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Iconic Guitars in Rock History Part 2 - Rory Gallagher's 1961 Fender Stratocaster
A Battered Stratocaster Serves Him Well
Rory Gallagher used only a few guitars during his music career. His main one was a sunburst 1961 Stratocaster with the serial number of 64351.
Rory, from Ballyshannon, County Donegal, Ireland and born in 1948, bought this guitar, said to be the first Fender Stratocaster in Ireland, in 1963. It was sold as a used guitar, as the store owner had ordered a different color and the sunburst was sent instead. Rory bought this guitar in this brand new condition.
Rory used this Stratocaster for most of his life, throughout thousands of shows, touring around the world and recording his many albums. At one point it was stolen and recovered from a ditch, having been exposed to the elements for a few days. That is a testament to Leo Fender for building a guitar that can survive just about any abuse heaped upon it.
Over the many years, this Stratocaster was modified. It does not have the original pickups, tuning pegs, and pick guard.
Almost all of the original finish is gone, due to the heavy use, and a medical condition that caused Rory’s sweat to be acidic, which would wear away the thin nitro finish.
The neck is original but has one fret marker dot changed, as the original clay dot fell out and was replaced by a plastic one. The neck was also removed numerous times for repair, but the original one never broke – just needed a rest from time to time.
You can hear this guitar, most of the time played straight into an amp, on all of Rory’s releases. It is one of the most famous Stratocasters in rock history. It is amazing to me that such a simple guitar, one that started on a production line in Fullerton, California, could go on to be magical in the hands of a young teenager thousands of miles away. In the days when rock stars change guitars every song - Edge, I am talking to you – here was Rory using one or two guitars his whole career, writing a new book in blues-based rock. Fender produces an exact copy of Rory’s Stratocaster, and there are other builders who replicate the guitar, as well.
The history of Rory’s music takes him from his first group, Fontana, in the early 60s, to the very popular Taste, a blues rock and power trio. Taste performed mostly in the UK where they were regulars at the Marquee Club. They opened for Cream at their farewell concert, and supported Blind Faith on a short tour in America. Tasted released two studio albums, Taste and On The Boards, and two live recordings, Live Taste and Live at the Isle of Wight.
Rory went out as solo act in 1971, and remained that way for the rest of his career. He released about 13 albums, with a mix of studio and in concert recordings.
I discovered Rory in 1977 when a friend loaned me the Against the Grain album. I was just blown away by Rory, and was very glad I found his music. As a young guitarist trying to learn from everyone, I spent an ample amount of time listening to Rory, and picking up more of his albums to learn from.
Rory sold in excess of 30 million albums over his 30 career. He did not live, nor did he act, like a rock star, choosing to concentrate on the music. He was an introvert who did not show off, nor go looking for attention. He was dedicated to the art of music.
Rory received a liver transplant in 1995, but died of complications later that year at age 47. He is a music hero in his hometown, and was one of the first successful musicians to come out of Ireland. His contribution to music was vast; he is sorely missed.