Name: Alan Rogan
DOB: 15th February 1951
DOD: 3rd July 2019
From: Gateshead, Newcastle, UK
Area of work: Guitar Technician
What they did:
For over 40 years, Alan from Gateshead, Newcastle, was thought of in the trade as “the king of guitar techs”. Thanks to his knowledge, skill, and attention to detail, he tuned, repaired and handed guitars to rock royalty from Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Tom Petty and the Eagles to Pete Townsend when on tour with The Who.
His love of guitars began when he was 12 years old and the Beatles first album came out. “When I saw George Harrison play, that was it for me - I had to have a [Gretsch] Tennessean”. However, his tastes changed when “about two years later, at a local shop in the window was a brand-new Telecaster. When I saw that, when I was about 14, that was the end of it, and it still is.” His passion for guitars would last his entire career.
While at school he took a Saturday job at Barratts music store in Newcastle. On leaving school, and after a short apprenticeship at a Baker’s, he began working full-time at the music shop. In evenings and weekends he could be found nurturing his hobbies of buying, selling, and repairing second-hand guitars and amplifiers and gigging at venues like Club A’Gogo, where the Animals were the house band.
When 24 and working in London’s famous Top Gear musical instrument shop, Alan was made an offer he couldn’t refuse. The Who were planning an 81-day world tour and needed new crew. The band’s management rang Top Gear to ask if they knew a good guitar technician. When Alan answered the phone, he recommended himself. “It starts with a phone call: ‘Do you fancy helping out tonight?’ or ‘Somebody’s ill’,” he recalled. “And then all of a sudden it’s 35 years later...” From that point on Alan was a fixture on every Who tour up until 2019, when he passed away.
When Pete Townshend of the Who smashed electric guitars on stage, Alan was on hand to put them back together again. Alan worked as Townshend’s guitar technician for more than 40 years repairing them with “with Super Glue, Band-Aids, wire, whatever I could lay my hands on”.
As a guitar technician on tour, Alan had to find the best and rarest guitars for Townshend, ensure they were modified to his specifications, get them on site for gigs, tune them onstage and hand them to Townshend as and when required. It was a high-pressured career: “If anything went wrong, with the Who it’s not a case of ‘It’s cool’; it’s ‘That better not happen again – there’s no messing around.” “If a show goes well, and they usually do, he uses two guitars. One for regular tuning and one with capos on.” he said. That said, Alan’s key to being a good guitar tech was to “always have a spare to the spare to the spare.”
Alan often had to repair the guitars during gigs. “I do it very much on the hop,” he said, “while the guitar player is waiting.” Wiping blood off the guitars also became part of Alan’s role. “Pete often cuts his fingers because he just goes for it,” said Alan. He was clearly proud of work, remembering, “When Pete says, ‘Alan has helped me get my sound’, that’s a proud thing to hear.”
Alan’s daughter, Kerri said, Alan knew how to modify a guitar to get the right sound for the right person – bridge, pick-ups, strings, all adjusted to whatever the player wanted…or what Alan suggested they might want. Fender CEO Andy Mooney wrote of Alan that “Anyone who knew [him] knew him as someone who’d brighten every room and make every conversation fun, but Alan was also the consummate, professional guitar technician... He was proud of his work and no detail was too small.”
When Alan died of cancer in July 2019, the Who wrote in tribute to him:
Much of our crew were hand-picked by Al, and we are honoured to be part of his chosen family – spending many years with him all over the world. No words can express the hole left by this overwhelming and large personality, such a bold and funny charmer of a man. Alan was at home in a world of music legends and “big rock stars,” as he had confidence and a sparking persona that could keep up with the best of them. Although always working on the support team side, he was as big a star as anyone he worked with.” They added, “He’s dodged a few flying guitars in life – but he’s free of any such worries now.
...and his skill and knowledge of guitars, Pete Townshend and many other rock stars would not have been able to achieve the sound they wanted for their on-stage performances.
To learn more, please visit: Andy Connelly's #technicianjourney Blog