"It was an enormous part of Rory Gallagher’s life and was with him from the very start of his career right until the end": The Irish bluesman's legendary '61 Strat is going up for auction

Rory Gallagher '61 Strat
(Image credit: Future)

Rory Gallagher's '61 Strat is one of the most iconic guitars of all time; said to be the first on Irish soil and the number one workhorse he made blues-rock history with. Now it's going up for auction for the first time since Rory bought it in 1963.

“Since 1995, I have always felt that there was a mission to be fulfilled to cement Rory's legacy and widen the knowledge of his music,” says the late blues musician's brother, former manager and the guitar's current owner Dónal Gallagher. “So, in what is one of the most difficult and sensitive decisions to reach, I have decided to facilitate the release of his instruments for sale, so that these emblems of his legacy can be enjoyed by others.”

Rory Gallagher '61 Strat

(Image credit: Future)

The distinctly worn Stratocaster has an estimate of £700,000 – £1,000,000. Originally Sunburst, it's been modified: only the middle pickup is original and the wiring has been changed so that the tone control only works on the bridge pickup. Later, there was even a neck replacement. 

Rory Gallagher live (full show) | Rockpalast | 1977 - YouTube Rory Gallagher live (full show) | Rockpalast | 1977 - YouTube
Watch On

Rory bought it in 1963 for £100 from Crowley’s Music Shop In Cork and over years of touring it lost most of its original finish.

“There were people who thought that Rory was chiseling it away each night, but it certainly wasn’t the case,” Dónal told us back in 2015. “Rory’s sweat was so acidic that the effect on the guitar finish was like paint stripper. After a three-hour set, it was always covered with sweat and you could just see the paint starting to bubble up. Rory was very concerned about it, it felt like premature balding!

Read more


(Image credit: Brian Cooke / Getty)

Classic interview: Rory Gallagher - "Jimmy Page makes a point of it and congratulations to him and Keith Richards, some of their best notes are the ones that are fluffed

“The sweat was such a problem that in the late' 70s, he started getting terrible tuning problems with the neck," noted Dónal. "He took it to Fender, who discovered that a combination of the huge amount of moisture in it and the heat of the lights each night wasn’t allowing the wood to settle.

“Fender made him a replica neck and Rory put the original in his house in London, as little more than an ornament. Several years afterwards, Rory was putting a guitar together and as an experiment, tried the old neck again, which had by then dried out and gone back to its original form. It was quickly repatriated.”

The Strat is the first lot from Bonhams' Rory Gallagher Collection, with most of his main guitars, amps and other guitar gear going up for auction.

“Rory Gallagher’s 1961 Fender Stratocaster is one of the world’s most recognisable guitars,” adds Claire Tole-Moir, Head of Bonhams' Popular Culture Department. “It was an enormous part of Rory Gallagher’s life and was with him from the very start of his career right until the end.

“It could be said that it was on this guitar that he carved out his legacy of being one of the greatest guitarists of all time. Bonhams is honoured to be entrusted with bringing this iconic Stratocaster to auction and is excited to announce the landmark sale of Rory Gallagher’s extensive collection.”

The Rory Gallagher Collection will come to auction at Bonhams in New Bond Street London on 17 October 2021. Find out more about the auction at bonhams.com

Rob Laing
Guitars Editor, MusicRadar

I'm the Guitars Editor for MusicRadar, handling news, reviews, features, tuition, advice for the strings side of the site and everything in between. Before MusicRadar I worked on guitar magazines for 15 years, including Editor of Total Guitar in the UK. When I'm not rejigging pedalboards I'm usually thinking about rejigging pedalboards.