Gary Moore was one of the most influential rock guitarists of the last forty years. He was fluent in jazz-fusion, blues rock, electric blues and hard rock and heavy metal guitar and his playing influenced and inspired hundreds of other guitar heroes. Maintaining a considerable cult status until well into the 80s, he was best known outside the UK for several stints in Thin Lizzy until his commercial breakthrough came in 1985 with the hard rock album Run For Cover. After re-inventing himself as a blues player with 1990’s Still Got the Blues he enjoyed mass worldwide acclaim until his death.
Robert William Gary Moore was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland on April 4, 1952. He began playing the guitar when he was eight, teaching himself to play the traditional way despite being left-handed. He moved to Dublin in 1969 and almost immediately joined local band Skid Row. The band’s singer at the time was Phil Lynott, who was fired soon after, but the pair would continue a friendship until the latter’s death in 1986. During his tenure with Skid Row, Moore met Peter Green of Fleetwood Mac who became a major influence – in 1995 Moore recorded Blues for Greeny, a whole album of Green’s songs, using one of the man’s classic guitars. Moore left Skid Row after two albums, in 1971 on the eve of a US tour and was replaced temporarily by Eric Bell.
Moore released a solo album in 1973, but when Bell left Thin Lizzy that year, he was contacted by his old friends Lynott and Brian Downey and joined the band long enough for a tour and to record a single track, “Still in Love With You”, that would appear on the 1974 album Nightlife. He subsequently joined Jon Hiseman’s band Colosseum II with Don Airey and Neil Murray, but re-joined Thin Lizzy briefly for a US tour with Queen after guitarist Brian Robertson broke his hand in a fight
His relationship with Lizzy continued in 1978 when Robertson was fired. He played on the band’s classic Black Rose: A Rock Legend album and Lynott and Downey featured on Moore’s solo album from the same year, Back on the Streets. This album featured a duet with Lynott called “Parisienne Walkways” that became a UK hit, the first of 10 British top 40 singles for Gary Moore.
Moore left Thin Lizzy again midway through a US tour as Lynott and Downey descended into drug addiction, and immediately formed G-Force, allowing him to do shows with Van Halen. The resulting album showed a marked change in Moore’s style from jazz-inflected blues to commercial hard rock, best exemplified by his next album, Corridors of Power. For many the pinnacle of his hard rock phase, Corridors of Power featured Deep Purple drummer Ian Paice and a duet with Cream’s Jack Bruce. Victims of the Future, once again featuring Paice, was equally well received but it was his next album that became his commercial breakthrough. Run For Cover re-united Moore with Phil Lynott and the pair duetted on “Out in the Fields”, scoring a #5 UK hit. The reworked version of “Empty Rooms” (originally from the previous album) also charted. Lynott sang lead on “Military Man” and Glenn Hughes also featured.
Wild Frontier saw a return to Moore’s Celtic roots, particularly on “Over the Hills and Far Away” (later covered by both Nightwish and Thyrfing). The title track was written for Lynott’s vocals, but the Thin Lizzy founder died from organ failure before it could be recorded and the album was subsequently dedicated to him. While critically panned, Wild Frontier brought Moore significant attention in Australia due to the metalised cover of “Friday on My Mind” that was a minor hit. It was during this time that Sebastian Bach claims Moore reportedly sold the rights to the name Skid Row to his US metal band for $35,000.
After the War continued Moore’s exploration of Celtic themes and also included “Led Clones”, featuring Ozzy Osbourne, a track critical of Kingdom Come and Whitesnake who were, in the guitarist’s view, plundering Led Zeppelin’s style and imagery mercilessly.
Following this, Moore abruptly departed from the metal and heavy rock world, turning his attention to electric blues guitar on 1990’s Still Got the Blues. With guest appearances from George Harrison, Nicky Hopkins and blues legends Albert King and Albert Collins, the album was critically praised and went on to become a worldwide smash hit, setting the pace for most of the rest of his career, only veering slighty with the electronic Dark Days in Paradise in 1997.
He was often critical of his 80s hard rock era and claimed to prefer the traditional electric blues of his later period; indeed many of his live recordings from the last two decades include only his blues songs and some selected jazz-fusion style workouts from his Colosseum days. Moore was also heavily critical of John Sykes’ decision to continue touring as Thin Lizzy, although he himself performed a Lynott tribute in August 2005 with other former Lizzy guitarists Brian Robertson, Eric Bell and Scott Gorham.
Along with his better known projects, Gary Moore also recorded with Greg Lake, with Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker (as BBM) and did a blues rock album under the name Scars with members of Skunk Anansie and Primal Scream. Adept at virtually any style of play, he was both a lightning fast and extremely lyrical guitarist and a long string of musicians including Randy Rhoads, Kirk Hammett, Vivian Campbell, Adrian Smith, Gus G and Joe Bonamassa all cited him as a major influence on their own playing. He died suddenly during the night of February 6, 2011 while holidaying in Estepona, Spain, aged 58.