John Galway played drums in my NYC blues band from 1985 till around 1991.We first met when I was busking in the Subways on the Upper West Side. When the Subway doors opened, he heard the sound of my guitar & stepped off the train before his stop to listen and hang for a bit.
I remember he said he thought it was "real cool" to hear blues being played, started talking about the artists he dug. He said he played drums, we exchanged numbers & within a week we started jamming together regularly in a shitty little rehearsal studio…We realized we both had our crappy S.R.O’s within a few blocks of each other, when I first went over to his place, I immediately discovered that he also practiced Buddhism & had the same kind of alter as I set up in his room.
John then got me involved with some load in/load out, stage hand work for Liza Minnelli. John was one of the main crew & we had good times setting up & breaking down those shows, the money was real good too.
John’s history was mainly playing with punkabilly style, hard edged, corn fed rock & roll bands but he also had a real passion for the blues (he could even play a little of Lightnin’ Hopkins style on guitar as well as Suzy Q & some Stones).
At that time he was part of this indy-rock group called the Silos & their bassist just quit before a mid-west tour they had lined up. The group had a buzz going and was developing a strong fan base across the US. I checked them out at the Lone Star café for some kind of Sunday afternoon unsigned act showcase. I remember that day to my surprise meeting the great blues man Albert Collins upstairs pacing around (he just did a taping on the Letterman show). I asked him if he was going to play & he said he wanted to, but none of the groups performing wanted to give up there stage time to let him sit in.There were maybe only a dozen people in the audience & all I thought was what a freakin’ waste!
So, John got me to fill in as substitute guitarist (guitarist Bob Rupe moved over to bass) and we travelled up & down the Mid West, state to state playing little university towns & shitty rock bars, slept on floors of their fans apts. didn’t make a single dime… It was a real blast!When we travelled thu Greenville S. Carolina, where John grew up, we stopped at his folks house for some down time & had a beer & BBQ bash. We used to get a kick watching the other acts on the bill set up for their sound check.John had a hilarious three point look-out list to determine if a band was not worth checking out; A) If the guitarist had one of those grey plastic BOSS pedal effects cases, B) If the drummer had roto-toms & C) if anyone in the group wore spandex.
We would patiently wait & watch as they set up and if all three were in place, we wouldn’t even bother… I can still hear him sarcastically whisper “now here come the roto-toms…”. That was my first time on the road & John was a real anchor, helping me along the way, giving me solid support. The other three group members were edgy, crabby and not very sympathetic towards my inexperience, the road brings out the best in people but John was like an older brother.
When we returned to NYC, we got some gigs together right away & started playing all the clubs we could find.Rodeo Bar was our first gig, Katie O’Tooles, Sun Mountain café, Bitter End, China club, Finnian’s Rainbow, Abelines, Wetlands, Wonderland, Terra Blues, Tramps, Emerald Pub, Lauterbacks the Pool Bar…
There were tons of places popping up at that time & we had regular spots at many of these dives for years.Many of the musicians in my group were working with other bands, so there was allot of rotation from gig to gig, but John was a main player. I dug into my archives recently and dusted off some cassettes from various gigs. I can hardly stand to listen to myself, but John was a solid player all the way!I believe I may even have a video somewhere in a box in Staten Island that some NYU students shot of a live gig in the Village.
We spent allot of time together over those 6 years & were good buddies… That was an important period in my development as a musician, trying to figure it all out.It was all new… John validated what I was trying to figure out with the blues (a tall order for a 23 year old white kid from Brooklyn) and gave me encouragement. More than a good drummer, he was a good friend.I never once ever recall John freaking out, raising his voice, losing control or stressing out in any situation.He had an incredibly stable as well as stabilizing character. Calm and cool Southern ease.
When his brother Greg died, John understandably became very detached to the music scene & I wanted to give him space. He became isolated, hard to reach emotionally and I started spending more & more time overseas each year. The few times I did see him, he was extremely unmotivated and I tried my best to jolt him & get him to move forward… But that chapter was over. We lost touch, time did its great mind-fuck trick, but I always imagined we would hook up again eventually & hang out…
I have been living in Sweden now for 11 years and only recently discovered John died 12 years ago. Damn, I miss him!