(William) Rory Gallagher was without a doubt, a guitar hero. His guitar hero status spanned 30+ years selling over 30 million records, yet in an ironic commentary, Rory received the greatest praise and acclaim for his marathon live performances. Rory lived in his music 24/7. Constantly working, he struck up one “telephone friendship” in particular. From the mid-to-late ‘80s until his untimely death, Rory talked to Kent Armstrong (known for his skill with hand-wound pickups) a couple of times a week. That is where our story begins.
The Rory Gallagher/Kent Armstrong friendship had its own ironic modern twist, Rory and Kent never met in person. Kent lived 45 minutes outside of London so the phone was their bond. They talked about everything – politics, the weather, pickups, a recent gig, guitar gizmo ideas; football, sound, the science of the guitar, the list goes on. The initial conversations were based in guitar tech but evolved into a rare friendship. According to Kent Armstrong, “We talked about all sorts of things and you’re talking about over a dozen years of phone calls. All hours of the day and night – Rory just loved to talk”.
Rory Gallagher would have been 65 years old on March 2, 2013. Now 17 years after his death, Kent has teamed with Rory Gallagher’s brother Donal and son, Daniel to “recreate Rory’s pickups” – the ones Rory conceived, loved, played and toned. The “Rory Gallagher – Kent Armstrong hand-wound pickups” will debut at the WD Music Products booth at #1851 Hall E – NAMM (National Association of Music Manufacturers) – Anaheim, CA. Jan. 24th – 27th .
One of the mutual objectives of the “Rory pickups 2013” was they must be authentic – they have to be on spec. To ensure authenticity, Kent flew to the UK to examine Rory’s gear and measure the pickups. Rory’s gear included his 1966 Fender Telecaster and legendary 1961 Fender Stratocaster. Kent’s measurements zeroed in capturing electronically the “tone” Rory etched into his performances, live and on record.
Maintaining Rory’s distinctive “pickup originality”, Armstrong will be creating both Alnico 3 and Alnico 5 magnet versions in the 2013 pickup sets. The Alnico 5 magnet sets will “recreate the tone” in each of the pickups – sounding like it came off the production line. This version will bring the player/customer back to the Rory Gallagher “Taste” period (circa 1966). The Alnico 3 versions will represent “tones” comparable to Rory age 50. Both versions give the player one of the key ingredients to “recreating” on their own, Rory Gallagher’s unique tone. One set is a back-in-the-day mid-60s tone and the other, leaning more towards the 21st century.
To this day, Rory Gallagher guitar fans are steadfast and loyal. With the soon-to-be-available “Rory Gallagher – Kent Armstrong pickups”, Rory fans can now “tone it Rory’s way”. The guitar aficionado can now attain the “heart-beat of Rory’s electronics”. Each “Rory Gallagher – Kent Armstrong hand-wound pickup set” will be built at Kent’s Vermont facility – WD Music Products, based in Ft. Myers, FL will handle all the business aspects (wdmusic.com).
The Gallagher family felt Kent’s “years lasting on-call friendship” with Rory and his experience/reputation concerning hand-wound pickups, was a perfect fit. Kent was the right person – maybe the only person – to recreate the 2013 Rory pickups. The bond Rory and Kent shared was “destined to continue”. It can now be “shared internationally” as Kent’s Rory recreated pickups become available.
The Gallagher family months back (while meeting in the UK in September) asked Kent the following:
(1) discuss the idea of replicating authentic copies of Rory’s existing pickups
(2) actually measure each of Rory’s pickups and inspect the electronics for customization or variations along with documenting the exact specs
(3) determine, if possible, the origin of pickups – regardless of the manufacturer (and) (4) make “test copies” of each pickup set for sampling and final approval by (guitar “mechanic”) Dave Edwards, the one person besides Rory who knew the “tone” they produced.
Advanced orders are now being accepted – WD Music Products (wdmusic.com) – (toll free) 800-449-9348
Here is the list of Rory’s stage instruments:
1961 Fender Stratocaster – worn sunburst
1966 Fender Telecaster – white
1957 Fender Stratocaster – sunburst (used in the studio only)
1959 Fender Esquire – black
1964 Gibson Melody Maker
1963 Gretsch Corvette
1978 Fender Musicmaster