Cork shop which sold Rory Gallagher first guitar shuts
Closure of Crowleys Music Centre blamed on declining turnover due to online buying
Guitarist Rory Gallagher (1948-1995) performing in 1972 at the Rainbow Theatre, London, on his trademark well worn sunburst Fender Stratocaster. Photograph: Debi Doss/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
The Cork music shop that sold Rory Gallagher his first guitar has closed after 87 years in business, with the closure being blamed on the increasing number of musicians buying their instruments online.
Sheena Crowley is the third generation to run Crowleys Music Centre, but on Saturday she closed the outlet’s doors on McCurtain Street for the last time, ending almost nine decades of service to the music industry.
“It was my grandfather Tadhg Crowley who set up the business - he was an uilleann pipe maker and he set up a workshop in Drawbridge Street in 1926 with 12 workers, and he had a shop on Merchants Quay selling the instruments.
“My father Michael later took over the business and it was he who sold Rory
Gallagher his first guitar in August 1963 - it was a Fender Stratocaster which had been ordered by Jim Connolly, who was playing with one of the showbands.
“Jim Connolly had wanted a cherry red Stratocaster, but Fender sent a sunburst one, so he decided against taking it... and so my father had to sell it as a second-hand guitar - and Rory bought it for just under £100 - and the rest is history.”
The 1960s, ’70s and ’80s saw Crowleys servicing the burgeoning Irish rock music scene. Over the years the store, which moved to McCurtain Street in 1974, has supplied instruments to some of the best known names in the Irish music business.
“We supplied instruments to The Horslips, Joe Herlihy who became U2’s soundman used to work for us and he used to ring up looking for certain guitars for The Edge, and Christy Moore used to ask my father to get certain types of guitar for him.”
Ms Crowley says the arrival of the internet posed major challenges for the business. About six years ago she noticed online sales were beginning to have a big impact on their business.
“It started hitting us fast - we did everything we could for musicians in terms of getting the best instruments for them, but it just seems that they started buying their stuff online and our turnover was halved pretty quickly,” she revealed.
Last year, Ms Crowley held a showcase of Irish handmade instruments featuring the work of local instrument makers in a bid to counter the impact of the internet by showing musicians quality instruments being made in Ireland.
“What I wanted to say is, ‘I know ye are online and are looking for the best bargains and your instruments might be €100 cheaper, but I wanted to highlight instrument makers like Ari Sheehan, who makes fantastic guitars for the likes of Declan Sinnott.
“Saturday was our last day - it’s sad but that’s life,” said Ms Crowley, who hopes to develop a website to sell quality Irish-made instruments internationally, including to the US, Japan and China, where she believes a market for the instruments can be developed.