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Henry McCullough 6/2016

Henry McCulloughJune 14, 2016 – Henry Campbell Liken McCullough (Wings) was born in Northern Ireland on 21 July 1943. He first came to prominence as a guitar player of talent in the early 1960s as the teenage lead guitarist with The Skyrockets showband from Enniskillen. In 1964, with three other members of The Skyrockets, he left and formed a new showband fronted by South African born vocalist Gene Chetty, which they named Gene and The Gents.

In 1967 McCullough moved to Belfast where he joined Chris Stewart (bass), Ernie Graham (vocals) and Dave Lutton (drums) to form the psychedelic band The People. Later that year the band moved to London and were signed by Chas Chandler’s management team, who changed the group’s name to Éire Apparent. Under Chandler’s guidance after a single release they toured with groups such as Pink Floyd, Soft Machine, The Move and The Jimi Hendrix Experience, as well as Eric Burdon and the Animals. Things went well until in Vancouver, Canada in mid February 1968, while the band was touring with The Animals, McCullough returned to The United Kingdom, officially because of ‘visa problems’ and Mick Cox flew out to take his place in the band. Back in Ireland McCullough joined what was primarily a folk group called Sweeney’s Men, by May 1968. Under his influence, they began to mix folk and rock, and are regarded as one of the early pioneers of Folk rock.

After a year in Ireland, McCullough returned to London to work with Joe Cocker as a member of his backing band, the Grease Band. With Cocker he toured the U.S. and performed at the Woodstock Festival. He played on The Grease Band’s eponymous album after leaving Cocker and during his time with the band he also appeared as lead guitarist on Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar (1970) and on the progressive Spooky Tooth album The Last Puff (1970).

McCullough’s career took off when he played with Joe Cocker and The Grease Band in the late ’60s as lead guitarist. He was featured with the group at Woodstock and was a guitarist on The Grease Band’s self-titled debut album.

Wings recruited McCullough in time to record the group’s second album, Red Rose Speedway. He quickly made an impression, as McCartney noted, on the No. 1 single “My Love” with the slick solo complemented by strings. McCullough recorded it while under some pressure.

“There’s Paul, George Martin etc. in the control room, a 50-piece orchestra waiting on me in the studio, (they were recording both the orchestra and guitar solo at the same time),” he recounted to the Examiner in 2012. “It was a one take wonder, a gift from God? I don’t know … somebody, something happened, everybody saw it, felt it. Ask Sir Paul and I think you would get a similar answer.”

McCullough headed up lead duties for another Wings standard, the James Bond theme “Live and Let Die.” He quit before the group recorded their 1973 record, Band on the Run.

In 1975 McCullough joined The Frankie Miller Band with bassist Chris Stewart, keyboard player Mick Weaver and drummer Stu Perry. They recorded the album, The Rock with Miller. The song “Ain’t Got No Money” taken from this album, inspired Bob Seger to write and record “The Fire Down Below”. Later the same year McCullough released Mind Your Own Business on George Harrison’s Dark Horse label.

Throughout his career, McCullough also worked on Webber’s Evita soundtrack, voiced one of the people heard at the end of Pink Floyd’s “Money,” and recorded his first solo album Mind Your Own Business on the record label former Beatle George Harrison had created. After he moved back to Ireland he played as session musician in many different musical experiences until a nearly fatal November 2012 heart attack that limited his ability. He died on June 14, 2016 at age 72.

“I was very sad to hear that Henry McCullough, our great Wings guitarist, passed away today,” Wings founder Paul McCartney said in a statement on his website. “He was a pleasure to work with, a super-talented musician with a lovely sense of humor. The solo he played on ‘My Love’ was a classic that he made up on the spot in front of a live orchestra. Our deepest sympathies from my family to his.”- Sir Paul McCartney.

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