I received an email tonight in which the great Cliff Gallup was brought up. Realizing that it’s been too long since I talked about Cliff, I figured I needed to rectify the situation immediately. A huge part of Gene Vincent’s sound in the early days was Cliff Gallup’s guitar sound and playing. Gallup is revered by modern guitar players throughout the world as one of–if not the–most influential guitar player of the rock and roll’s formative years.
Gallup could have pursued rock and roll fame and fortune, but instead he chose the quiet life of a husband and family man. He disappeared into the mists of rock and roll obscurity just as fast has he had blazed upon the scene in the mid 1950s. And from what I’ve read about Gallup, he was a humble man who never regretted his decision to live a simple, quiet life.
It’s hard for many people to understand Gallup’s decision–especially musicians who are pursuing their own dreams of superstardom so vigorously. He was on the cusp of having it all; all the rock and roll fame and greatness. Instead of building upon his success and co-authoring the story of Gene Vincent’s further fame, he simply packed up his guitar and walked away from it all. You gotta admire the man for that.
But before he unplugged his guitar, he created some of the most amazing moments in rock and roll on his recordings as one of Vincent’s Blue Caps. Those early recordings are still (in my opinion) Vincent’s best. And that’s due in no small part to the lead guitar work of perhaps the greatest guitarist of the rock and roll era: Cliff Gallup.
Here then is the great “Race With the Devil” from Gene Vincent in which Gallup plays a couple of the most iconic and foundational guitar solos ever recorded.