Rory Gallagher’s Drummers

For the 70’s, and indeed for most of his career, Rory Gallagher stuck to the same musical format. The introduction if keyboards for a while was seen as a significant sonic alteration at the time although in reality it didn’t make that much difference and before the decade was ended Gallagherwas back to the trio format.


Being a three piece means everyone must pull their weight. For a huge amount of his professional life there was Gerry McAvoy on bass who really did pump the instrument, you could feel the physicality of his playing at the back of the hall. Similarly his drummers needed a huge amount of stamina and some tasty chops while at the same time resisting any desire to show off a bit and derail the music from anything other than blues rock. 

At the beginning of the decade, Gallagher was a member of Taste. Compared with a lot of bands at the time there is still quite a lot of footage existing of the band which demonstrates they were at least the equal of any pre-existing 3 piece. This was due in no small part to Drummer John Wilson who despite growing up in the relatively isolated environment of Northern Ireland had developed a synthesis of Jazz and Rock like his better known contemporaries Mitch Mitchell and Ginger Baker. 


Taste were awesome at the isle of Wight Festival but didn’t last long afterwards. Gallagher needed to form a band where it was clear who was the boss. Pre Internet he didn’t search far,recruiting McAvoy and his then bandmate Wilgar  Campbell as the drummer from local bands.. Unfortunately, Campbell started to develop a fear of flying and started missing gigs, Rod De’Ath was recruited as a substitute as he shared a flat with McAvoy and eventually became permanent. Despite a fancy French name De’Ath was a Welshman with a slightly more idiosyncratic style than his predecessor. He sounded fine, but McAvoy has stated that Keyboard player Lou Martin was recruited around the same time to fill out the sound as it was felt something was missing with the new drummer.

This is given some credence by the fact that Martin left around the same time as De’Ath and was not replaced. The new drummer was Ted McKenna who has best been known as drummer with the Sensational Alex Harvey Band. McKenna was probably the most schooled of Gallagher”s 70’s drummers. Unfortunately, Blues Rock was on the wain and although the band was great it probably needed someone just a little less adaptable. Live the band continued to tear it up as always but for a while it was harder to make their mark. Technically Gallagher would make better albums and, had he lived, would have experience a resurgence in his career but as the 70’s ended his job had suddenly become more difficult.His untimely death meant there would be no second coming for his career.

And while we’re on the subject of death (or De’Ath)…

John Wilson is still with us, although in poor health which prevents him from performing regularly. The others have experienced slightly unusual ends. Ted McKenna died recently after a hernia operation, surgeons perform these by the dozen everyday in British hospitals but McKenna was unlucky and experienced a fatal haemorrhage. Campbell had an experience not entirely different to his old employer. Both had experienced a fear of flying although around the time he had developed this Campbell was also experiencing a marriage breakdown to add to his problems. In this situation alcohol seemed like a good solution. Campbell changed from a fit athletic person to a heavy spirit drinker very quickly and died from alcohol related illness in his 40’s.

Strangest of all though was Rod De’Ath. At the time of Gallagher’s death it was presumed the drummer had died some years previously as evidenced by his non-attendance at the funeral.

In fact, De’Ath has been involved in a serious accident in the 80’s suffering brain damage and losing an eye. It had been a slow recovery during which his house had been looted and all his possessions lost. Doctors has given him only a short while to live but De’Ath had made some recovery. He made the decision that his sudden appearance from beyond the grave at Gallagher’s funeral might be rather freaky but he did attend a subsequent memorial service. He passed away in 2014 exceeding doctors’ expectations by nearly 20 years.



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