Here we are again in McMarch! Our fourth installment will depart from the more folk oriented albums we’ve been pushing and head more into the modern era. Our artist for this week will be the very famous Rory Gallagher and the album we will be featuring is Calling Card (1976, Chrysalis Records).

Rory was born in Ballyshannon in Donegal in 1948 to an electrician father who played accordion in a Ceili band and a mother who was active in the theater. He had a younger brother, Donal, and both of the boys were musically inclined. This interest was supported by both of their parents (what have we said before about that?). At age nine, Rory received his first guitar from his parents and also began teaching himself ukulele.

By the age of twelve, he was performing at small functions regularly and won a talent show with a cash prize which he then used to purchase his first guitar. As he grew into his teen years, acoustic began to become replaced with electric and this culminated with his fist Fender Stratocaster. This would become his weapon of choice in which to battle life.

Initially interested in skiffle and Lonnie Donegan and as he learned more and more ‘pop’ music he began to become influenced by the Americans. Buddy Holly, Woody Guthrie, and his biggest idol Muddy Waters began creeping into his sound. He also taught himself harmonica, alto sax, banjo, mandolin, and since it was the sixties sitar (why not?).

He began touring and wound up gigging Ireland and Spain with a group called ‘The Impact’. After getting his feet wet, he went back out on the road with a group called ‘The Taste’ and eventually just ‘Taste’ and would open for Cream and did a North American tour with Blind Faith. Taste broke up and Gallagher hit the road with a solo career.

Even though he kept getting gigs, charting songs and was voted a better guitarist than even Eric Clapton in Melody Maker’s Top International Guitarists in 1971, major success didn’t really find him internationally. It was during the 1970s when there was much political unrest in Ireland that Gallagher earned his stripes. Musicians, both domestic and international, were warned away from the Emerald Isle, but Gallagher was defiant and believed that Ireland deserved a tour at least once a year. This he did and it earned him much respect and thousands of die hard fans.

It was during these years that he released the album Calling Card. It was recorded in Musicland Studios (remember from our disco days?) and was a departure from his more hard rock fare. Deep Purple’s Roger Glover produced it and it is considered Gallager’s finest studio effort.

Unfortunately Rory Gallagher, like many successful musicians, died young. After many years of touring, he developed a fear of flying. For this he was prescribed sedatives, but they and alcohol ruined his liver. He continued to tour, but it took its toll and after an unsuccessful liver transplant, Rory passed in 1995 at the age of 47.

Let’s all raise a glass of another great Irish export, Tullamore Dew and honor this important influence on both the local and international rock’n’roll scene, Rory Gallager.