Gary Moore – Remembering Northern Ireland’s Finest Blues Guitarist

It was a huge shock to blues and rock aficionados alike when Gary Moore passed away on February 6, 2011, following a devastating heart attack.  Despite not receiving that much fanfare among American music fans, Moore was nonetheless one of the most esteemed guitarists in the British music scene, playing a variety of genres in a career spanning over four decades. 

Moore  was born on April 4, 1952 to Bobby and Winnie Moore in Belfast, Northern Ireland.  His first guitar influences included Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and original Fleetwood Mac leader Peter Green.  Family problems prompted Moore to leave home as a teenager and move to Dublin.  Here he would form a blues-rock band called Skid Row, which also featured vocalist Phil Lynott.  Four years later, the two would be reunited, when Moore replaced Eric Bell in Lynott’s up-and-coming band Thin Lizzy. 

Moore’s first stint with the band would last just one year, but that didn’t matter.  He had a burgeoning solo career going for him, and he did remain friends and co-collaborators with Lynott for most of the ‘70s.  One of those collaborations was “Parisienne Walkways”, a song that gave Moore his first big hit on the UK Singles charts, reaching #8 in 1979.  During the late ‘70s, Moore was also busy doing session work for artists like Rod Argent and Andrew Lloyd Webber and playing full-time with prog-rock band Colosseum II. 

Moore would return to Thin Lizzy for a third time in 1978 (he had briefly toured with the band in 1977), but this third stint proved to be the most toxic.  This time, he was replacing Lizzy’s temperamental, hard-drinking guitarist Brian Robertson (the same man he temporarily subbed for in ’77), but tensions soon began to erupt between Lynott and Moore.  Disturbed by the increasing drug use and infighting within the band, Moore quit Thin Lizzy for the final time in July 1979, right in the middle of their ongoing American tour.

The ‘80s were still busy for Moore, but most of his albums were now leaning towards the pop-metal sound most popular in that decade.  By 1990, Moore decided to return to what he loved playing the most – the blues.  The 1990 album Still Got the Blues finally gave Moore some recognition Stateside as a solo artist – the title track only peaked at #97 on the Billboard Hot 100, but still remains a staple on classic rock-oriented stations in America.  Moore would stick to the blues for most of the ‘90s, but did dabble with electronic sounds on his last two albums of the decade, 1997’s Dark Days in Paradise and 1999’s A Different Beat.  His 2001 release Back to the Blues marked a welcome return to the blues, a path he would continue on till his untimely death last year. 

Despite the frequent genre-hopping, Moore is still best known as one of the United Kingdom’s most talented blues guitarists ever.  It was the blues that got him interested in playing guitar, and at the time of his death, he was firmly rooted in the music he loved so much since his boyhood days.  Fellow musicians continue to remember him not only as a great musician, but also as a wonderful human being and a true friend. 

Joe Bonamassa – From Child Prodigy to Modern-Day Blues-Rock Hero

Joe Bonamassa is considered by many to be the top blues guitarist of the present generation.  While most musicians his age draw influences from the ‘80s and ‘90s bands they grew up with, Bonamassa grew up listening to his parents’ classic rock records, a great foundation for any budding blues-rocker.  His solo career may just be little more than a decade old, but since 2000, Bonamassa has released a whopping 15 albums (eleven in the studio, four live) and three concert DVDs.  Indeed, this relatively young man has achieved as much in 12 years as most older musicians would in a lifetime’s worth of recorded music.

Joe Bonamassa was born on May 8, 1977 in New Hartford, New York as a fourth-generation musician.  It was his parents who first exposed him to rock music and the electric guitar.  Bonamassa first learned to play guitar at the age of 4, and three years after that, he was copying his heroes’ intricate leads perfectly.  And take note these weren’t any ordinary musical heroes, but the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan.  The child prodigy would open for legends such as B.B. King and Danny Gatton in the late ‘80s, and his own blues band, Hot in the Shade, became regulars in the New York gigging scene.  As a teenager, Bonamassa joined the band Bloodline, which featured the sons of several famous musicians – rhythm guitarist Waylon Krieger (the Doors’ Robby Krieger), bassist/lead vocalist Berry Oakley Jr. (the Allman Brothers’ Berry Oakley Sr.) and drummer Erin Davis (Miles Davis).  Bloodline disbanded soon after their self-titled 1994 debut, but it was clear that lead guitarist Bonamassa was the star of the band, despite not having a famous dad like his bandmates.

Six years later, Bonamassa, now 23 years old, released his solo debut, A New Day Yesterday, which was quickly followed up by So, It’s Like That, which topped the Billboard Blues album charts in 2002.  Unlike other “young guns” like Jonny Lang and Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Bonamassa offered fans more than just a straight-up interpretation of the blues.  With a voice reminiscent of the Allman Brothers’ Gregg Allman and a sound redolent of ‘70s classic rock, Bonamassa had found his niche as one of the youngest and hardest blues-rockers in the scene.  Though not as well-received as his first two releases, Blues Deluxe (2003), Had to Cry Today (2004) and You and Me (2006) also impressed most reviewers and helped solidify Bonamassa’s status as the “pre-eminent bluesman of his generation.”

 The next few albums – Sloe Gin (2007), The Ballad of John Henry (2009), Black Rock (2010) and Dust Bowl (2011) – would feature more experimentation, with a more distinct touch of American blues, country and folk music.   A new album, Driving Towards the Daylight, was released just last month, again earning positive feedback from fans and reviewers alike.  With its usual mix of interesting cover material and brilliant compositions, Driving Towards the Daylight proves that Joe Bonamassa, just 35 years old, has no plans of slowing down nor forsaking the British blues influence that has been the guiding force throughout his career.  With recent collaborations such as the all-covers album Don’t Explain (with Beth Hart) and the supergroup Black Country Communion (with Glenn Hughes, Jason Bonham and Derek Sherinian), there doesn’t seem to be an idle moment in Joe Bonamassa’s career.