Microwave Dave Gallaher and his band take the blues to far corners

Printed in The Huntsville Times
December 31, 2006
Posted: February 10, 2007

In a wooden chair at Shaver's Book Store, with eyes closed and head tilted back in the streaming sunlight, Dave Gallaher plays guitar. The resonator on his green guitar shines like a silver moon. In his forest-colored shirt, Gallaher has the feel of a nature mystic greeting the sun's return.

Softly, he sings a song from the 1930s: "Well I want somebody to tell me, tell me if you can, I want somebody to tell me, what is the soul of a man?" A book on the table is open to a portrait of the songwriter, Blind Willie Johnson. Deeply thoughtful, Gallaher also provokes thought. In his spiritual autobiography, "Born to Boogie Woogie," he ponders life's meaning:

"Well, I came into the world on New Year's Eve, and as soon as I got here I was ready to leave, but I was born to boogie woogie," he explains. "I was born to boogie-woogie. And when you're born to boogie-woogie, there ain't no reprieve."

Gallaher's substantial musical experience is too vast to recount here. It's better to consult his Web site, He studied guitar with Johnny Shines, the Alabama blues man who traveled with Robert Johnson. He backed up Bo Diddley, Jerry Boogie McCain and other legends.

He studied composition at Berklee College of Music in Boston. He was first dubbed "Microwave" by Chicago Bob Nelson, who had received his nickname from Muddy Waters.

"I tried football, baseball, basketball and soccer, but nothing could compete with all the records in my locker," Gallaher confesses. "I couldn't cut it as a jock so I made up my mind to be a rocker." Consequently, he has rocked the blues in "every single united state" and beyond.

Gallaher is convinced that "blues is the best self-help." Paradoxically, there are numerous behind-the-scenes reports of him helping others. He and his band donate regular "service gigs" to causes they support.

To Gallaher, the secret of success in music is simple: repeat bookings. He works steadily at solo electric blues gigs and with his band, Microwave Dave & the Nukes. Recently, Michael Feldman's radio show "Whad'ya Know" broadcast (live from Huntsville) a two-song set. The link is easy to find at

Eight minutes into the broadcast, Dave plays a stirring Lowebow composition, "Trail of Tears," a tune first recorded live at the Kaffeeklatsch as part of his solo album "American Peasant." The Lowebow is a stringed instrument of the "diddley bow" family, made from a cigar box and two mop handles, and played with a slide.

Next Dave introduces the Nukes. Microwave Dave & the Nukes are a classic power trio with Gallaher on guitar, Rick Godfrey on bass and James Irvin on drum set. Listen to these three.

Microwave Dave dazzles on "Body and Fender Man," with moods ranging from raucous to ticklish to rollicking. Drummer Irvin is solid, pounding out all the dents. Godfrey is grace on the bass.

The song sounds even better on their new album, "Down South Nukin." The album has a new Lowebow composition, "Ray Brand." They bring Dylan's "From a Buick 6" all the way down home.

Looking ahead, Gallaher made up the end of his autobiography: "One night while I was playin' an angel by my side said 'Don't look now, boy, but you just died - you done played out every single theme you ever had inside'."

Microwave Dave loves the situation in heaven. "The way it looks to me, I'm gonna boogie-woog eternally," he beams.

Story courtesy of:
Jane DeNeefe
The Huntsville Times
Huntsville, Alabama
Printed: Sunday, December 31, 2006
The Huntsville Times

Jane DeNeefe has been a Times community columnist for 2006. E-mail: