Gary Moore

Back to the Rock
Back to the Rock

Irish guitarist Gary Moore first came to prominence in an combo called Skid Row, and played with Thin Lizzy when his friend, Phil Lynott, fronted that aggregation. He was also the “M” in a band called BBM in the mid 1990s – the “Bs” being Jack Bruce (VG, March ’02) and Ginger Baker.

Moore’s solo albums have been players’ favorites, whether centered on rock or blues. Along the way, he used great instruments, including the iconic late-’50s Gibson Les Paul Standard formerly owned by Peter Green. We recently visited with Moore, and found him eager to discuss his history, as well as the new album by his new trio, Scars.

Vintage Guitar: What kind of instruments did you play in the ’60s before Skid Row?
Gary Moore: The first guitar I ever had was a Framus; German-made; that was when I was 10 years old. My father brought it home. A friend of his was selling it, and I bought it for five pounds. It was a big, cello-bodied guitar with two f-holes; it looked huge next to me (chuckles). After that I had a Lucky Squire, made by Rosetti – an Italian company. That was a horrible guitar, as well. Once, when I was playing it in a club, the whole back fell off!

That type of guitar was popular because no one could afford American-made instruments.
Exactly. I couldn’t afford any guitar, not even the Italian ones! Later, I got a Vox Clubman that had a socket like a TV antenna; it was really weird. When I was 14 or 15, I got a Telecaster – my first proper guitar. There were only three coming into Belfast, and I got the last one.

At that time, I was really into Jeff Beck, so I wanted a Telecaster, big-time. I got it on credit, with the condition that I stay with this band I was playing with; we had two horn players, and were doing pub-type stuff, and I wasn’t very happy. As soon as I got the guitar, I left the band (chuckles) and formed a power trio. I joined Skid Row when I was 16, and still had the Telecaster for quite a while. After about six months, I got a [Gibson] SG.

What other bands influenced Skid Row?
Other trios, like Cream and Hendrix. But we also liked King Crimson and other syncopated, technical-type bands. The bass player was one of those guys who liked to show off a lot, so he was trying to make the band impressive by writing lots of difficult riffs; lots of fast, syncopated stuff where we were playing in unison with the drummer. We were also writing some of our own, American West Coast stuff, like the Byrds or “Sky Pilot” by Eric Burdon and the Animals. Phil Lynott was actually in the band, so we had a lead singer before we became a three-piece.

What were you playing during your two associations with Lynott in Thin Lizzy?
The Les Paul Peter Green let me have. I think I was about 20 when Peter let me have that guitar. I met Peter when I was in Skid Row, and we opened for [Fleetwood Mac] at a place called the National Stadium, in Dublin, which is an old boxing place. He was my hero by then, obviously, and he came up to me and told me he liked my playing. So I was very excited – and flattered.

After the show, we sat up half the night playing guitar together. We became friends. He got his manager, Clifford Davis, to bring Skid Row to England.

He left the band not long after that, and I was in the Marquee one night and ran into him. He asked me if I’d like to borrow his guitar. To me, that was the Les Paul to have. I went to his parents’ house the next day to pick it up, and he called me a few days later and asked what I thought. I said, “It’s an amazing guitar!” Then he asked if I’d like to buy it. I told him there was no way I could afford it, and he said “Just sell your guitar, and whatever you get, you can give to me, and it’ll be like swapping guitars, because I want it to have a good home.”

I had the SG at the time, and I sold it for about