

Putting THAT famous Jimi Hendrix line to rest 

And then, of course, there is the famous and - in some quarters - highly suspect line from Jimi Hendrix. When asked "How does it feel to be the best guitarist in the world," Jimi apparently quipped, "I don’t know, why don’t you go and ask Rory Gallagher."

It is no doubt one of the great gifts to the music biz hype machine and Donal remains ambiguous about its provenance and, indeed, veracity.

"Davy Graham said of Rory that he was a folk musician with a rock `n' roll heart, which was a lovely way to describe him."

"It was certainly not an invention of ours or anything to do with the record company," he says. "It emanated from South Africa of all places.

"A friend of Jimi Hendrix, who was a DJ from Capetown posted it and it got picked up and you could interpret it in two different ways and it is difficult to speculate but that quote was very possibly from the Isle of Wight because Taste had played on the Friday night and gotten five encores and they got all the press.

Jimi Henxrix

"Then when Hendrix played on the Saturday he wasn’t a well man and it was late at night and the conditions weren’t great and it was so chaotic back stage and I think someone might have said to him `how good are you’ or something to that effect and it might have been slightly tongue in cheek but he said ask Rory Gallagher.

"I can’t swear to that, but I do remember Jimi coming in to see Rory in a club called Blazes in London because his normal hangout, the Speakeasy, had gone on fire. We had also been on a bill with Hendrix at Woburn Abbey."

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If Rory was alive today . . . 

In March 2018 Rory was honoured by Fender guitar HQ in Dublin when their boardroom was named after him in an official opening ceremony led by President Michael D. Higgins. The latest slew of Rory releases will keep the flame alive and who knows what else lies in his archives.

Asked what his brother would be doing now if he was alive today at the still youngish bluesman age of 72, Donal does not hesitate to answer.

Pictured left to right: Managing Director, Fender Graeme Mathieson, Alec Galloway, Donal Gallagher, President Michael D. Higgins and Dan Barry of Fender guitars 

"His ambition was to be like the old blues guys, carrying on and playing. Towards the end of his life he didn’t like the bigger gigs and he wanted to get back to enjoying what playing was and tour almost like a folk musician, so he didn’t need the entourage, which he felt was bogging him down.

"He had a real love of folk music and folk musicians. Davy Graham said of Rory that he was a folk musician with a rock `n’ roll heart, which was a lovely way to describe him. I suspect Rory would have stayed true to being just a troubadour."

Alan Corr @CorrAlan2

The Best of Rory Gallagher is out now