The first seismic explosion of rock ‘n’ roll back in the 1950s certainly had its share of flamboyant figures. Clifton Elwood Gallup, 1930-1988, was not one of them. Big, tall, affably good natured, and several years older than Vincent and the rest of the Blue Caps, Gallup was anything but a 50s rock ‘n’ roll wild man or slouching, sneering hipster.
Between that first session in May 1956 and his departure from the band the following October, he played on 36 recordings by Gene Vincent and His Blue Caps. These include classics such as “Be-Bop-a-Lula,” “Crazy Legs,” “Who Slapped John,” “Blue Jean Bop,” “Cat Man,” “Double Talkin’ Baby,” Cruisin’,” and of course, the magnificent “Race With the Devil.” All together, however, Gallup’s short stint as a Blue Cap constitutes a veritable education in dazzling rockabilly guitar. Even when he wasn’t soloing, his guitar parts showed an advanced understanding of composition, and he routinely tossed off speedily intricate passages with seeming effortlessness.
And yet he’s hardly a household name. Indeed, most have never heard of him (including a lot of guitar players), and his tenure as a Blue Cap was, as noted, exceedingly brief–not even one year. But make no mistake–Cliff Gallup is unquestionably one of the greatest guitar heroes of the 1950s. Just ask Jeff Beck, Brian Setzer, Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Albert Lee or any other among numerous acknowledged guitar greats who routinely adopt a tone of hushed reverence at the mention of Gallup’s name.
Learn more about Gallup on the Gretsch Guitars website along with information on the new Gretsch G6128T-CLFG Cliff Gallup Signature Duo Jet™.