Rory Gallagher’s Gear (Some) And…

October 25, 2011 | By | 4 Replies More

…The Brian May and Joe Bonamassa Connections

Rory Gallagher was Irish. ‘Nuff said.

Seriously, Rory was a bad motherFer on the geetar, no doubt. I wish I was more familiar with him and his stuff, but here’s a cursory overview of his gear and tunes for others like me. Rory fans chime in with any key deets.

Even if you’re not a big Rory fan you may know that his main guitar was a ’61 Strat that of course started off stock, but didn’t end up there. Seems these were the mods:

> Hotter pickups, or maybe just a hotter pickup in the bridge
> Changed controls to master vol and tone
> Installed 5-way switch (’61 had the 3-way, before the 5-way)
> Different bridge, possibly brass
> Different tuners
> Various necks, all rosewood boards
> Jumbo frets
> Replaced pots
> No trem arm

From the Beat interview linked to below, Rory speaking: “The Strat for me is just structurally the best guitar you can get. Machine heads all on one side, and the scale being slightly longer than Gibsons, it suits me. You can get more pull on the strings above the 12th fret.”

And: “I actually prefer the lead pickup on a Telecaster, and I’ve often thought of putting that in the lead position on the Strat. On a Fender Esquire I had a Tele lead pickup, and then two Strat pickups and a five-way switch.”

From Rory’s official website, where you can also see his other guitars:

Early on I got the Stratocaster. In fact it was the first one I ever saw. It’s supposed to have been the first Strat brought into Ireland. The guy who had it before me was in a show band and he ordered a red one. They actually sent a sunburst so he decided to wait for a red one to arrive, and I had the sunburst – it was luxury! It was easy to play from the start and I’ve kept it ever since – in fact it’s getting better!

It’s a ‘61 model and it has a very flat kind of neck. Although they were making the bodies out of alder and ash, somebody said mine is actually maple, which is really a one off!

It was in good condition when I bought it, but it’s got so battered now it’s got a kind of tattoo quality about it.

I’ve had to take the neck off occasionally and dry it out – it was getting damp with doing so many gigs and I started to have tuning problems. The pots have gone and the pickups have been rewound and things like that. The tremolo arm is broken – but other than that it’s still in one piece!

The site also notes: The battle-scars of Rory’s Strat were not down to roughshod treatment, but due to his blood group type, extremely rare, that had a very high acidic content. So when Rory sweated on stage – and he sweated buckets – it was like paint stripper.

Check out Rory using the master vol with a slide here. Killer! (Essen 1977)

Other Guitars

Rory talking:

> At present I’m using a Gretsch Corvette for slide instead of the Esquire. The Corvette is Gretsch’s attempt at a Les Paul Junior, but I took off the Gretsch pickup because it was too weak and I put on a P90, which is an old black Gibson single coil pickup.

> For the acoustic number, I have a mandolin, a Martin from the 1930s and a National steel-bodied guitar, also from the ’30s. I had a new fretboard put on the National in the States because it was beginning to warp — there’s no truss-rod in those guitars. The Martin’s a D35 with a little Ibanez transducer. I find the Ibanez a little more toppy than, say, a Barcus-Berry Hot Dot. Then I use an Ibanez pre-amp to boost the acoustic guitar.

> Luckily on the pre-amp I have a little three-way graphic, with which you can cut down the bottom end. On the Dreadnought Martins you get a bit too much of a bass-boom sound, which may be grand for a guy playing in a folk club, but it gets a bit annoying for anyone playing the big shows.”

> Rory says he only gets about two nights’ worth out of a set of strings (10s, high action), because of his aggressive playing style and various re-tunings. “I don’t wanna be too sedate about it, I mean you gotta dig in there”, he says.


Rory used a few different amps – Fenders, Vox AC30s, Ampegs, maybe more – but he’s best known for his Irish Tour-era (1974) rig. This was either of these two rigs:

> Guitar > Dallas Rangemaster treble booster > Vox AC30

> Guitar > Fender Tweed Twin, second input daisy chained into Rangemaster > Normal input of AC30

Here’s an example of his Rangemaster-AC30 tone, which – first connection – Brian May loved so much that he adopted it.

Other Rigs

From the March 1979 issue of Beat Instrumental:

> For amplification, Rory has currently abandoned the old Fender gear he used to use in favor of Ampeg. The Fenders were a Concert from 1960, and a really old Bassman from 1954. “With all the wear and tear, it was hard work for them”, he observes.

> He now has an Ampeg VT 40 which he links up with a VT 22. He finds that the Ampegs give him the mid-range response he’s looking for, which isn’t the case with, say, the Ritzy, but wallet-piercing Music Man units. On top of that, Rory has a treble and bass booster made by a New Jersey company called Hawk.

Cologne, 1976


> From the same interview:

One of Gallagher’s more unusual stylistic devices is his use of normal tuning to play slide guitar, though he only does this on a couple of tunes. On “Cruise On Out” for example, he’ll drop his top B to D and play in the key of D. But he uses various open tunings too, mainly A or E, which suit his vocal range.

For acoustic numbers, he favours a D tuning, “because I tend to be singing country blues type things, so it works.” He also uses a tuning favored by Bert Jansch, among others, which is (from the top string down) D A G D A D. In other words, a D tuning with the G string remaining at G rather than dropping down to F sharp. “It’s a sort of Celtic sound, so you get your major chord from your second fret, third string. You get a chord and a half, a modal sort of sound.”

> Bare Knuckle Pickups makes an Irish Tour set, supposedly sound pretty dang good.

> More Rory gear deets here.

> In this interview, Rory says he was awed by Hendrix but loved Buddy Guy and Robert Johnson – and has a fear of tuning to E flat, though not D!

The Bonamassa Connection

Thanks to the folks at for hipping me to this:


Category: Ampeg, Bassman, Brian May/Queen, Concert, Fender, Flynn Amps, Hawk, Joe Bonamassa, Rangemaster, Strat, Twin, Vox

Comments (4)

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  1. ScottP says:

    Rory Facts: He was asked to join Cream when Clapton left. He was also invited to take over for Mick Taylor in the Stones. When Hendrix was asked how it felt to be the best guitarist – he responded “I don’t know, ask Rory Gallagher.”

  2. Mark says:

    One of the best, most underrated guitarists in history. Pretty sure the folding chairs he used to put the little amps on made a big difference in his tone!! Just kidding, he wrestled and wrangled that Strat like no one else. Truly missed.

  3. Eastwood6 says:

    For amps, Rory used a Marshall JMP 2104 50-watt combo for several years late ’70’s to early ’80’s, often paird with one of the Ampeg combos. He then moved on to a Marshall JMP half stack and variety of stompboxes. But to me, as noted, the classic Rory tone is the Irish Tour ’74 set up. Simple, organic and loaded with wood.

    Find that album and play the first song, “Cradle Rock”. Unsure of Rory’s greatness? Nothing more needs to be said.

  4. baz says:

    that was phil keaghy not rory.

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