Gallagher, Rory (1948–95), rock guitarist, eldest son of Daniel and Monica Gallagher, was born 2 March 1948 in Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal, although his family soon moved south to Cork, where he spent his childhood. He was educated locally but his passion for music overwhelmed any academic leanings as he started to play guitar at the age of nine. He grew up listening to Lonnie Donegan, Muddy Waters, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Chuck Berry, and he was later to appear as a guest artist on recordings by each of these artists. On leaving school aged 15, he joined the Impact showband, which toured the ballrooms of Ireland. With each of the band members expected to sing in the manner of a particular star, he chose Chuck Berry as his icon. In 1965 he formed his own blues-based rock band, Taste. They released three albums, including the 1970 recording On the boards, which reached the top ten in Britain, and enjoyed a modicum of success, moving to London in the late 1960s. The band broke up in 1970, although the later release of Live Taste brought their highest level of record sales.
He then formed a group with two other Irish musicians, Gerry McAvoy on bass and Wilgar Campbell on drums, and they began performing across Britain as ‘Rory Gallagher’. His first two albums enjoyed minor success, but after a series of tours across Britain, as well as several international tours, his third album, Live in Europe, reached the British top ten. With Rod d'Ath replacing Campbell on drums, and a keyboard player, Lou Martin, added to the line-up, his popularity through the 1970s grew substantially. At one point he was mooted as a potential replacement for Mick Taylor in the Rolling Stones. The British magazine Melody Maker named him the best guitarist in the world in the early 1970s. As well as winning a huge following on the British and European circuits, he regularly played to audiences numbering over 5,000 in America. His forte was live performances and it was live recordings of his shows, rather than studio albums, that enjoyed greatest sales. Most notably, Rory Gallagher Irish tour 1974 and Stage struck, the recording released in 1980 which was made during his world tour of the previous year, capture the energy of live performances. Nonetheless, several studio albums, including the 1975 Against the grain, were commercial and critical successes. The four-CD set Rory Gallagher boxed, released in 1992, is considered a collector's item.
He remained unmoved by changing musical fashions and ignored the changes in the industry brought about by the advent of such fads as punk, glam, or new wave. Playing his old Fender Stratocaster, dressed in jeans and tartan shirt, he remained a purist to the last and declined all demands by his music companies to alter his style. He made fewer albums in the 1980s and was forced, eventually, to record on his own label, even though his concerts continued to draw large audiences. The least original of his fourteen albums, Fresh evidence, was released in 1991. At his best, these concerts saw him fuse folk and blues with rock in performances singularly lacking in pretension. The music did retain the capacity, however, to slide into bombast and overextended guitar soloing. Regardless, he commanded genuine adoration from fans drawn by his genial nature and willingness to mix freely before and after concerts. He died 14 June 1995 from complications following a liver transplant operation. He never married.