Gary Moore

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Gary Moore
Moore performing in 2008.
Moore performing in 2008.
Background information
Birth nameRobert William Gary Moore
Born(1952-04-04)4 April 1952
Belfast, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland
Died6 February 2011(2011-02-06) (aged 58)
Estepona, Malaga Province, Spain
Genres
Occupation(s)Musician, singer-songwriter
InstrumentsVocals, guitar, bass, harmonica, keyboards
Years active1968–2011
LabelsVirgin, Charisma, Eagle, Provogue Records
Associated actsSkid Row, Thin Lizzy, Colosseum II, G Force, Greg Lake, BBM, Scars, Traveling Wilburys
Websitegary-moore.com

Robert William Gary Moore (4 April 1952 – 6 February 2011) was a Northern Irish musician and singer-songwriter. Over the course of his career, Moore played in various groups and performed many different styles of music, including blues, heavy metal, hard rock and jazz fusion.

Moore began his career in the late 1960s when he joined Skid Row, with whom he released two albums. After Moore left the group, he joined Thin Lizzy, which featured his former Skid Row bandmate and frequent collaborator Phil Lynott. Moore began his solo career in the 1970s, achieving his first major success with 1978's "Parisienne Walkways", which is considered his signature song. During the 1980s, Moore transitioned into playing hard rock and heavy metal with varying degrees of success around the world. By the decade's end, however, he had grown tired of his own music and decided to return to his roots with 1990's Still Got the Blues, which became the most successful album of his career. Moore continued to release new music consistently throughout the rest of his career, as well as collaborate with other artists from time to time. Moore died on 6 February 2011 from a heart attack while on vacation in Spain.

Influenced by the likes of Peter Green and Eric Clapton, Moore was often described as a virtuoso and was himself a major influence on many other guitar players. Moore was voted one of the greatest guitarists of all time on respective lists by Total Guitar and Louder. Irish singer-songwriter Bob Geldof said of Moore: "Gary without question was one of the great Irish bluesmen. — His playing was exceptional and beautiful."[1] For most of his career, Moore was also heavily associated with Peter Green's famed 1959 Gibson Les Paul guitar, which was sold to him by Green. Moore was later honored by Gibson and Fender with several signature model guitars of his own.

Early life[edit]

Robert William Gary Moore was born on 4 April 1952, in Belfast, Northern Ireland. One of five children in the family, Moore's father Robert worked as a promoter, while his mother Winnie was a housewife.[2][3] Moore has credited his father for getting him started in music; Moore made his singing debut at six years old with a showband at an event organized by his father. Moore picked up the guitar in 1960. Though left-handed, he learned to play the instrument right-handed. Moore formed his first band the Beat Boys not long after.[4] He eventually left Belfast in 1968 just as The Troubles were starting. A year later, his parents parted.[2][3]

Career[edit]

Skid Row[edit]

After moving to Dublin in 1968, Moore joined Irish blues rock band Skid Row. At the time, the group was fronted by vocalist Phil Lynott. He and Moore soon became fast friends, with the two even sharing a bedsit in Ballsbridge.[2] However, Lynott was soon asked to leave Skid Row by the band's bassist Brush Shiels.[5]:56 In 1970, Skid Row signed a recording contract with CBS,[6] and released its debut album Skid, which reached number 30 on the UK Albums Chart.[7]:505 After another album in 1971 and tours supporting The Allman Brothers Band and Mountain amongst others, Moore left Skid Row to start a solo career.[6][8] In 1987, Moore was asked to sell the rights to the name "Skid Row" to the American heavy metal band of the same name, which he eventually did for $35,000.[9]

Thin Lizzy[edit]

Moore (right) with Thin Lizzy in early 1974.

Following his time in Skid Row, Phil Lynott formed the hard rock group Thin Lizzy. After the departure of guitarist Eric Bell, Moore was recruited to help finish the band's ongoing tour in early 1974. During his time with the group, Moore recorded three songs with them, including "Still in Love with You", which was included on Thin Lizzy's fourth album Nightlife. Moore left Thin Lizzy in April 1974.[10]:89

In 1977, Moore rejoined Thin Lizzy for a tour of the United States after guitarist Brian Robertson injured his hand in a bar fight.[11] After finishing the tour, Lynott asked Moore to join the band on a permanent basis, but he declined.[10]:133 Brian Robertson eventually returned to the group, before leaving for good in 1978. Moore took his place once again, this time for long enough to record the album Black Rose: A Rock Legend, which was released in 1979. The record was a success, going gold in the UK.[12] However, Moore abruptly left Thin Lizzy in July 1979 in the middle of another tour. Moore would go on to say he had no regrets about leaving the band, "but maybe it was wrong the way I did it. I could've done it differently, I suppose. But I just had to leave."[10]:184

Following Lynott's death in January 1986,[2] Moore performed with members of Thin Lizzy at the Self Aid concert the following May.[13] He joined the stage with former Thin Lizzy members again in August 2005, when a bronze statue of Lynott was unveiled in Dublin. A recording of the concert was released as One Night in Dublin: A Tribute to Phil Lynott.[14]

Solo career[edit]

In 1973, Moore released the album Grinding Stone, which was credited to The Gary Moore Band.[8][15] His first proper solo album Back on the Streets was released in 1978 and spawned the hit single "Parisienne Walkways", which saw him collaborating with Phil Lynott once again. The song reached number eight on the UK Singles Chart and is considered Moore's signature song.[15] He then relocated to Los Angeles where he formed the group G-Force with Willie Dee, Tony Newton, and Mark Nauseef.[16][17] The band released one album in 1980, before breaking up.[16] That same year, Moore recorded the album Dirty Fingers, which didn't see a proper release until 1984.[18]

Moore performing at the Manchester Apollo in 1983.

After moving to London and signing a new recording contract with Virgin, Moore released his second solo album Corridors of Power in 1982.[17] While not a major success, the album was Moore's first to feature him on lead vocals throughout,[17] as well as his first solo release to reach the Billboard 200 chart.[19] In 1983, Moore released the album Victims of the Future, which marked a stylistic change in Moore's music towards hard rock and heavy metal.[20] The album also saw the addition of keyboardist Neil Carter to Moore's backing band, who would continue to push Moore towards heavier rock.[8]

In 1985, Moore released his fifth solo album Run for Cover, which saw him collaborating with Phil Lynott yet again. The duo performed the hit single "Out in the Fields", which reached the top five in both Ireland and the UK.[21][22] Its parent album also proved to be a success, going gold in Sweden and silver in the UK.[23][24] Following Lynott's death in January 1986, Moore dedicated his next album to his memory.[8] Released in 1987, Wild Frontier blended Celtic folk music with blues and rock,[17] which proved to be a success, with the record going platinum in Sweden,[23] gold in Finland and Norway,[25][26] as well as silver in the UK.[27] The album also spawned the hit single "Over the Hills and Far Away", which charted in nine countries. Wild Frontier was followed up by After the War in 1989.[17] Despite going gold in Germany and Sweden,[23][28] as well as silver in the UK,[29] Moore had grown tired of his own music. Moore told former Thin Lizzy guitarist Eric Bell that after listening to some of his own albums, he thought they were "the biggest load of fucking shite" he had ever heard. In his own words, Moore had lost his "musical self‑respect".[17]

Moore performing in 2010.

In 1990, Moore released the album Still Got the Blues, which saw him returning to his blues roots.[17] The idea had grown from bassist Bob Daisley jokingly asking Moore to do a blues album after hearing him play the blues by himself in the dressing room.[4][30] Still Got the Blues proved to be the most successful album of Moore's career,[17] selling over three million copies worldwide.[30] The album's title track also became the only single of Moore's solo career to chart on the Billboard Hot 100, where it reached number 97 in February 1991.[31] Still Got the Blues was followed up by 1992's After Hours, which went platinum in Sweden and gold in the UK.[23][32] The record also became Moore's highest charting album in the UK where it reached number four.[33] In 1995, Moore released Blues for Greeny, a tribute album to his friend and mentor Peter Green.[34] After experimenting with other styles of music with Dark Days in Paradise (1997) and A Different Beat (1999), Moore returned to the blues with 2001's Back to the Blues.[6] He continued to release new music throughout the 2000s, with his seventeenth and final studio album Bad for You Baby being released in 2008.[35] Prior to his death, Moore was working on a new rock album that was left unfinished. Some of the songs would later appear on the live album Live at Montreux 2010.[36]

Other work[edit]

In 1975, Moore joined progressive jazz fusion group Colosseum II, which was formed after the demise of bandleader Jon Hiseman's previous band Colosseum. Moore recorded three albums with Colosseum II, before leaving to join Thin Lizzy in 1978.[20][37] Moore was also Ozzy Osbourne's first choice for the guitarist position in his backing band after leaving Black Sabbath. Despite rehearsing together, they ultimately went their separate ways, with Randy Rhoads joining Osbourne's band in 1979.[17] While still living in Los Angeles, Moore was recruited to play guitar in Greg Lake's backing band. He ended up recording two albums with Lake, 1981's Greg Lake, and 1983's Manoeuvres.[20] In 1987, Moore collaborated on the UK charity record "Let It Be", which was released under the group name Ferry Aid.[35]

From 1993 to 1994, Moore was a member of the short-lived power trio BBM ("Baker Bruce Moore"), which also featured Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker, both formerly of Cream. After just one album and a European tour, the trio disbanded.[38] In 2002, Moore collaborated with former Skunk Anansie bassist Cass Lewis and Primal Scream drummer Darrin Mooney in Scars, which released one album.[39] Moore also performed on the One World Project charity single "Grief Never Grows Old", which was released in 2005.[40]

Over the course of his career, Moore played with a plethora of other artists, including George Harrison,[41] Andrew Lloyd Webber, Rod Argent, Gary Boyle,[37] B.B. King,[42] The Traveling Wilburys and The Beach Boys,[43] amongst many others.

Personal life[edit]

Moore was married to health therapist Kerry Booth from 1985 to 1993. They had two sons, Jack and Gus. Moore later had a daughter, Lily, during a ten-year relationship with artist Jo Rendle. At the time of his death, Moore was in a relationship with Petra Nioduschewski. Moore also had another daughter, Saoirse, from an earlier affair.[44]

In the mid-1970s, Moore was involved in a bar fight which left him with permanent facial scarring. According to Eric Bell, Moore was hanging out with his girlfriend at Dingwalls, when two men "started mouthing about Gary’s girlfriend. What they’d like to do to her." After Moore confronted them about it, one of the men smashed a bottle on the bar and slashed Moore's face with it. This had a profound effect on Moore. "It did change him," said Bell. "A lot of that pent-up anger and emotion would come out in his playing. And it came out in other ways too. It must be a hard thing to come back from something like that." During the 1980s, Moore would try to hide his scars in photographs and videos by looking down or being shot from a distance.[17]

Death[edit]

Gary Moore's gravestone in the churchyard of St Margaret's Church, Rottingdean.

Moore died of a heart attack in his sleep at the age of 58 during the early hours of 6 February 2011. At the time he was on holiday with his girlfriend Petra Nioduschewski at the Kempinski Hotel in Estepona, Spain. His death was confirmed by Thin Lizzy's manager Adam Parsons.[3][45] The Daily Telegraph reported that Moore's fatal heart attack was brought on by a high level of alcohol in his body – 380 mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood.[46]

Moore was laid to rest in a private ceremony at St Margaret's Churchyard, Rottingdean, East Sussex, England, with only family and close friends in attendance. His eldest son Jack and his uncle Cliff Moore performed the Irish ballad "Danny Boy" at his funeral. This was reported in The Belfast Telegraph as "a flawless tribute at which some mourners in the church wept openly".[47]

Style and influences[edit]

Moore was known for having an eclectic career, having performed blues, heavy metal, hard rock and jazz fusion.[48][21] At times he was accused of chasing trends, to which he said: "I’ve always just done what I liked. If I don’t like it then I can’t expect anyone else to. Lots of careers have been made from regurgitating the same record. If I’d made millions of quid, I’d be making jazz records."[49] Following Still Got the Blues, Moore distanced himself from his 1980s hard rock image, stating: "I don’t even feel like Gary Moore the rock guitarist anymore. I’m not that guy anymore, to be honest with you. If I go back and listen to some of that stuff, I go, 'Shit. Did I really play that?' It just sounds quite alien to me in some ways. Don’t get me wrong; it’s not that I don’t like rock. I like all kinds of music, but it’s just not the way I want to play."[50]

One of Moore's biggest influences was guitarist Peter Green. He first became aware of Green, when the latter was performing with John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers. "It was an amazing experience just to hear a guitarist walk on stage and plug into this amplifier, which I thought was a pile of shit, and get this incredible sound.", said Moore. "He was absolutely fantastic, everything about him was so graceful."[34] Moore eventually met Green in 1969–1970, when Skid Row toured with Green's band Fleetwood Mac. The two became friends, with Green later selling his 1959 Gibson Les Paul to Moore.[51][52] Another major influence of Moore's was Eric Clapton: "The first time I heard Clapton play guitar, it changed my life. I was already learning to play that guitar, but something very profound happened when I heard [Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton]. Within two seconds of the opening track, I was blown away. The guitar sound itself was so different. You could hear the blues in it, but prior to that all the guitar you heard in rock, well pop, music had been very staid, very polite. Just listen to the early Beatles and The Shadows to see what I mean. They were great, but Eric Clapton transcended it completely."[53] Some of Moore's other early influences included Jeff Beck, Jimi Hendrix, Hank Marvin, George Harrison, and Mick Taylor.[8][50]

Moore performing in 2005.

Moore has been described as a virtuoso by numerous publications.[3][4][15][35] Regarding his style of playing, Moore said the best piece of advice he ever received came from guitarist Albert King: "It's the simplest thing in the world, and when you think about it, it's absolutely right. A lot of guitar players, in every genre, are afraid to leave space. They're afraid to leave a hole, afraid they'll fall down it or something. When you get into the habit of leaving a space, you become a much better player for it. If you've got an expressive style and can express your emotions through your guitar, and you've got a great tone, it creates a lot of tension for the audience. It's all down to the feel thing. If you've got a feel for the blues, that's a big part of it. But you've got to leave that space."[4] Moore was also known for having pained expressions while performing. When asked about it, he stated: "People make fun of me for doing that, but it’s not contrived. When I’m playing I get completely lost in it and I’m not even aware of what I’m doing with my face — I’m just playing."[54]

Moore was often described as "grumpy" and he had a reputation of being hard to work with at times.[4][17][20] Brian Downey said of Moore: "He could be a bit cranky sometimes, let’s put it like that." Eric Bell stated: "If he played a bad gig, it would just completely destroy him. I saw him play one night at Liberty Hall in Dublin and he was amazing. But when I went to see him in the dressing room afterwards he was sitting in the corner with a big bottle of Mateus Rosé wine, knocking it back. I sat down beside him and said, ‘Fucking great gig, Gary.’ He looked at me. ‘What? Fucking load of shite! I’ve never played so bad in my fucking life!’ I saw that side of him quite a lot.”[17] Regarding his reputation, Moore said: "People might say I’m ‘difficult’ because I'm a bit of perfectionist when it comes down to it. I think that I set such high standards for myself that sometimes I expect other people to live up to these standards, and it's not fair because they're not setting the same goals for themselves."[20]

Legacy[edit]

Following his death, many of Moore's fellow musicians paid tribute to him, including his former Thin Lizzy bandmates Brian Downey,[55] and Scott Gorham,[48] as well as Bryan Adams,[56] Bob Geldof,[1] Kirk Hammett,[57] Tony Iommi,[58] Alex Lifeson,[59] Brian May,[60] Ozzy Osbourne,[61] Paul Rodgers,[62] Henry Rollins,[56] Roger Taylor,[63] Butch Walker,[56] and Mikael Åkerfeldt,[64] amongst many others. Thin Lizzy also dedicated the rest of their ongoing tour to Moore.[55] On 12 March 2011, a tribute night was held for Moore at Duff's Brooklyn in New York City.[65] On 18 April 2011, a number of musicians, including Eric Bell and Brian Downey, gathered for a tribute concert at Whelan's in Dublin.[66]

In 2012, an exhibition celebrating the life and work of Moore was at the Oh Yeah Music Centre in Belfast.[67] In 2013, Eric Clapton released the album Old Sock, which featured a cover version of "Still Got the Blues". To commemorate what would have been his father's 65th birthday, Jack Moore along with guitarist Danny Young released the tribute song "Phoenix" in 2017.[68] That same year, guitarist Henrik Freischlader released a tribute album to Moore, titled Blues for Gary.[69] In 2018, Bob Daisley released the album Moore Blues for Gary – A Tribute to Gary Moore, which featured the likes of Steve Morse, John Sykes, Ricky Warwick, Steve Lukather, Glenn Hughes, and many others.[70] On 12 April 2019, a tribute concert for Moore was held at The Belfast Empire Music Hall to help raise funds for a memorial statue.[71]

Moore has been cited as an influence by many notable guitarists, including Doug Aldrich,[72] Joe Bonamassa,[73] Vivian Campbell,[74] Paul Gilbert,[75] Kirk Hammett,[76] John Sykes[77] and Zakk Wylde.[78] In 2018, Moore was voted number 15 on Louder's list of "The 50 Best Guitarists of All Time".[79] In 2020, he was placed on a list of "The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time" by Total Guitar.[80]

When asked how he'd like to be remembered, Moore said: "I don’t know. However they want! As somebody that didn’t bullshit. Whatever I did, at least I meant it. That’s all I can say really cos I usually do mean it. I’m not full of shit like a lot of people. Whatever I do, whether it sells or not, at least I mean it at the time and I’m honest about it. Which I think is the only way to be."[54]

Equipment[edit]

Guitars[edit]

Gibson Gary Moore Signature Les Paul

The guitar most associated with Moore was a 1959 Gibson Les Paul, which was sold to him by Peter Green for around £100. The guitar, nicknamed "Greeny", is known for its unusual tone, the result of a reversed neck pickup. Moore used the guitar for most of his career (including "Parisienne Walkways"), until he sold it in 2006 for somewhere between $750,000 and $1.2 million. The guitar was purchased by Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett in 2014 for what was reportedly "less than $2 million".[81] On Still Got the Blues, Moore used another 1959 Gibson Les Paul, which he got in 1989.[82][83] This particular guitar was retained by Moore's estate following his death.[82] In 2000–2001, Gibson released a Gary Moore Signature Les Paul Standard with a faded lemonburst finish and a reversed neck pickup. Gibson later released a Gary Moore Signature BFG Les Paul, featuring a P-90 pickup in the neck position.[84] In 2013, Gibson announced a new Gary Moore Signature Les Paul, modeled after the "Greeny" guitar.[85]

On Corridors of Power and Victims of the Future, Moore used a 1961 Fiesta Red Fender Stratocaster, which had previously belonged to Tommy Steele. In 2017, Fender Custom Shop released a limited edition replica based on Moore's model.[8][86][87] Other guitars Moore used during his career include a 1964 Gibson ES-335, and a 1968 Fender Telecaster, amongst many others.[8][83] Starting with G-Force, Moore also began playing Charvel guitars, equipped with a Floyd Rose tremolo and EMG pickups. He also played Hamer and PRS guitars during the 1980s.[8] After his death, a number of Moore's guitars were auctioned off. These included a 1963 Fender Stratocaster given to him by Claude Nobs, a Fritz Brothers Roy Buchanan Bluesmaster, a 2011 Gibson Les Paul Standard VOS Collector's Choice No. 1 Artist's Proof No. 3 (modeled after the "Greeny" guitar), and a 1964 Gibson Firebird 1.[88]

Moore began playing with .009-.046 gauge strings, before switching to .010-.052. Later he switched to gauge .009-.048.[83]

Other equipment[edit]

Moore used Marshall amplifiers during most of his career. He also used other amplifiers from time to time, including Dean Markley, Gallien-Krueger and Fender.[8][89][90] Some of the effects pedals Moore used include an Ibanez ST-9 Super Tube Screamer, an Ibanez TS-10 Tube Screamer Classic, a Marshall Guv'nor, a Roland Space Echo, a Roland SDE 3000 Digital Delay and a Roland Dimension D.[8][89]

Discography[edit]

Solo albums[edit]

References[edit]

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