Wednesday 29 January 2020

New twist in Rory's story as showband recording found

Rory Gallagher (third from left) in shots taken with his Fontana Showband in the 1960s.
Rory Gallagher (third from left) in shots taken with his Fontana Showband in the 1960s.
Rory Gallagher
Rory Galllagher with his Fontana showband
Tim O'Leary. who found the memorabilia

Ralph Riegel

FOR more than four decades it lay buried and forgotten in an old filing cabinet.

But the first recording by Irish blues legend Rory Gallagher has now been rediscovered, along with a collection of photos of the young guitarist with his first band, the Fontana Showband.

Tim O'Leary, from Riverstick in Cork, now wants the material to go on public display in a music museum or through a private collector.

"For 46 years this has been buried and I think it is time it saw the light. I don't want it to be buried again," he told the Irish Independent yesterday.

Mr O'Leary was given the material for safe keeping by Sarah Prendergast, the wife of Phil Prendergast, who managed Mr Gallagher's first band, the Fontana Showband, when she moved house several years ago.

The tape and collection of photos was tucked inside an old file amongst some personal effects.

Mr Prendergast helped the young Mr Gallagher secure his first recording session in the mid-1960s with the Fontana Showband.

That session -- at London's Kingsway Studios in 1964 -- produced a reel-to-reel tape featuring four songs which Mr O'Leary later discovered.

One track, 'Slow Down', is believed to be the first recording of a song penned by Mr Gallagher.

Mr Gallagher had joined the Fontana Showband a year earlier, in 1963.

Mr O'Leary is a lifelong fan of the Donegal-born but Cork-raised blues guitarist, who started his career on the showband circuit.

After discovering the recording, he got the reel-to-reel tape transferred to CD and has been listening to the material himself.

"I put it on the CD player and let it blast away -- it is amazing stuff," he added.

Now he wants the wider public to enjoy the material from Mr Gallagher's early years.

"I would like someone to make a contribution to Sarah for the material -- but most of all I don't want it to be buried again. I want fans to be able to see these photos and admire this music," he added.

Mr Gallagher formed his best-known band, Taste, several years after leaving the Fontana Showband. By the early 1970s, he was considered one of the greatest guitarists in the world, and he has gone on to sell over 30 million albums worldwide.

But he died tragically in 1995 at the age of 47 from complications due to a liver illness.

He is buried in Ballincollig outside Cork and his headstone is a replica of the 1972 award he received for International Guitarist of the Year.

Today, Mr Gallagher is hailed by bands as diverse as U2, Guns 'n' Roses, The Smiths, Iron Maiden and Def Leppard as having exerted an enormous influence on their music.

Irish Independent

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