Rory Gallagher’s 1966 Fender Telecaster
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) seems to be unlikely since Taste played Ulster Hall in Belfast on that exact date.
The next time Rory appeared with this guitar is the Isle of Wight concert in August 1970. At that point, the guitar featured a 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 doesn’t appear to be the case based on the Copenhagen photo.
It is somewhat possible that the guitar was already white in that photo as well, and there could’ve been a yellow stage light shining on the Telecaster which would make a white Telecaster look yellow. If you happen to know of something that would explain this, please be sure to contact us.
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 in the footage of Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert dating to August 5th, 1974.
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.
Back to Stock
Around 1987 Rory reverted the Telecaster back to the way it was. The same was done on his Esquire.
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]
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Hello! Firstly I’d like to say how much I appreciate this page – it provides wonderful information. Secondly, I’d like to add some information about the finish of the guitar. I get this information from the book “The Essential Rory Gallagher” song book. This particular passage comes from Dónal Gallagher, Rory’s brother.
“Rory loved this Telecaster: he played it on many songs, mainly for slide playing, on tracks like ‘I Could’ve Had Religion’ from Live In Europe. One time, while waiting to board a flight while on tour in the U.S., we looked out the window as the luggage loading vans were driving towards our plane. Suddenly a guitar case fell off the first trolley, and the second van didn’t bother to swerve out of the way: it just drove straight over the guitar case. We couldn’t believe it. The ’67 Tele was in the case and the top of the body of the guitar was badly scuffed and chipped. We gave to Chris Eccleshall to fix, who did a lot of work for Rory, maintaining his guitars and amps. Chris thought, as a kind, patriotic gesture for Rory, he would re-finish the guitar emerald green. This did not go down too well with Rory who, as you can tell by his ’61 Strat, was not keen on re-finishing the paintwork on his guitars. Thankfully we got it back to a natural cream white colour!”
I thought this was an amusing anecdote but it also explains the guitar’s finish. The book says it’s a 1967 Tele as well rather than a 1966.
Hi John. I’m late with the reply, but I believe this story is actually about Rory’s Esquire. I’ve read it in the past, and it has been pointed out to me by several people that there is proof that it was the Esquire and not the Telecaster. Anyway, I’ve written about it on the Esquire page – https://www.groundguitar.com/rory-gallagher-gear/rory-gallaghers-1958-59-fender-esquire/