February 6, 2011 – Gary Moore, who wrote and played “Still Got the Blues for You” and “Parisienne Walkways” into a daily highlight in my musical playlist, passed away on February 6, 2011 at age 58, while on vacation in Spain, reportedly after a night of excessive drinking and partying.
Gary Moore was a guitar talent that only comes around a couple of times in a generation. Jimi, Eric, Gary, Duane and Hughie Thomasson are the five that fill my High Five, as I’m witnessing our generation extending a welcome to those who learned from the great ones, like Joe Bonamassa and Kenny Wayne Sheppard and now show their talent to a new generation.
Robert William Gary Moore was born on 4 April 1952 and grew up on Castleview Road opposite Stormont Parliament Buildings, off the Upper Newtownards Road in east Belfast, Northern Ireland as one of five children of Bobby, a promoter, and Winnie, a housewife. He left the city as a teenager, because of troubles in his family – his parents parted a year later – just as The Troubles – political violence, were starting in Northern Ireland.
Moore started performing at a young age, having picked up a battered acoustic guitar at the age of eight. He got his first quality guitar at the age of 14, learning to play the right-handed instrument in the standard way despite being left-handed.
Aiming to become a musician, he moved to Dublin at the age of 16. Moore’s greatest influence in the early days was guitarist Peter Green of Fleetwood Mac who was a mentor to Moore when performing in Dublin. Green’s continued influence on Moore was later repaid as a tribute to Green on his 1995 album Blues for Greeny, an album consisting entirely of Green compositions. On this tribute album, Moore played Green’s 1959 Les Paul Standard guitar which Green had lent to Moore after his departure from Fleetwood Mac and the music scene. Moore ultimately purchased the guitar, at Green’s request, so that “it would have a good home”. Other early musical influences were artists such as Albert King, Elvis Presley, The Shadows, and The Beatles. Later, having seen Jimi Hendrix and John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers in his home town of Belfast, his own style was developing into a blues-rock sound that would be the dominant form of his career in music.
In Dublin, Moore joined the group Skid Row with Noel Bridgeman and Brendan “Brush” Shiels. It was with this group that he earned a reputation in the music industry, and created his association with Phil Lynott began.
In 1970, Moore moved to England and remained there, apart from two short periods in the United States. In 1973, under the name “The Gary Moore Band”, he released his first solo album, Grinding Stone. “Grinding Stone” was issued in North America on Neil Kempfer-Stocker’s fledgling record label imprint Cosmos and received “Album of the Year” accolades on KTAC-FM/Seattle-Tacoma, Washington, in 1974.
In 1974 he re-joined Lynott, when he first joined Thin Lizzy after the departure of founding member Eric Bell.
From 1975 to August 1978, he was a member of Colosseum II. With the band he also collaborated with Andrew Lloyd Webber on the composer’s Variations album in 1978.
In 1977, Moore re-joined Thin Lizzy, first as a temporary replacement for Brian Robertson, and on a permanent basis a year later.
In July 1979, he left the band permanently to focus on his solo career, again with help from Phil Lynott. The combination of Moore’s blues-based guitar and Lynott’s voice produced “Parisienne Walkways“, which reached the Top Ten in the UK Singles Chart in April 1979 and the Thin Lizzy album Black Rose: A Rock Legend which reached number two in the UK album chart. Moore appears in the videos for “Waiting for an Alibi” and “Do Anything You Want To”.
He experimented with many musical genres, including rock, jazz, blues, country, electric blues, hard rock, and heavy metal and throughout his career moved between the genres.
Insiders assume that this is probably the reason why he never received the recognition in mainstream America that he deserved and got in Europe and elsewhere. The American music market is strongly pigeonholed per genre, to the point that Radio Stations have very mono-boring formats and audiences are easily confused. I heard Gary play Spanish Flamenco one time and he was as virtuoso in that genre as anything else he did.
In 1987, he performed a guitar solo for a cover of the Beatles’ “Let It Be” which was released under the group-name of Ferry Aid. The record raised substantial funds for the survivors of the MS Herald of Free Enterprise disaster. At the same time he recorded and toured with KISS drummer Eric Singer on the Wild Frontier Tour.
In 1990, he played the lead guitar solo on “She’s My Baby” on Traveling Wilburys Vol. 3.
After a series of rock records in the 80s, Moore returned to blues music with Still Got the Blues (1990), with contributions from Albert King, Albert Collins, and George Harrison. The album was well received by fans and became certified Gold in the U.S. The title song is probably his most famous song and rapidly turning into an evergreen in the blues field.
His 1993 live album BLUES ALIVE is one of the best blues rock live albums ever, yet ironically (and sadly) enough not even listed on Wikipedia’s Discography listing.
He stayed with the blues format until 1997 when he returned to the harder rock, but with a softer, more pop and ballad-oriented sound on Dark Days in Paradise followed with another change of direction in 1999, when he decided to experiment with modern dance beats on A Different Beat; this left many fans, as well as the music press, confused.
He also contributed guitar sections to Richard Blackwood’s 2000 album, You’ll Love to Hate This.
With Back to the Blues, Moore returned to his tried and tested blues format in 2001.
In 2002 Gary Moore decided to form a band with ex-Skunk Anansie bassist Cass Lewis and Primal Scream drummer Darrin Mooney called Scars. Their studio album “Scars”, released on September 2nd on Sanctuary Records, includes compositions reminiscent of the sound of guitarists like Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan, in a modern way. Listen to the song Ball and Chain on this album to get a feel of later years Gary Moore. He continued with this blues style on Power of the Blues (2004), Old New Ballads Blues (2006), Close As You Get (2007), and Bad For You Baby (2008), his last studio album.
In January 2005, Moore joined the One World Project, which recorded a song for the 2004 Asian Tsunami relief effort. The group featured Russell Watson, Boy George, Steve Winwood, Barry Gibb, Brian Wilson, Cliff Richard, Dewey Bunnell, Gerry Beckley, and Robin Gibb on vocals (in their order of appearance), and featured a guitar solo by Moore. The song, entitled Grief Never Grows Old, was released in February 2005, reaching No. 4 on the UK Singles Chart.
He also took part in a comedy skit entitled “The Easy Guitar Book Sketch” with comedian Rowland Rivron and fellow musicians Mark Knopfler, Lemmy from Motörhead, Mark King from Level 42, and David Gilmour. Hysterically funny.
Other collaborations included a broad range of artists including Trilok Gurtu, Dr. Strangely Strange, Jimmy Nail, Mo Foster, Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce, Jim Capaldi, B.B. King, Vicki Brown, Cozy Powell, Rod Argent, the Beach Boys, Paul Rodgers, Keith Emerson, Roger Daltrey, and Otis Taylor (musician).
Although less productive in the studio, Gary still maintained a hectic touring schedule in the years leading up to his passing at age 58 on February 6, 2011 while on vacation in Spain. Gary’s passing was definitely a shock for me . Thank you for your fine tunes Mr. Moore, you’ve enriched my life greatly.
Here are some honors presented by a few of our contemporaries.
“I knew Gary Moore for what seemed like forever. We’d run into each other many times over the years and we were always able to pick up right where we left off. I had the honor of recording with Gary on his ‘After The War’ album on the track ‘Led Clones’ which was great fun. To say that his death is a tragic loss doesn’t seem to give it the justice it deserves. We’ve lost a phenomenal musician and a great friend.” “Rest in peace, Gary.”
“My tears have flowed, sobs racked through me. Gary Moore was a player that gave me so much enthusiasm for playing. His high degree of aggression, unearthly sense of timing, and volcanic passion was rarely matched in tock guitar history. I can’t count how many times I’ve been awed by Gary’s playing, going back over 30 years now. His playing always brought to fore that childlike enthusiasm that first made me pick up guitar. His playing made me feel huge and powerful, and I dreamed of sounding as massive and confident as Gary. For most of my life I referred to him as Scary Gary, because his tone and attack were like a musical Godzilla. Today I call him a much mourned guitar friend, one I deeply regret having never met.”
KISS drummer Eric Singer released the following statement to Classic Rock Revisited regarding the passing of legendary guitarist Gary Moore:
“I had the pleasure to play drums with Gary on his 1987 ‘Wild Frontier’ tour. I joined Gary’s band via Bob Daisley. We had recorded together with BLACK SABBATH on the ‘Eternal Idol’ album. Bob arranged the audition in London in January of 1987. We soon began rehearsals for what would become one of Gary’s most successful tours ever. I remember we would practice everyday at John Henry Studios in London. Bob and Neil Carter lived in Brighton and would have to leave in time to make their train home. Gary and I would sometimes stay on and jam. Just drums and guitar. We would play THIN LIZZY tunes or just jam endlessly as Gary never ran out of ideas when it came to soloing! He would also play those legendary guitars back then. The ‘Peter Green’ 1958 Les Paul and his ‘Pink Salmon’ 1962 Fender Stratocaster. He, of course, did not take those on tour anymore as they had become much too rare and valuable. I have to say the one thing that always stood out to me about Gary was his absolute passion and intensity as a guitarist. This man played every song and note like it was the last time he would ever play it. And therefore demanded and expected the same from his band.
I have to admit he could be a bit tough on drummers. But he only asked for and expected what he himself gave to music. And that was complete commitment every time you played with him. He inspired me to want to play up to his level every night.
I will always thank him for the opportunity he gave me to play with him. He really was a brilliant musician. And I always felt like he helped take me to another level as a drummer and musician. It was an experience and an education I will never forget and take with me everywhere I go.
“God bless you, Gary Moore.”
Watch the incomparable Parisienne Walkways performance below, given in memory of his friend and Thin Lizzie bandmate Phil Lynott on 20 August 2005, on what would have been Phil’s 56th birthday. A statue of Phil Lynott was unveiled in Dublin’s Grafton Street by his mother. There to witness the event were members of Thin Lizzy from throughout the band’s career. Later that evening they joined forces under the leadership of Gary Moore for a concert that paid tribute to Phil Lynott’s memory.
The core band of Moore, Jethro Tull bass player Jonathan Noyce and Thin Lizzy’s one and only drummer Brian Downey were joined by the stellar guitar talents of Brian Robertson, Scott Gorham and Eric Bell for a set of Lizzy and Gary Moore classics.
Kirk Hammett of Metallica fame gave a great eulogy on Gary Moore’s insane talent and playing in Rolling Stone of Feb 9, 2011.