- 16 Jul 20
Back in 2013, Dónal Gallagher talked to Hot Press following the closure of Crowley’s, the Cork music shop where his brother Rory picked up his famous guitar
Crowley’s Music Centre on MacCurtain Street closed its doors 2013 after 87 years in business. Dónal Gallagher, Rory’s brother, manager and keeper of the flame, spoke of his sadness at the shop’s closing – and recalled the moment when Rory bought his famous 1961 Fender Strat.
“I was very disappointed to hear the news,” says Dónal. “I was aware for some time of the difficulties the store was facing. I was hoping that Cork City Council would do something. I was willing to work with them in terms of adding a Rory element to the store but it didn’t work out.
“For some time, the city has been looking to open a sort of ‘Rory Gallagher Visitor’s Centre’ and Crowley’s would have been one a few select locations that might have worked. There are alternatives, but principally, it would have been nice to have it on MacCurtain Street.”
Donal has vivid memories of the fateful day when Rory finally got his hands on the now infamous Strat.
“The guitar was sitting in the window, it had pride of place there. Rory brought me down and he explained to me that it was similar to Buddy Holly’s guitar – it was his ambition at the time to have a guitar just like Buddy Holly. I think every guitarist wanted one. To me, the contours and the shape of the instrument – it’s a classic shape is similar to something like a spaceship. It wasn’t what I had imagined, we were so used to the round shape of a guitar and electronics were such a new thing. We couldn’t understand how the sound could come from it. It was love at first sight. It was destiny.”
Gallagher notes that his brother, amazingly, almost didn’t wind up with the guitar at all.
“That Strat was a little star in its own right, one of the first imports into Ireland back then. It had been imported for Jim Conlan, the lead guitarist in The Royal Showband. There’s actually footage of Jim playing Rory’s Strat, before it went into Rory’s hands. So it was quite a well-documented guitar.
“Jim wanted to change the colour to match the band’s uniforms: he wanted a salmon-coloured one like Hank Marvin, but he traded it in because it used to take between three and six months for a guitar to be imported from America. So the Strat wound up being sold as a second hand instrument for £100.
“Rory prevailed.” he continues. “He was playing a Rosetti Solid 7 at the time, worth about £12. He talked Michael Crowley into extending the credit payments – it was hire purchase in those days – and that my mother had signed that original agreement. I was standing there thinking, ‘God, this is going to send us to prison!’.
“My mother came over and he convinced her that if he got the guitar, not only could he play lead guitar, but he could play rhythm at the same time and therefore could play in a band that required only one guitarist. He was quite correct – and it served him extremely well.”
The special Rory Gallagher 25th Anniversary Issue of Hot Press is available to order below – featuring reflections on Rory's legacy from President Michael D. Higgins, Imelda May, Johnny Marr, Mumford & Sons, Mick Fleetwood, Steve Van Zandt, Slash and many more.