Alabama blues icon tells the secrets behind his guitars

“Microwave” Dave Gallaher’s guitars have found him as often as he’s found them.

The Huntsville-based blues musician rarely specifically shops for an instrument, yet his collection is filled with many cool guitars he’s accumulated during his 40-year-plus career.

He knows what he likes when he hears it.  

The kind of gear that appeals to Gallaher possesses “applicable beauty,” he says.

“You think of your audience. The guy over there, beauty to him is a modified Chevrolet V8 at 6,000 RPMs or a Harley Davidson at full rev. You’ve got a lady over here and the most beautiful sound to her is her child waking up and being contented in a crib. ‘I’ve got to sound like Duane Allman’ – I don’t have that. I did that when I was younger and all but you don’t express yourself that way, and you definitely don’t express the songs. That’s what I’m after.”

Gallaher is masterful at using his array of guitars like a painter would use different brushes, conjuring a sonic spectrum while always keeping the blues feel. Even when he and his band, Microwave Dave & The Nukes, which also features bassist Rick Godfrey and drummer James Irvin, extend their music beyond the blues and into rock.   

On Sunday, Gallaher will be celebrated at the third annual Microwave Dave Day. Microwave Dave & The Nukes headline the daylong concert, which is hosted by Humphrey’s Bar & Grill and The Bottle 3 – 9 p.m. on Washington Street downtown between Clinton and Holmes avenues. A $10 donation to the Microwave Dave Music Education is your admission. Other artists performing include R&B musician/producer Kelvin Wooten, singer/songwriter Ingrid Marie and Latin/zydeco band Mambo Gris Gris. (Full schedule below.)

In honor of the first Microwave Dave Day in 2015, Gallaher received a key to the city. He says for year three, “I think the thing I feel happiest about is we’re succeeding on focusing on local music, the music this community makes.”

On a recent afternoon, Gallaher pulled his 200,000 miles-plus Dodge Van behind Humphrey’s. He then told me the stories and secrets behind his guitar collection and other essential gear. Matt Wake |

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