Band Of Friends – Taking Rory Gallagher’s Music Back To The US

Ted McKenna, Davy Knowles and Gerry McAvoy are soon touring the US flying the Rory Gallagher legacy flag – and who better to do it? Pete asked McAvoy for his thoughts around…well, everything related:


Arnie Goodman

It’s a great idea to take the band to the States this year…at this point I do believe that Rory Gallagher has legendary status among the gig-going cognoscenti…like Danny Gatton, Roy Buchanan. Is that your sense of the situation?

Yes, it’s great we are going to the States, Regarding Rory having legendary status in the US, along with the likes of Roy Buchanan and Danny Gatton, that’s a matter of opinion. I believe, Pete that Rory cut his own niche in the US. From 1971 to 1991 I toured the US 29 times with Rory, playing from Coast to Coast, the Mid West, small towns, big cities. Jumping on tours with Deep Purple/The Faces/Jethro Tull/Rush, as well as doing our own headline tours. Hopefully the gig-going cognoscenti, will indeed come along to see what we as Band of Friends can offer, in memory of Rory.

The trio format means all players work hard BUT it’s the mellower moments for me that really cook. What are your thoughts on the trio mode, as a player/performer?

I like the trio mode. In the past I’ve played outside of the trio situation. With Rory when he augmented the band with keyboards, and brass, and with Nine Below Zero, basically a trio with harmonica. With the three-piece situation, I believe improvisation is easier, because of the amount of people. It’s easy not to step on another musician’s toes, and each guy can work off the other guy or girl.

Rory left a nice mix of studio and live recordings. Might you record any shows on this tour?

We would hope to record some of the shows. I believe management are trying to arrange it.

Did you ever see Davy Knowles with Back Door Slam? Maybe that’s how you know Davy?

I never saw Davy with Back Door Slam. I was playing a show on the Isle of Man (Davy’s birth place) with Nine Below Zero around early 2000’s, when someone mentioned his name, and told me to check him out. Which I did. The next time I heard he had album of the week on BBC Radio 2, which was quite a big deal at the time. I lost track of Davy until recently, I saw a clip on YouTube where Davy played a version of Bad Penny for Rory’s birthday. I was knocked out.

Is he still in love with his Telecaster? He was when I interviewed him, not long ago!

He’s still in love with his Telecaster, but he might have a surprise for the US tour.

My first guitar was a butterscotch Tele copy and I still have it – entirely down to seeing Taste so often and being intrigued by the slide work. Will you be playing any slide features on these upcoming dates?

Yes, we hope to play some slide songs on this tour. Rory to me was the most underrated slide player of all time.

Which RG studio album in your opinion shows off his range and talent?

That’s a difficult question. All the albums vary so much. I guess the live albums “Live in Europe”. “Irish Tour 74” and “Stagestruck” show off his range and talent but saying that there are some gems on the studio albums, that show a different side to Rory. A more mellow side that sometimes wasn’t captured live. Fuel To The Fire”, Daughter Of The Everglades, Easy Come Easy Go to name a few.

With such a back catalogue, I guess it must be hard to pick a you agree these together, the three of you ? or what’s the process?

Normally I choose the set list. We don’t go on stage with anything set in stone. We try to do the same as Rory, who never used a set list. The first few songs are normally standard, then depending on the reaction from the audience, the rest of the show is who knows?

I suppose you can also then vary the set from show to show?

As above, yes the set does vary from show to show.

You had a great fat-but-clear bass sound with Nine Below Zero…what gear will you take on the pending tour do you think?

On the US tour, I will be using my favourite Ampeg SVT, 8X10 cab. With Nine Below Zero I was using a Musicman bass, which I still use from time to time, but for the Band of Friends shows in the US, I hope to use my old Fender P bass 1963. It’s the same bass I used with Rory around the end of the seventies, early eighties.

Rock-blues played with heart seems to be timeless in its appeal eg if you buy a Ry Cooder or J J Cale record you’re unlikely to tire of it. What is your favourite disc in the genre apart from Rory’s releases?

Wow that’s a hard one. I listen to so much music, both JJ and Ry being among them. If I could list some of my favourite albums…well, every Beatles album, Blond on Blond by Bob Dylan, Fathers and Sons from Muddy Waters, to name a few.

In what respects might your personal musical tastes differ with Ted’s? I always thought he might be a Zappa fan! But correct me if I’m wrong…

Ted is a massive Frank Zappa fan, so am I but not to the same extent as Ted.

Did you ever see Ted in TearGas or with Alex Harvey I wonder? I think he’s a Pearl guy these days as regards kit

I didn’t see Ted in Teargas, but I did play support to Teargas with my Band Deep Joy in a place called Larne in N Ireland, it was in a cinema, with about 40 people in the audience, must have been early 1970 or late 1969. This was just before Ted joined that group. I knew Alex Harvey quite well before I met Ted. But the first time I saw Ted play with Alex was in the States on the Don Kirshner Rock Concert TV show. It was an amazing line up: Rory Gallagher, the re-formed Electric Flag, The Sensational Alex Harvey Band and Abba, yes Abba.

Tattoo has some cracking material…Cradle Rock, Livin’ Like A Trucker, Who’s That Coming….any favourites &/or memories of the sessions?

We recorded Tattoo in the old Polydor studios just off Oxford Street in London. It really was a fun album to make. Rory was in great spirits making this album. I also believe he was really showing his writing ability to the full. I remember Lou’s face when Rory produced this cheap little Woolworths keyboard for the intro to Tattoo’d Lady. We also tried an intro with Rod playing accordion which he said he was proficient at. Anyway, he did his best, but the Woolworths organ played by Lou won the prize.

Against The Grain yielded Souped-up Ford and I Take What I you agree it’s one of Rory’s strongest releases, for attack?

By the time we went into record Against the Grain, the band had been touring non-stop mostly in the US. The trips to the States gave Rory a different edge to his writing. Songs like Souped Up Ford, basically a road song. Let Me In, a great rocker with a great riff. But also the great Leadbelly song Out On The Western Plain. This was the first album for the Chrysalis label, and was warmly received in the US.

If pushed for a favourite, a lot of the folky Wheels Within Wheels gets to me…any chance you might do As The Crow Flies live, by my friend Tony Joe White? Or have you?

There’s always a chance that Davy could pull As The Crow Flies out of the bag

My absolute favourite RG track is Ghost Blues off Fresh Evidence…any views?

Fresh Evidence was a different type of recording session. We would start around 5-6PM ish,and record into the early hours. I believe you can feel that listening to the tracks. Ghost blues is a fabulous track but my own favourite on this album is Heavens Gate, inspired by Robert Johnsons Hellhound On My Trail. The title came from one of Rory’s favourite movies “Heaven’s Gate” Directed by Michael Cimino. Slated by the critics but loved by Rory. Rory’s guitar playing here is exceptional. I think the recordings reflect the toll Rory’s health problems were taking

What two things do you want to have achieved by the end of a live show?

A happy audience and a happy band.

What’s the Band Of Friends Road Diet?

We try and keep as fit as possible on the road, except for the odd pint of Guinness that can creep in.

Which album – any artist – do you play to relax?

I’m a big Bruce Springsteen fan. So I listen a lot to his work when I’m and off the road. Funny – he’s playing around the corner from our show in New York city in April, Maybe I can hook up.

Pete Sargeant

Band Of Friends


(Thanks to Gerry and Arnie Goodman)

Live Photos Credit: Arnie Goodman

For more information visit The Band of Friends official website here:

Band Of Friends