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Gary Moore, one of the all-time greats, passed away in February 2011. Gary Cooper pays tribute to a master guitarist.
There are some Rock stars you are never very surprised to hear have met an early demise - but the loss of the great Gary Moore, who died of a heart attack at the age of 58, in February 2011, came as a complete shock to most in the world of music. Many of the tributes that appeared in news media and on websites around the world concentrated on Gary's various spells with Thin Lizzy - undoubtedly a great band and a huge influence in their own right - but for guitarists, it was his solo career that made Gary Moore one of the modern-day masters.
Born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 1952, Gary Moore developed a love of music from his father and made his debut in an Irish showband (as a singer!) at the tender age of six. By the time he was eight, in 1960, he had gravitated to the guitar and was soon learning Hank Marvin and the Shadows licks and a few years later was playing along with George Harrison solos from the Beatles. They were two melodic influences that were to stand him in great stead throughout his career.
But it was the Blues that was to really capture Gary Moore's imagination and he was in the perfect place at the perfect time to hear the three masters who played with John Mayall's Bluesbreakers - Eric Clapton, Peter Green and Mick Taylor. Add in the influence of Jeff Beck, who replaced Clapton in the Yardbirds, and it's clear, Gary Moore attended perhaps the finest guitar university Rock has yet produced.
The importance of those early influences can't be overemphasised. Though Gary achieved his first blast of fame with Thin Lizzy in the late 1970s, and then went on to make a series of successful 1980s heavy metal albums, with which he toured the world, his first love was always the Blues and it will be for his superlative feel and mastery of subtle tone that his playing will be remembered.
For many, the ultimate Gary Moore albums will be 1990's Still Got The Blues (featuring the legends Albert King and Albert Collins), closely followed by his tribute to his mentor, Peter Green, Blues For Greeny, released in 1995. But it's important not to overlook his '80s departure into early shredding and heavy metal. Gary may have eventually tired of it, but he did pioneering work in this area and influenced many who would follow in his footsteps. Likewise, his forays into almost-Pop, like his immortal hit single (recorded with his great friend, Thin Lizzy's Phil Lynott) Parisienne Walkways - which became his theme song.
Picture Gary Moore and you immediately think of the iconic 1959 Les Paul he bought from Peter Green and a succession of sweet-sounding Marshall valve amps (he ended-up owning almost 100 Marshall amps of various vintages!). But it's also worth remembering that he used a wide range of equipment throughout a hugely varied career - not least during his 1980's Metal phase, when the Gibson was elbowed aside for instruments more suited to that style of playing. In fact, Gary is known to have used guitars from Fender, Ibanez, Charvel, Vigier, PRS, Fernandes, Hamer and more - the man was a serious guitar nut as well as a wonderful player!
In the final analysis, the sound most people will associate with Gary Moore, though, was that timeless mating of a '59 Les Paul, a Marshall Guv'nor pedal and a Marshall JTM 45 amp - the classic Still Got The Blues line-up. Perhaps it was that simple purity of approach that best allowed him to be what he was - one of the great masters of feel and tone: the two qualities that no amount of flashy technique (though Gary had that too) will ever cover the lack of.