Gary Moore, who played guitar for Thin Lizzy during three separate stints and also had a successful career as solo artist, died early Sunday at the Kempinski Hotel in Estepona, Spain. The cause of death has yet to be determined. “I am in total shock,” said Lizzy drummer Brian Downey in a statement. “I have known Gary since 1967 when he was in Platform Three and he’s been an amazing friend ever since. It was a pleasure to play with Gary again in 2006 after his days with Lizzy. He will always be in my thoughts and prayers and I just can’t believe he is gone.”
Born in Belfast, Ireland, Moore began as a bluesy guitarist influenced chiefly by Fleetwood Mac’s Peter Green (going as far as purchasing Green’s actual Les Paul guitar, which served as Moore’s main axe throughout the years). Moore first recorded with Dublin rockers Skid Row, before beginning an on-again/off-again relationship with Thin Lizzy throughout the Seventies. Moore’s first Lizzy stint was short-lived, but yielded a memorable solo on the group’s classic ballad, “Still in Love with You,” from their 1974 album, Night Life. When Thin Lizzy opened for Queen during a 1977 U.S. arena tour, Moore (who was also playing with prog rockers Colosseum II) briefly filled in for Lizzy guitarist Brian Robertson.
By 1978, Moore was a full member of Thin Lizzy once more, performing on what’s considered one of the group’s finest studio albums, 1979’s Black Rose: A Rock Legend, which debuted at #2 on the U.K. album charts. The album’s epic closing track, “Róisín Dubh (Black Rose): A Rock Legend,” contains one of Moore’s greatest solos, in which he incorporated several traditional Irish song themes within a hard rock format. The same year, Moore scored his first solo U.K. top ten hit, “Parisienne Walkways,” co-written by Lizzy frontman Phil Lynott. But Moore would exit Lizzy for the third and final time in the midst of a U.S. tour that summer.
In the Eighties Moore scored other hits, including the U.K. top 5 single/Lynott collaboration, “Out in the Fields” (one of Lynott’s last recorded works before his 1986 death), and was name-checked by guitarists like Dio/Whitesnake/Def Leppard shredder Vivian Campbell. By the Nineties, Moore had returned to his blues roots, winning his biggest U.S. hit with the gold-certified album Still Got the Blues (which featured contributions from Albert King, Albert Collins, and George Harrison). Moore continued collaborating with others (including Cream’s Jack Bruce; Ginger Baker, in the short-lived BBM in 1994; and B.B. King, on tour in 2006) and issuing solo albums, the last being 2008’s Bad for You Baby. “Playing with Gary during the Black Rose era was a great experience,” said Lizzy guitarist Scott Gorham. “He was a great player and a great guy. I will miss him.”