Band of Friends, a Celebration of Blues Rock Guitar Hero Rory Gallagher, Kicks Off Latest U.S. Tour in Newport This Week

Founded by Gallagher bassist Gerry McAvoy and featuring accomplished Blues/Roots/Rock guitarist Davy Knowles, the group plays Southgate House Revival March 7 just weeks after the sudden death of longtime friend/drummer Ted McKenna.

Mar 5, 2019 at 11:53 am
click to enlarge Band of Friends - Photo: Provided
Photo: Provided
Band of Friends

Had he not died following a liver transplant in the mid-’90s, influential Irish Blues/Rock guitarist and singer Rory Gallagher would have recently turned 71. But Gallagher’s legacy and music still looms large in the Blues Rock universe, from his ’60s band Taste (which played with artists like Jimi Hendrix and Cream) to his work with Albert King and Muddy Waters through the extensive solo career that he turned down jobs with The Rolling Stones and Deep Purple to launch in the early ’70s.

There are still regular celebrations and tributes to Gallagher all over the world, including the touring, lineup-rotating Band of Friends, which was formed earlier this decade by bassist Gerry McAvoy. Since its start, the musician, who had worked with Gallagher for 20 years and appeared on all 14 of his solo albums, anchored the project with another Gallagher collaborator, drummer Ted McKenna, who died in January due to complications from the routine hernia surgery he decided to undergo between tour cycles.

For the band’s current tour — which kicks off Thursday, March 7 at Newport, Kentucky's Southgate House Revival (click here for ticket info) — Mike Hansen will be holding down the drummer position. 

The trio is fronted by another relative newcomer to the fold, Blues/Roots/Rock guitarist Davy Knowles, who is now based out of Chicago but grew up on the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea, right between Great Britain and Ireland. (He began playing with Band of Friends last year.) Raised on a steady diet of guitar music that included Eric Clapton, Dire Straits and John Mayall, Knowles also absorbed a Celtic influence, which helped him make an even deeper connection with Gallagher.

“Rory Gallagher understood Celtic influences, being an Irishman, and I saw that where I was growing up, too,” Knowles said in an interview with the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in 2008. “We were only 50 or 60 miles off the coast of Ireland. So I had this big Celtic influence growing up. And when I heard him incorporating that into his music, that’s when I really got into it.”

While definitionally a tribute to Gallagher, playing material from throughout his career, in a press release for the current U.S. tour, McAvoy stresses that Band of Friends is not a rote “tribute band.”

“The interpretations of the material can be quite spontaneous and unique,” he says. “It’s not a note-for-note replica of Rory’s material or concerts from decades past, but his influence and spirit is omnipresent in everything we do.”