Rory Gallagher’s Guitars and Gear

Rory Gallagher born William Rory Gallagher (2 March 1948 – 14 June 1995) was an Irish blues-rock multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and bandleader. Born in Ballyshannon, County Donegal, Ireland, and raised in Cork, Gallagher recorded solo albums throughout 1970s and 1980s, after forming the band Taste during the late 1960s. A talented guitarist known for his charismatic performances and dedication to his craft, Gallagher’s albums have sold in excess of 30 million copies worldwide. Gallagher received a liver transplant in 1995, but died of complications later that year in London, England aged 47.

Rory’s best known guitar is most certainly his early 60s Fender Stratocaster, which featured some really heavy wear due to extensive use. Although he mostly stuck with Fender, using various models from Telecaster to Esquire and Duo-Sonic, Rory also often picked up various guitars from Gibson, and at one time used a 1957 Gretsch Corvette extensively for his slide playing. For amps, he favored combos such as Vox AC-30, and Fender Bassman and Twin Reverb models.

Rory Gallagher’s Electric Guitars:

Rosetti Solid 7

rosetti solid 7

This was Rory’s first electric guitar, bought about two years after he acquired his first acoustic guitar – a dark sunburst general model of unknown manufacturer. This guitar was made by a Dutch firm called Egmond, and imported into the UK by Rosetti company, who sold them for about £20 in the 60s.

Although we couldn’t find any photos of Rory with the guitar, he most likely had the two-pickup model, since the three-pickup one was often refereed to as “Super Solid 7” and it featured a tremolo bridge, both of which details Rory does not mention when talking about the guitar. The Solid 7 model also featured a hollow-body design, but didn’t have any sound holes so to an observer it looked like a solid-body, and it didn’t have a truss rod which meant that over time the neck would end up with a upward bow because of the sting tension.

It was quite good, it was very distorted guitar – which I didn’t quite like at the time because clean sounding guitars were the thing. – Rory Gallagher Strat Masters

1960s Hofner Colorama

Hofner Colorama

This was allegedly Rory’s second guitar, most likely replacing his old Rosetti Solid 7 sometime in the early 60s. He supposedly found it uncomfortable and hard to play, and very soon moved on to the next guitar – a 1961 Fender Stratocaster.

Rory’s Hofner was most likely an early 60s model with double cutout body, featuring tremolo bridge and either one (Model 163) or two (Model 164) single-coil pickups. It was finished in red, as all of the Coloramas at that time were.

1961 Fender Stratocaster

Rory Gallagher Fender Stratocaster 1961

Rory bought this guitar (Serial Number 64351) for £100 in 1963 on credit from the owner of Crowley’s Music Store in Cork, Michael Crowley. It was possibly the first Stratocaster to ever reach Ireland.

The guitar’s previous owner was Jim Conlon, who was known for being the founder and the guitarists of Irish band called Royal Showband. Jim supposedly ordered a red Stratocaster from the US but this sunburst came instead, so he had to use the guitar for around half a year until the red one would arrive. He then put it on sale at Michael Crowley’s store, who eventually met Rory and agreed to sell the guitar to him on installments.

Rory’s Stratocaster is a 1961 model, made during a period that produced some of the most sought-after guitars. When Rory first acquired it it was of course all original, but over the years he had done a number of mods and changes to the guitar. Most notable perhaps is the fact that two of the pickups were changed sometime in the mid 70s, following a failure.

I sweat a lot when I play and over the years the body’s absorbed a lot of moisture. I’ve often thought that it’s come to the end of its life. Recently two pick ups packed up together, they just cut out when I was playing. I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to get new pick-ups to sound the same, but fortunately they matched perfectly.[International Musician and Recording World, April 1975]

Rory unfortunately does not mention which particular model of pickups he ended up replacing the originals with, but Kent Armstrong recently had a chance to inspect the guitar and found out that it had two mid ‘70s Fender pickups in it and an early DiMarzio FS1 in the bridge (ToneQuest Report July-August 2013 p.24).

The dates on the pickups do match the time period when the original pickups went bad, so it is possible that they are the same ones he had ever since the original went bad. It is of course also possible that the pickups were changed several times, or even re-wound, be we haven’t found and good source to confirm this.

What is interesting is that even though one of the original ’61 pickups was fully functional in the 70s when Rory replaced the two that failed, he did eventually got rid of that one too. The reason could be the same as with the others (pickup going bad at some point), or Rory simply wanted to experiment with the sound.

The later definitely seems to be the more likely of the two. Kent Armstrong, who talked to Rory extensively on the subject of rewinding the pickups and customizing gear in the 80s, said that Gallagher was quite an experimenter [ToneQuest Report July-August 2013 p.24]. Next to that, Rory himself noted in an interview from 1985 that he changed the bridge pickup more than once, but always returned to the original one – meaning that it was still functional at that point.

With the Strat, I changed the lead pick-up for one of Fender’s hot x100 jobs, and I’ve tried the Fat Strat pick-up as well, but I always come back to the original. [February 1985 issue of Guitarist Magazine]

[…]

Other mods include the pickguard, which was replaced sometime in the mid to late 60s with an identical one after the original became deformed over time, allegedly caused by heat during gigs with Taste. Also, the original tuners were swapped for a combination of five Sperzel and one Gotoh tuner, and the tremolo piece was blocked off from the back with a small wooden piece so the guitar would stay in tune better, since Rory rarely used the tremolo anyways. The original bridge was allegedly replaced with a Stars Guitars brass replacement bridge, although we haven’t been able to find the exact time frame of when this happened.

Electronics-wise, aside from the already mentioned replacement of the pickups, Rory also rewired the tone controls to have the bottom pot as the one master tone, disconnecting the middle pot, and leaving the master volume control as it was. He also installed a 5-way selector switch in place of the vintage 3-way one, which allowed for more variety and control over the sound.

Next thing on the list of changes to the guitar is the neck. Due to the amount of moisture and sweat it absorbed over a period of few years during gigs, it was suggested that the neck should be taken off and hanged to be dried out. During this period Rory used a replacement neck (exact model needed), but felt glad to go back to the original after it spent around six months hanging in a warm and dry room (Rory Gallagher – Strat Masters Interview).

The neck is the vital part of the sound. People thing that the body is the important thing, but it’s not really. If you put a bad neck on a good body the guitar will sound bad, whereas if you put a good neck on an average or even a poor body it will work. (Rory Gallagher – Strat Masters Interview).

Rory Gallagher's 1961 Stratocaster on display at the 'Rock Chic' exhibition. Held in Collins Barracks Museum, Dublin, Ireland, January 2007 (original source - Wikipedia)

Rory Gallagher’s 1961 Stratocaster on display at the ‘Rock Chic’ exhibition. Held in Collins Barracks Museum, Dublin, Ireland, January 2007 (original source – Wikipedia)

The last thing that we ought to mention is the significant wear on the guitar, which is quite extensive even when compared to the wear on similar models played by other professional guitarists, like Stevie Ray Vaughan’s 1962/63 Fender Stratocaster or John Frusciante’s 1962 Fender Stratocaster. Most of the wear seems to have originated from the mid to late 60s, and by the Isle of Wight gig in 1970 the guitar already looked like it have gone through a sanding machine. This for some reason happens often on early 60s Stratocasters, compared to late 50s which are much harder to find in such condition.

Although disregarded by most, a factor that might have also played a role in this was that the guitar was left in a rainy ditch for days at some point in 1966. A few days prior to this, Rory’s Strat was stolen from him during alongside a Telecaster that he borrowed from a friend to use as a slide guitar for the upcoming gig in Dublin. Rory decided to contact the producers of the television show called “Garda Patrol”, who then featured the guitar in one their segments that supposedly revolved around helping people locate their lost stuff (if you happen to know anything about this particular show, please contact us as we are curious to find if the original recording of this program is still available somewhere). A few days passed and the guitar was found abandoned in a ditch, and following that was successfully returned to Rory who swore never to lose sight of it again.

I had it stolen one time, following a brief appearance at the Five Club to visit Pat Egan about the Dublin scene, and it got very beaten up then. I had borrowed a Telecaster, and it and the Tele were nicked. I was terrified for a few days in case I would have to buy both a Strat and a Telecaster. Both guitars were found (with the assistance of some exposure on Garda Patrol on RTÉ) behind a front garden wall on the South Circular Road, with some of the strings missing and the bodies knocked about but, thankfully, they were OK. [Rory Gallagher: His Life and Times]

1966/67 Fender Telecaster

Fender Telecaster White Rosewood

Rory was first seen playing this guitar during a gig played sometime in early to mid 1970 [Photo of Rory Gallagher 1970 Copenhagen, Denmark]. The exact date of this gig is unknown, but January 1st (as noted in the original photo description) seem to be unlikely, since Taste played Ulster Hall in Belfast on that exact date.

The next time Rory appears with this guitar is the Isle of Wight concert in August 1970. At that point, the guitar featured white finish, although Rory was quoted saying that the finish wasn’t original.

A white ‘63 Telecaster. The lead pickup was rewound. It was repainted; I stripped it down to its natural wood, and then I tried to get the natural creme finish that I could get, but it turned out kind of white. I used that with Taste as well. It’s a very good Tele. [The Wearing of the Blues, Guitar for the practicing musician, August 1991]

If the original color was indeed cream/blonde (as it appears to be on the Copenhagen photo), a question arises as to what prompted Rory to repaint it in the first place. Since the guitar was relatively new when he acquired it, it is unlikely that it had any wear on the body. Of course, there is a possibility that Rory bought the guitar that was damaged in some way that required a new paint job to restore it, but that that doesn’t appear to be the case based on the Copenhagen photo. It is somewhat possible that the guitar was already white on that photo as well, and there could’ve been a yellow stage light shining on the Telecaster which would make a white Telecaster looking yellow. If you happen to know of something that would explain this, please be sure to contact us.

Rory playing the Telecaster during the Isle of Wight festival in 1970

Rory playing the Telecaster during the Isle of Wight festival in 1970

The first modification that Rory did to this guitar was the replacement of the original threaded steel saddles with steel grooved ones (the steel grooved saddles were a new innovation for the 1968/69 season, [A.R. Duchossoir, The Fender Telecaster, p. 67]). Unfortunately, due to lack of any photos from around the period, we couldn’t pin-point when exactly the mod took place. If we’re to guess, since Rory did the same exact mod on his Esquire in early March 1972 (read more on it in the Esquire section), it is likely that the Telecaster mod was done around the same time.

From this date and up until around 1974, the guitar seems to have remained unchanged. The next mod that Rory did to the guitar was in spring of 1974, and it involved removing the cover of the neck pickup. The guitar was first seen in this condition on the footage of Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert dating to August 5th, 1974.

Rory's Telecaster without the neck pickup cover. Screencap Don-Kirshners Rock Concert YouTube

Rory’s Telecaster without the neck pickup cover. Screencap Don-Kirshners Rock Concert YouTube

It appears though that by 1975 the guitar was reverted back to it’s previous condition [Rory Gallagher with the Telecaster, 1975], as the mod probably didn’t produce the desired results. Rory stated on couple of occasions [Rory Gallager on rhythm pickup on Teles] that he thought that the neck pickup in the Telecaster wasn’t particularly strong, so the removal of the metal cover was likely done to see if that would help boost the sound somewhat. The same mod was applied to his Esquire, as mentioned in the section dedicated to that guitar.

Unfortunately, from 1975 up until early 1979 Rory seemed to have used his Esquire more often that the Telecaster as his main slide guitar, which leaves us with a very few photos and videos of the guitar from that period to inspect. The latest photo of the guitar that we were able to find is from the Don Kirschner’s Rock Concert, which based on rather shaky info, was sometime in late 1975 (more specific info about this is available in the Esquire section).

This is obviously a rather big gap in time, and it is unlikely that the guitar remained unused for that whole period.  If you happen to know of a photo or a video taken at a later date, basically between late 1975 and May 6th, 1979, please be sure to contact us.

The next time Rory appears with this guitar to our knowledge is the May 6th, 1979, or the evening before the legendary Rockpalast Concert played in Wiesbaden, Germany [May Festival Wiesbaden 1979]. The Telecaster seemed to have gone through some major changes. The neck pickup is now completely gone, and what looks like a Bill Lawrence L-220 or L-250 took it’s place. Next to that, another Bill Lawrence pickup was added to the middle position, essentially converting the guitar to a three-pickup Tele.

There are couple of photos of decent quality taken at a later date, showing the mentioned mods in much greater detail. They were taken on August 22nd, 1980, which is of course when Rory played at the Reading Rock Festival [Rory Gallagher, August 22nd, 1970 – By: Peter Still]. Looking at these, you’ll notice that the toggle switch on the Tele is actually in the treble position, meaning that only the bridge pickup is in the use, while the two custom pickups are sitting idle. Also, the guitar is not used for slide, which leaves us thinking towards what purpose did Rory plan to use this guitar.

From that date on, the guitar seems to have been retired as a stage instrument, as Rory begins using couple of different guitars. Most notably, the Gretsch Corvette which he used as his main slide guitar from around 1979, and a Fender Lead II which he was seen using during the 1983 European tour.

Around 1987 Rory reverted the Telecaster back to the way it was. The same was done on his Esquire, which was

I’m a Strat player because of the three pickups, the out of phase thing, as well – even on my Stratocaster I’ve neutered the middle tone control. I think probably the ideal guitar would be like a Telecaster lead pickup on a Stratocaster body[…] I turned against the rhythm pickup on Teles, years ago, and I put two Strat pickups in the middle and rhythm position, but then lately I’ve reverted back to the way they were. [Guitarist, June 1987, Rory ! by Neville Marten]

At this point Rory also removed the copper plate underneath the lead (bridge) pickup in order to fix the “squealing problem” as he called it.

The lead one is always the difficult one. What I do with that one, or should I say what Chris Eccleshall does with that one, is just take the brass plate from underneath the pickup and throw it away. He re-earths it somewhere else and that cures it. Plus, you have to put the petroleum wax in. [Guitarist, June 1987, Rory ! by Neville Marten]

1958/59 Fender Esquire

Fender Esquire Black Maple

First photos of Rory playing this guitar that we know of were taken by Richard Zimmermann on October 20, 1971 in Milwaukee, so it is somewhat safe to say that Rory acquired it sometime in summer or early fall 1971. The guitar is an Esquire model, but Gallagher himself often referred to it as a Telecaster since it was fitted with a neck pickup – essentially converting it to a Tele.

The Telecaster is a 1953 Esquire — a guy phoned me up and told me he had one, so I tried it out, and sure enough ~ one of the real McCoys. I had to have new machines on it, and it needs a new scratch plate. [“The Rory Story”, Zigzag magazine, issue 23, December 1971]

Rory’s dating of this guitar however is not necessarily accurate. As he mentioned in one of his later interviews [Guitarist, June 1987 – Rory!], the guitar was a top-loader model meaning that the strings are anchored at bridge instead of going through the body. This version of the Esquire was only made during a brief period from 1958 to 1959, which serves as a pretty good pointer to when Rory’s Esquire was actually made.

When Rory acquired the Esquire it featured a blonde finish and the neck pickup was already installed in it by the previous owner [Guitar – the magazine for all guitarist, September 1978].

The first mod that he did to the Esquire was replacing the tuning machines in 1971, right after he acquired the guitar. The stock tuners on the Esquire models from this era were Kluson “Single Line” Deluxe tuners, and on Rory’s guitar they were replaced with a new set of Klusons Deluxe [International Musician, April 1977]. Unfortunately, due to lack of photographic evidence it’s impossible to tell whether he used “Single Line” or “Double Line” models.

The second mod to the guitar happened during a brief period of time after Rory returned to London from the European continental tour in early March 1972, and before he went on his UK tour that started on March 8th 1972. According to Rory’s nephew Daniel [Rory’s Glories – Interview w/ Daniel Gallagher] the guitar got ran over at an airport by a luggage trolley. After the incident Rory took it to Chris Eccleshall, who immediately started working on the repairs.

I have a Telecaster (referring to the Esquire) that once fell off the truck that brings baggage from the plane to the terminal, the wheel of the truck went over the guitar. The case was ruined, and there was some wearing off the side of the guitar, the bridge was broken, and all the strings, but that’s it. I got new bridges, and filed down the bit that was gone, and it was all right. They’re really indestructible. [Trans-Oceanic Trouser Press, April / May 1976]

During the process of fixing the guitar, Chris replaced the broken threaded thick bridge saddles with the steel grooved saddles that Fender introduced as a new innovation for the 1968/69 season [A.R. Duchossoir, The Fender Telecaster, p. 67]. The new saddles can be seen in the Marquee footage from April 1972. He also replaced the old seven-screw non-laminated black pickguard with artwork with a five-screw non-laminated white pickguard, as was previously requested by Rory. [“The Rory Story”, Zigzag magazine, issue 23, December 1971]

The old seven-screw non-laminated black pickguard pickguard (left). New five-screw white pickguard (right)

The old seven-screw non-laminated black pickguard pickguard (left). New five-screw white pickguard (right)

According to a forum post by a user “beeflin” over at RoryGallagher.com, who had a chance to speak with Eccleshall, Chris pieced the body together without any troubles as the parts that were split from the upper bout of the body weren’t crushed, just broken off cleanly.

The guitar at that point required refinishing, but Chris didn’t have the time to do a proper repaint due to Rory leaving for the UK tour within few days. Since the nitrocellulose lacquer that was originally used by Fender usually takes a long time to dry, Chris’ only option was to finish the guitar in clear polyurethane. Unfortunately, even though there was no color in the lacquer, the guitar ended up looking green when observed from a particular angle.

At this point it is important to note that Rory’s brother Donal was quoted saying on RoryGallagher.com that the guitar that was ran over at an airport and was subsequently repainted was the 1966 Fender Telecaster (a factor that played a role in this is the fact that Rory himself often referred to this guitar as a Telecaster, due to reasons explained in the opening paragraph). That is however not the case.

The guitar in question is most certainly the late 50s Fender Esquire. This can be easily proved by comparing the necks and the bodies from the Beat Club footage when the Esquire was still in the condition in which it was when Rory first acquired it, to the guitar from the Marquee footage and Savoy Limerick footage, both of which were recorded after the guitar was repainted by Chris Eccleshall (for photos please refer to this Japanese Rory tribute site). By looking at these, the only conclusion is that they are the one same guitar, contrary to Donal’s statement.

To further prove the point, here’s a quote from Idris Walters who attended Rory’s gig at the Newcastle City Hall:

Electric again, Gallagher switches to a black Esquire with an extra pickup – an EsquireCaster? Once, he had it cleaned and it came back lime green. Now it’s black, looking younger than it really is. [Street Life, January 1976]

Mod number three occurred sometime in mid to late 1972. As seen on the photos taken by Michael Putland during the “Blueprint” studio sessions in early December 1972, the fretboard on Rory’s Esquire looks almost new, meaning that it was likely sanded/milled. This of course required removing the old frets and putting in the new ones, replacing the nut, and some lacquering.

During the process of sanding/milling, the fingerboard radius was also increased from 7.25″ since the nut appears to be higher than usual, but due to lack of any info relating to this whole ordeal it is impossible to tell by how much. Also it is unknown whether the new nut was made of bone (like the original one must have been) or ivory, and most importantly – we have no idea on when exactly all this happened. Therefore, if you happen to come across an interview where Rory or someone close to him mentioned anything related to this mod, please be sure to forward it to us!

Moving on the the fourth mod – due to Rory’s strong dislike of how the guitar ended up looking after Chris put it together and refinished it with clear polyurethane in March 1972, when he returned from the US tour the guitar went back to Chris for a complete do-over. The work was most likely finished by the time Rory set sail to Germany for a short tour that started on January 12th 1973 [RoryOn – Timeline]. From that point on, Rory’s Esquire styled black finish.

First known photo of Rory playing the Esquire finished in black. The photo was taken in Hamburg in March, 1973. Author:Heinrich Klaffs

First known photo of Rory playing the Esquire finished in black. The photo was taken in Hamburg in March, 1973. Author: Heinrich Klaffs

Sometime in spring of 1974 Rory removed the cover of the neck pickup of his white Telecaster, as can be seen on the footage of Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert. The same mod was applied on his Esquire sometime before May 9, 1975 – which is the date when the Esquire was first seen with this mod during a gig in Marseilles. After this mod proved to produce unsatisfactory results, by November 1975 the old pickup was out and a Stratocaster single-coil pickup took it’s place.

As to why Rory decided to do this, he did say in several interviews that he liked the sound of the Telecaster neck pickup, but thought it was not strong enough and he did not like the sound of the bridge and neck pickups used together. Instead of replacing the neck pickup he first tried the removal of the metal cover to find out whether the sound was somewhat stronger. As that didn’t do the job, the decision was made to have the Tele neck pickup replaced with a Stratocaster pickup in the neck position.

I turned against the rhythm pickup on Teles, years ago [..] That little metal pickup, as I call it, if you get a good one, it’s got a strange little character all to itself. OK, it’s not going to shake the Albert Hall, but it’s a very warm and unusual little sound. It’s the flat pole pieces for a start and, I wouldn’t swear to it, but I think it’s thinner wire than the lead pickup. [Guitarist, June 1987, Rory ! by Neville Marten]

I got fed up with playing slide mainly on that rhythm position, which is a bit thin. It’s a fine country and western or soul sound but then you’d go into the middle position and it’s a sound I detest. [International Musician and recording World, April 1977]

I find with Telecasters the sound of the rhythm pickup is never up to much, and I don’t like the sound of the two together. For slide guitar the little metal Tele rhythm pickup just wasn’t strong enough. [Music, UK Magazine, 1981, Rory Gallagher by Max Kay]

I thought it [Esquire] had a certain steel guitar type of tone which would work well with slide, but I was frustrated with the rhythm pickup—I thought it was too thin. So I put a Strat pickup there, and it remained that way for a year. [Guitar Player magazine, March 1978]

Please note that the guitar did not remain that way for a year, but just a few months. By February 1976 the Strat pickup was indeed still in the neck position, but another pickup was added in the middle position. You can read more on that particular mod a few paragraphs below.

Unfortunately, it’s unknown whether this Strat pickup was new old stock, old or a custom rewound model. What we can see from the photos is that it had a hole between the two middle magnets – meaning that it didn’t have a pickup cover, and it had to be attached to the pickguard with two screws. One additional screw was also added to the pickguard just bellow the neck, likely to help fasten it.

The next few mods happened sometime between October 13, 1975 (last known photo of the guitar with the old pickup) and February 08, 1976 (first known photo with all the mods done), likely at the same time when the Strat pickup was added in the neck position. An out-of-phase switch was added between the volume and tone controls, which allowed Rory to use the two pickups together, with one of them wired in reverse phase relative to the other. Also, the original original jackplate was replaced with a slightly bent metal square one, like the ones usually used on Les Pauls.

We’ve got a fellow called Ray Elgy who works in Shepherd’s Bush (West London). I don’t like to fool around with the wiring, but Ray does most of the odd bits of repairs for us. It’s only when you try out things that you find out. It’s like the Telecaster, I’ve got an out of phase switch on that. I had that done in the States and I switched round the bass position pickup to the Strat pickup because the bass one is a bit thin [Interview from International Musician 1976]

The exact time period of when the mods happened isn’t necessarily set in stone, nor it is known who did these mods for Rory. The first photo of the Esquire with all mods listed previously dates to February 08, 1976 and was taken at Omni Coliseum in Atlanta – which was during the early 1976 US tour which mostly included central and east coast. There is one gig that might have happened earlier than this showing the guitar with all the mods – the Don Kirschner’s Rock Concert.

Rory's Esquire with the Stratocaster pickup in the neck position, and a phase-switch mod. (Screenshot Don Kirschner's Rock Concert)

Rory’s Esquire with the Stratocaster pickup in the neck position, and a phase-switch mod. (Screenshot Don Kirschner’s Rock Concert 1975)

Unfortunately, no one seems to know when exactly the Don Kirschner’s Rock Concert with Rory Gallagher was filmed. Michael Ochs who took some photos during the gig notes that they were taken on November 14, 1975, but other sources point to a few different dates, including October 31st. If you happen to know more about the exact date, or which luthier in the US worked on Rory’s guitars, please be sure to contact us.

The next modding of the guitar took place sometime after Rory returned from the US tour in February 1976, and before his German tour started on March 5th, as the first photo of the guitar with the third pickup was taken on March 23, 1976 in The Hague by Bert Dros. The modding included adding a third pickup in the middle position – a strat pickup without a cover, and replacing the three-way toggle switch with a five-way toggle switch.

The treble position is fantastic ‘cos it’s really twangy but it’s sometimes a little too strong for slide, so I stuck a Strat pick-up on the neck position and that was great. But still the middle position sounded a bit James Brown tone, which is fine for James Brown so I said, “Here we go” and I stuck another Strat pick-up in the middle and then I changed the toggle switch so it’s now a Tele with the features of a Strat which is great. I’ve got all five positions, but the out-of-phase between the Tele treble and the middle position is really righteous. [International Musician and Recording World, April 1977]

Unfortunately, it is unknown whether the two pickup combinations (bridge and middle pickups – middle and neck pickups) were connected in series or parallel. The values of the volume and tone pots and the capacitor are also unknown, as well as whether the middle strat pickup was an old one, new old stock or a custom wound model. If you happen to have any information about this, please be sure to contact us.

These two mods were possibly done by Chris Eccleshall, who a few years back worked on the Esquire when he first repainted it. Contrary to what was attributed to being said by Chris, the paint job and the addition of a strat pickup were not done at the same time. To remind you, in a post made by a user “beeflin” over at RoryGallagher.com, it is said that Chris added the third pickup when he repainted the guitar in black back in 1972. However, if you followed the Esquire modification chronology so far you’ll find that that cannot be true.

Esquire with a Strat pickup in the middle position. Hammersmith Odeon, London, 29th Jan 1977

Esquire with a Strat pickup in the middle position. Hammersmith Odeon, London, 29th Jan 1977

If you look carefully at the two photos above you’ll notice that the out-of-phase switch seems to have disappeared from the control plate, and a rivet or a screw was used to fill up the hole. This was done sometime between March 23, 1976 (pictures by Bert Dros in The Hague) and January 29, 1977 (footage from Hammersmith Odeon pictured above). Since this is a rather wide time gap, if you happen to come across a photo taken sometime between these two dates showing the control plate of the Esquire, please be sure to forward it to us.

Sometime before April 1977, the bridge pickup in the Esquire failed, and Rory replaced it with a vintage Telecaster pickup. Unrelated to this change but also worth noting – the number of pickguard screws went from six to eight between January 29, 1977 (London gig pictured above) and July 23, 1977 (Essen gig).

I was lucky enough to get an old one to replace it. A guy had a ‘56 Tele pick-up which I’m inclined to believe now —it’s a really hot pick-up. I had it dipped in petroleum wax to stop the feedback but I don’t have to do that with the Strat pick-ups because they seem to be OK. So, it’s grown from an Esquire to a Tele to a Tele-Strat [International Musician and Recording World, April 1977]

Finally, the last mod that happened before the Equire was retired from stage use in favor of the Gretsch Corvette was the replacement of the control plate. As we previously mentioned, the out-of-phase switch was added to the plate and then later removed, which obviously left a hole in it. Next to that, the old plate was rather rusty so the replacement was likely done for aesthetic reasons. The new plate can be seen on a photo of Rory with the Esquire and a Oberheim Studio amp, dating back to circa 1978.

In late 1978 or early 1979 the Esquire was retired as a stage instrument in favor of the Gretsch Corvette with a P90 pickup. The Esquire remained unseen until around 1987.

During the period when the guitar was absent from stage use, Rory mentioned it in an interview for Music Magazine [Rory Gallagher – Music Magazine, UK. 1981]. The interview was written by Max Kay, which is a detail of significance if you consider the possibility that was pointed to us by Ingemar P., who is a major contributor to this website and who figured out all the details related to the Esquire mods presented here.

Years ago I went to the music department of the local library and found a book by Ralph Denyer called The Guitar Handbook, published in 1982. On page 179 I found a picture of RG’s Esquire, but the copyrights of this picture were owned by E. F. R. Guitars / Geoff Dann.

I started a little digging on the internet and I found that E. F. R. Guitars was a guitar shop in London between 1978 and 1984 that specialized in trading special guitars. The owner of E. F. R. Guitars turned out to be Max Kay and Geoff Dann turned out to be a photographer. So, it seemed likely that Max Kay hired Geoff Dann to take pictures of the Esquire and that one of them ended up in Ralph Denyer’s book. There can only be one reason that this happened, I thought. Max Kay was an intermediary for RG who wanted to sell his Esquire. Of course, RG changed his mind and kept the Esquire.

In 1987 the Esquire reappeared again around the time album Defender was released. The guitar no longer featured two Strat pickups in the middle and neck position, but was reverted back to the condition in which it was when Rory first acquired it. It now styled just a Telecaster pickup in the neck, next to the bridge pickup which was most likely not touched.

I turned against the rhythm pickup on Teles, years ago, and I put two Strat pickups in the middle and rhythm position, but then lately I’ve reverted back to the way they were. [Guitarist, June 1987, Rory ! by Neville Marten]

The guitar was also fitted with a new backloader bridgeplate and six holes were drilled through the body to house the six string ferrules which now anchored the strings instead of the bridgeplate itself. Note that the new backloader bridgeplate was the model that Fender introduced in the early sixties and was used until 1983. It has the “FENDER PAT.NO. DES.164,227 2,573,254” stamp near the steel grooved saddles. The original toploader bridge had the “FENDER PAT. PEND.” stamp near the bridge pickup.

Two more mods were present on the guitar at this time. The old pickguard was replaced with a new five-screw pickguard, and the selector switch was changed from 5-way to 3-way, since the guitar no longer had three pickups.

1979 Fender 25th Anniversary Stratocaster

Fender 25th Anniversary Stratocaster White

Rory acquired this guitar upon visiting Fender factory presumably sometime during his 1979 US tour.

They thought I couldn’t afford a nice and clean guitar, and they were slightly embarrassed by the finish (of the 1961 Stratocaster) so they gave me a lovely white Anniversary Strat – which I used in the studio a lot. It has a great sound, but the odd thing is that nowadays the people are no longer offended by the look of the old guitars, because Adrian Belew has this old battered one, and late Stevie Ray Vaughan had a sunburst Strat with all the finish gone. But it was very nice of them to give me the white Strat. I must play it on stage now, and it’s began to loose some of the finish – the white shine. [Rory Gallagher – Interview (Strat Masters)]

The guitar was produced by Fender in 1979 as a limited run to celebrate the 25th year of production. The Strat featured a four-bolt maple neck with a large headstock and Sperzel tuners, standard Strat syncronized tremolo, and three single-coil pickups. The first batch of 500 guitars was sprayed in a white finish that happened to turn yellow over-time, so Fender quickly changed it to a custom silver paint which was used on the rest of the 10,000 guitars which were produced under this line. Rory’s guitar was from the first 500 produced.

Rory used this guitar mainly in the studio, more precisely on the album “Jinx”. Although he does not use a tremolo arm on his main Strat, the Anniversary Stratocaster tremolo was used in the studio by taking out two of the five springs from the back. Upon receiving the guitar he also removed the finish from the back of the neck and re-fretted it with larger frets to better fit his style of playing.

I was honored to receive a Strat from the Fender Company and I used it to record some of the tracks on ‘Jinx.’ But the first thing I did was to remove all the finish off the neck and put in some heavy frets. I also removed the middle tone pot – so it operates like a Telecaster. [February 1985 issue of Guitarist]

1958 Fender Stratocaster

Fender Stratocaster Black Maple Rory’s second Stratocaster. This one has a maple neck and he used it mostly for studio recording.

1978 Fender Duo-Sonic

Jimi Hendrix Guitar Gear Equipment Rory used a Duo-Sonic guitar with MusicMaster neck around 1982. It was tuned up one step.

See: Rory Gallagher – What In The World Live in 1982

Gibson Melody Maker

Gibson Melody Maker Rory had two Melody Makers; one made in 1960 with a double cutaway body, and other made in 1964 with single cutaway body.

Gibson Les Paul Junior

Gibson Les Paul Junior Black Rory had two of these too. One of them was made in 1958, had the P 90 pickup, Schaller M6 tuners and a “Bad Ass” bridge.

1957 Gretsch Corvette

Gretsch Corvette Purchased for $80 in a Pawn shop. This eventually became a substitute guitar for the Esquire.

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. [Beat Instrumental, March 1979]

1965 Danelectro 3021 Shorthorn

Silvertone Danelectro Rory bought this guitar for $15 in a U.S. pawnshop. He used it to record the songs “A Million Miles Away” and “Cradle Rock” on the Tattoo album.

1968 Coral 3S19 Electric Sitar

Coral 3S19 Electric Sitar Purchased for $1500 in Florida by Rory’s brother Donal. Rory recorded the song “Philby” on the same model, which he borrowed from Pete Townsend for the recording session.

Rory Gallagher’s Acoustic Guitars:

1968 Martin D-35

Martin D-45 This has been Rory’s main acoustic for many years. Martin had issued a signature series of this model called “Martin D35 Rory Gallagher”.

1932 National Duolian Resonator

national-triolian-resonator Rory used this guitar on “As The Crow Flies” on the Irish Tour album from 1974. He later switched to the prototype model Takamine electro-acoustic which was much easier to amplify in live gigs.

1931 Martin Mandolin

Martin Mandolin Used on “Goin’ To My Hometown” with Lonnie Donegan,

See: “Goin’ To My Hometown” Live

Rory Gallagher’s Amps:

Rory used various models of amps during his career. He mostly preferred combo amps over heads + cabinets. To make up for the relative lack of power of these amps on stage, he would often link several different combo amps together.

During his time in the “Taste”, Rory played through Vox AC-30 connected to Dallas Rangemaster. In the early 70′s he began using Fender amps, most notably the Fender Tweed Twin, which he also ran through Dallas Rangemaster connected to the second input.  He also used 1954 Fender Bassman and 1960 Concert combos.

Rory also used Stramp amps, and the “Blueprint” album cover shows an excerpt of the Stramp K85 ‘Power Baby’ circuit, which was an amplifier custom designed for Gallagher.

In the late 70′s Rory started experimented with Ampeg VT40 MK I, MK II which he linked up with a VT 22. He also began using Marshall combos and stacks for larger halls.

Rory Gallagher’s Effects:

As noted previously, Rory’s main effect was Dallas Rangemaster which was basically a treble booster, and it was not a pedal, but a box meant to be placed on top of the amplifier.

Bellow is the list of some of the effect Rory used:

– Boss BD-1 Driver
Rory said that this was one of the first effect he used. It has three settings: Distortion, Fuzz, and overall volume boost.

– Boss OC-2 Octave
“My favourite Boss effect is the Octave divider -the OC-2. That’s great, even with slide, for which I tend to boost it with the compressor.” Rory Gallagher

– Boss BF-2 Flanger
Rory prefer flanging over chorus pedals.

– Boss VB-1 Vibrato
“The other thing I particularly like is the Boss Vibrato pedal (the VB-1)- it’s different from tremolo proper and I use it rather than a tremolo or flanger (which would be a bit of a compromise) when I want that Bo Diddley type of sound.” Rory Gallagher

– HAWK II Tonal Expander

– MXR Phase 90

– MXR Dyna Comp

– Ibanez Tube Screamer

– Boss ME-5 Guitar Multiple Effects
‘I have got a Boss ME-5 -the programmable effects board. I know what it will do and what I want it to do, but I don’t actually bother programming it. I leave all that up to an engineer. I’ve never really been into programming, but I’m learning.

– Boss BE-5 Guitar Multiple Effects
‘The BE-5 is another matter. You just set it up as you need it. I’m enjoying using that in the studio because it allows you to work at the sound as you go along.’

Rory also said that he’s not really into effects that much: ’I’m not an effects wizard like Dave Gilmour -a player who uses effects superbly. For me the perfect compliment is “It doesn’t sound as if you’re using anything. It sounds as if you’re plugging straight into the amp”, That’s when I know I’m using the effects correctly.’

(quote above is an excerpt from the interview done for the magazine “Sounds” in July 29,1989. Complete interview can be seen here: Rory Gallagher A Question of Taste )

Rory Gallagher’s Guitar Strings:

– On most of this guitars, Rory used the standard set of Fender Rock’n’ Rolls (.010, .013, .015, .026, .032, .038), and on the guitars that were set-up for slide he used a mixture of Fender Rock’n’ Rolls (.013, .015, .018, .026, .032, .038). [International Musician and Recording World, April 1977]. He also stated that he wasn’t completely satisfied with the standardized set, and would sometime change the bottom two or the top ones even on the guitars that weren’t used for slide:

Occasionally I change bottom strings to beef them up, on a Gibson scale guitar I’ll probably go slightly lighter on top, slightly heavier on bottom. [Rory Gallagher, Words by Max Kay, Photos by Barry Plummer]

– On his 1968 Martin D-35 acoustic guitar, Rory used Earthwood bronze medium gauge strings. [Rory Gallagher by Eamonn Percival – The Guitar Collectors No.1]

Rory Gallagher’s Guitar Accessories:

– Rory used Herco Nylon Heavy Gauge picks, which were recently reissued as Herco HEV211P Vintage ’66s by Jim Dunlop who acquired Herco some years ago.

For slide on an electric guitar Rory used Coricidin bottles identical to ones that Duane Allman popularized.

Duane Allman used to use this sort of thing, and I think Toddy Daniels too. It’s very handy because it doesn’t fall off your finger, and for one dollar 79 you get a great bottleneck. I’ve had various wine bottlenecks, but I find this is really the best, because it’s so smooth. I buy as many as I can when I’m over there because you can’t get them here. [‘I try to keep the balance between madness and technique’ – Rory Gallagher talks to John Dalton]

He would sometimes refer to these as Aspirin bottles [Rory Gallagher interview (‘Cologne 76’-full interview )], although in most of the interviews he does call them by their right name.

The thing is, they don’t sell Coricidin in England so I have to pick up a few more bottles of it every time I’m in the States. I think they make the best bottleneck you can get, though I wish they would make them in a slightly smaller size, so I could use one on my small finger. I only hope that the company doesn’t move over to plastic. We’ll all be ruined then![BRITISH ROCK GUITAR by Dan Hedges Guitar Player Books 1977]

On his National Duolian Resonator however, Rory used a metal slide.

I use a brass slide if I’m playing a National. If I’m playing a straight [standard tuned] electric, I use a steel bottleneck. The sound of glass is more smooth and sweet. The brass or copper is very harsh-if you want to get the Son House sort of attack-but it’s almost too harsh all the time. Steel is a good compromise and socket wrenches are ideal. [Rory Gallagher The Irish Blues-Rocker Slides Again by Jas Obrecht]

In the early years Rory even made slides himself from a copper pipe or a part from a microphone stand.

I’ve used ones I’ve made myself from microphone stands, cutting off a few inches, but usually you find there’s only the one. Ry Cooder uses only a wine bottle, and John Hammond and Lowell George use these socket wrenches from Sears Roebuck, an American department store. They use six/eight inch wrenches which fit the small ringer, and they’re really heavy, and very good. [‘I try to keep the balance between madness and technique’ – Rory Gallagher talks to John Dalton]

There are number of sources online where you can find out more about Rory Gallagher;  one being a very active and up-to-date Facebook page dedicated to Rory. Be sure to check them out at facebook.com/RoryGallagher

Contributors: Ingemar, mfwindust, 58v, gaborhalmos, mitch, J.
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GroundGuitar is a project started with the simple idea of collecting the stories behind instruments and gear used by the most influential guitarists of the rock era and presenting them in simple and intelligible fashion. Unfortunately, most of these little pieces of history are now scattered all over various magazine interviews, books, and online articles, and the task of collecting them all in one place is not an easy one. If you're knowledgeable of the subject and you feel like helping out, you can contribute to the project in couple of ways:
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