BALLYSHANNON FOLK AND TRADITIONAL MUSIC
“WHERE JOHNNY MET RORY”
It is with great pleasure that this years Festival presents a tribute
to two musical giants in their lifetimes who have become
legends in the years since they died.
It is one of those strange synchronicities that the Birthplace of
Irelands foremost rock and blues guitarist Rory Gallagher would
also be the final residence of one of Ireland’s magical fiddle
players Johnny Doherty. They shared 32 years in this life and
now share eternity together, perhaps united by the molecules of
the Rock Hospital in Ballyshannon.
This musical conversation between these legends will be
facilitated by modern day legends Kieran Tourish, renowned
Donegal Fiddler and Seamie ODowd the Sligo rock and blues
virtuoso. Together they will recreate what might have happened
if Rory and Johnny had actually met at the Folk Festival in
Ballyshannon at some stage over the 40 golden years of the
The session will kick off in the Bridgend Bar on Saturday
August 5th at 1.00 p.m. Space is limited so make sure to come
early. (admission is free)
See brief notes re Johnny Doherty and Rory Gallagher below.
John Doherty was born in 1900 in Ardara, County Donegal. He
came from a famous clan of Irish Travellers who worked as
tinsmiths and horse traders. His birth certificate was uncovered
in recent years by researcher Caomhin MacAoidh, allowing
confirmation that his date of birth was 1900, rather than 1895,
which has been recorded in error in several publications. His
father Mickey ‘Mor’ Doherty was a fiddler as were a number of
his brothers and sisters. Mickey Mor married Mary McConnell,
a singer (whose brothers Alec and Mickey were well-known
musicians in south Donegal). Together they had nine children
and John was the youngest. In an interview in the 1970s he said
that he had to practice in the barn as a teenager, and was not
allowed to play fiddle in the company of his parents until he had
mastered “Bonny Kate”. He heard recordings of James Scott
Skinner and imitated his style. His brother, also called Mickey,
tended to play more in the style of Michael Coleman.
From the late 40s to the 1970s John was sought out by
collectors. The Floating Bow contains recordings made between
1968 and 1974 by Professor Evans in the town-land of
Glenconwell. This collection arguably comprises the most
extensive collection of his music, and was made when some
argue Doherty was at his peak as a musician. He played with
much ornamentation, including bowed and slurred triplets, rolls,
‘cuts’, mordents (particularly on long ‘first-finger’ notes), doublestopping
(based on standard western music principles, normally
highlighting the tonic and third of a particular chord). Heavily
influenced by the Scottish bagpiping tradition, he often
replicated the sound of the pipes’ drones, by either retuning the
fiddle to an open tuning (‘scordatura’), or by maintaining the
fourth finger on the string below the pitch of the melody.
According to Alex Monaghan in the magazine, “The Living
Tradition”, he was a significant influence on the fiddle playing
of The Chieftains and Altan.
John Doherty was also a story-teller, and some of his tales
appear on the liner notes to “The Floating Bow”.
Sometimes he did not carry a fiddle with him on his travels
because he knew that, if needed, he was always likely to be
provided with one when he visited “house dances” (folk music
parties hosted by a family in their own house). The Floating
Bow was played on a borrowed fiddle (owned by Professor
John was first recorded in 1945 by The Irish Folklore
Commission during one of his trips to Teelin in Southwest
Donegal and later by the BBC (Peter Kennedy) in Belfast in
1953. 10 of these 1953 recordings were issued on Traditional
Dance Music of Ireland (various artists). Kennedy’s recordings
were later issued in three volumes on the Folktrax label, the first
of which was Pedlar’s Pack (1964). These recordings are
available from Topic Records who now own the copyright.
Paddy Glackin first met him in 1965, and was heavily
influenced by John. He could probably be described as the last
of the travelling fiddlers.
Johnny Doherty died in Ballyshannon Rock Hospital, in 1980.
WILLIAM RORY GALLAGHER
William Rory Gallagher; 2 March 1948 – 14 June 1995) was
an Irish blues and rock multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and
bandleader. Born in the Rock Hospital Ballyshannon and
brought up in Cork, Gallagher recorded solo albums throughout
the 1970s and 1980s, after forming the band Taste during the
late 1960s. He was a talented guitarist known for his charismatic
performances and dedication to his craft. Gallagher’s albums
have sold over 30 million copies worldwide. He received a liver
transplant in 1995, but died of complications later that year in
London, UK at the age of 47.
Rory’s father Daniel was employed by the Irish Electricity
Supply Board, who were constructing a hydro-electric power
plant on the Erne River in Ballyshannon at the time. The family
moved, first to Derry City, where his younger brother Dónal
was born in 1949. His mother, Monica, and the two boys then
moved to Cork, where the brothers were raised. Rory attended
North Monastery School. Daniel Gallagher had played the
accordion and sang with the Tír Chonaill Céilí Band while in
Donegal; their mother Monica was a singer and acted with the
Abbey Players in Ballyshannon. The Theatre in Ballyshannon
where Monica once acted is now called the Rory Gallagher
Both sons were musically inclined and encouraged by their
parents. At age nine, Gallagher received his first guitar from
them. He built on his burgeoning ability on ukulele in teaching
himself to play the guitar and perform at minor functions. After
winning a talent contest when he was twelve, Gallagher began
performing in his adolescence with both his acoustic guitar and
an electric guitar he bought with his prize money. However, it
was his purchase three years later of a 1961 Fender Stratocaster
for £100 that became his primary instrument and most
associated with him for the span of his lifetime.
Gallagher was initially attracted to skiffle after hearing Lonnie
Donegan on the radio. Donegan frequently covered blues and
folk performers from the United States. He relied entirely on
radio programs and television. Occasionally, the BBC would
play some blues numbers, and he slowly found some song books
for guitar, where he found the names of the actual composers of
blues pieces. While still in school, playing songs by Buddy
Holly and Eddie Cochran, he discovered his greatest influence
in Muddy Waters. He began experimenting with folk, blues, and
rock music. Unable to find or afford record albums, Gallagher
stayed up late to hear Radio Luxembourg and AFN where the
radio brought him his only exposure to the actual songwriters
and musicians whose music moved him most.
Although Rory played the mandolin, it was not his main
instrument.He is reported to have played it on four songs:
Going To My Hometown, Brute Force and Ignorance, I’m Not
Surprised, and Leaving Town Blues.
He also taught himself to play slide guitar and later began
learning to play alto saxophone, bass, mandolin, banjo, and the
coral sitar with varying degrees of proficiency.By his mid-teens,
he began experimenting heavily with different blues styles.
Rory began playing after school with Irish showbands, while
still a young teenager. In 1963, he joined one named Fontana, a
sextet playing the popular hit songs of the day. The band toured
Ireland and the United Kingdom, earning the money for the
payments that were due on his Stratocaster guitar. Gallagher
began to influence the band’s repertoire, beginning its transition
from mainstream pop music, skirting along some of Chuck
Berry’s songs and by 1965, he had successfully moulded
Fontana into “The Impact”, with a change in their line-up into an
R&B group that played gigs in Ireland and Spain until
disbanding in London. Gallagher left with the bassist Oliver
Tobin and drummer to perform as a trio in Hamburg, Germany.
In 1966, Gallagher returned to Ireland and, experimenting with
other musicians back home in Cork, decided to form his own
band Taste, a blues rock and R&B power trio, in 1966.
Initially, the band was composed of Gallagher and two Cork
musicians, Norman Damery and Eric Kitteringham however, by
1968, they were replaced with two musicians from Belfast,
featuring Gallagher on guitar and vocals, drummer John Wilson,
and bassist Richard McCracken. Performing extensively in the
UK, the group played regularly at the Marquee Club, supporting
both Cream at their Royal Albert Hall farewell concert, and the
blues supergroup Blind Faith on a tour of North America.
Managed by Eddie Kennedy, the trio released the albums Taste
and On The Boards, and two live recordings, Live Taste and
Live at the Isle of Wight.
 The latter appeared long after the
band’s break-up shortly after their appearance at the 1970 Isle of
After the break-up of Taste, Gallagher toured under his own
name, hiring former Deep Joy bass player Gerry McAvoy to
play on his self-titled debut album, Rory Gallagher.
It was the beginning of a twenty-year musical relationship
between Gallagher and McAvoy; the other band member was
drummer Wilgar Campbell. The 1970s were Gallagher’s most
prolific period. He produced ten albums in that decade,
including two live albums, Live in Europe and Irish Tour ’74.
November 1971 saw the release of the album Deuce. In the
same year he was voted Melody Maker’s International Top
Guitarist of the Year, ahead of Eric Clapton. However, despite a
number of his albums from this period reaching the UK Albums
Chart, Gallagher did not attain major star status.
Rory played and recorded what he said was “in me all the time,
and not just something I turn on …”. Though he sold over thirty
million albums worldwide, it was his marathon live
performances that won him greatest acclaim.
The band line-up line-up which included Rod de’Ath on drums
and Lou Martin on keyboards performed together between 1973
and 1976. However it dropped down to just bass, guitar and
drums, and his act became a power trio. Other releases from that
period include Against the Grain, Calling Card, Photo-Finish,
and Top Priority.The Gallagher band performed several TV and
radio shows across Europe, including Beat-Club in Bremen,
Germany and the Old Grey Whistle Test.
Along with Little Feat and Roger McGuinn, Gallagher
performed the first Rockpalast live concert at the Grugahalle,
Essen, Germany in 1977.
Rory collaborated with Jerry Lee Lewis and Muddy Waters on
their respective London Sessions in the mid-1970s. He played
on Lonnie Donegan’s final album. He was David Coverdale’s
second choice (after Jeff Beck) to replace Ritchie Blackmore in
In the 1980s Rory continued recording, producing Jinx,
Defender, and Fresh Evidence. After Fresh Evidence, he
embarked on a tour of the United States. In addition he played
with Box of Frogs—a band formed in 1983 by former members
of The Yardbirds. Becoming obsessive over details and plagued
by self-doubt, Gallagher nevertheless retained a loyal fanbase.
Gallagher was always associated with his well-worn sunburst
1961 Stratocaster (Serial Number 64351), (which is now
It was reputedly the first in Ireland, and was ordered from
Fender by Jim Connolly, a showband member performing with
The Irish Showband. Connolly ordered a cherry red Stratocaster
through Crowley’s music shop in Cork in 1961. When Fender
shipped a sunburst Stratocaster instead, it was put up on sale in
1963 as a second-hand instrument, which Gallagher bought in
August 1963 for just under £100 at Crowley’s Music Store on
Cork’s McCurtain Street. He justified the investment by saying
it would save money as he could play rhythm and lead and save
money on a rhythm player in the band.
The guitar was extensively modified by Gallagher. The tuning
pegs are odd (5 Sperzel pegs and one Gotoh), and all of these
have been found to be replacements. Second, it is thought that
the nut has been replaced and interchanged a number of times.
Third, the pickguard was changed during Gallagher’s time with
Taste. Only the middle pick-up is original. The final
modification was the wiring: Gallagher disconnected the bottom
tone pot and rewired it so he had just a master tone control along
with the master volume control. He installed a 5-way selector
switch in place of the vintage 3-way one.
Most of the paint was removed from the guitar in 1967 or 1968
during the Taste period, as evidenced from contemporary
photographs. No further paint loss was seen over the subsequent
twenty five years. Although the Strat was left abandoned in a
rainy ditch for days after being stolen from the back of a tour
van in Dublin, this is not believed to have caused any ill effect.
The paint removal and appearance of extensive road wear was in
keeping with Gallaghers public persona and image. A borrowed
Telecaster was also stolen at the same time but never recovered.
When the Strat was recovered after two weeks, Gallagher swore
he would never sell it or paint it.
It also had a period of time of having a replacement neck, with
the original neck bowing due to the amount of moisture it
absorbed during continuous touring. The neck was taken off and
left to settle, and was eventually reunited with the Strat after
returning to its correct shape. Other quirks include a ‘hump’ in
the scratch plate which moves the neck pick-up closer to the
neck on the bass side, and a replacement of all of the pick-ups,
though this replacement was due to damage rather than the
perception of a tonal inadequacy. One final point of interest is
that one of the clay double-dot inlays at the 12th fret fell out and
was replaced with a plastic one, which is why it is whiter than
the other clay inlays.
By the time of his final performance on 10 January 1995 in the
Netherlands, he was visibly ill and the tour had to be cancelled.
Gallagher was admitted to King’s College Hospital in London in
March 1995, and it was only then that the extent of his illhealth
became apparent: he died on 14 June 1995, at the age
of 47. He was unmarried and had no children.
Gallagher was buried in St Oliver’s Cemetery, on the Clash
Road just outside Ballincollig near Cork City, Ireland. His
headstone is a replica of an award he received in 1972 for
International Guitarist of the Year.