Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Passings: Henry McCullough of the Grease Band, Paul McCartney & Wings (1943 - 2016)

by VVN Music

Henry McCullough, session guitarist and member of Paul McCartney & Wings during the 70's, has died at his home in Bellfast, Ireland. He was 72.

McCullough had suffered a heart attack in 2012 from which he never recovered. His passing was confirmed by his wife Josie.

Paul McCartney paid tribute to his former guitarist on his website, saying:

I was very sad to hear that Henry McCullough, our great Wings guitarist, passed away today. He was a pleasure to work with, a super-talented musician with a lovely sense of humour. 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.
McCullough was born in Portstewart, Northern Ireland where he played in local bands such as The Skyrockets and Gene and the Gents. After moving to Belfast in 1967, he joined the band The People who later became Eire Apparent. The band recorded one album, Sunrise, which was produced by Jimi Hendrix and released on Buddah in the U.K.

In May 1968, he joined the folk group Sweeney's Men, bringing more of a progressive sound to the band but stayed for only two months before joining Joe Cocker's Grease Band with whom he played at Woodstock. After Cocker left to form Mad Dogs and Englishmen, McCullough and the Grease Band went on to record two more albums. It was also during this time that Henry shared electric guitar duties with Neil Hubbard on the original 1970 recording of Jesus Christ Superstar along with appearing on the Spooky Tooth album The Last Puff.

In January 1972, Paul McCartney asked McCullough to join his band Wings who were just coming off their debut album, Wild Life. The set received only mediocre reviews and did not live up to the performance of McCartney's previous projects, going to only number 10 in the U.S. and 11 in the U.K.

By March, Wings was in the studio to record the tracks for Red Rose Speedway. Originally conceived as a double album, EMI insisted on cutting it to a single disc based on what they saw as substandard material and the lesser performance of Wild Life.

The final album included the single My Love which became McCartney's second number 1 of his solo career. Anchored by the single, Red Rose Speedway went to number 1 in the U.S. and 5 in the U.K.

Also recorded during the Red Rose Speedway sessions with McCullough on guitar was the Live and Let Die theme which peaked at 2 in the U.S. and 9 in the U.K.

After the release of Red Rose Speedway, McCartney and Wings shot the critically drubbed special James Paul McCartney before embarking on a two month tour of the U.K. but, during the rehearsals prior to recording Band on the Run, both McCullough and Denny Sewell left Wings in a dispute over musical direction and the fact that Paul's wife, Linda, was part of the band. McCullough also said that McCartney was too domineering.

In 1975, McCullough joined The Frankie Miller Band and recorded the album The Rock along with his own solo debut, Mind Your Own Business. He went on to play sessions with the likes of Roy Harper, Marianne Faithfull, Eric Burdon, Donovan and others.

Over the balance of his career, he played in a variety of bands along with releasing three more solo albums in the 80's.

Among McCullough's album credits:

  • Joe Cocker! - Joe Cocker (1969)
  • With a Little Help From My Friends - Joe Cocker (1969)
  • Jesus Christ Superstar - Original album (1970)
  • The Last Puff - Spooky Tooth (1970)
  • The Grease Band - Grease Band (1971)
  • Red Rose Speedway - Wings (1973)
  • Spider Jiving - Andy Fairweather Low (1974)
  • I Can Stand a Little Rain - Joe Cocker (1974)
  • Evita - Original album (1976)
  • Faithless - Marianne Faithfull (1978)
  • Darkness Darkness - Eric Burdon (1980)
  • See Me - Ronnie Lane (1980)
  • Commercial Breaks - Roy Harper (1994)
  • Wham Bam - Steve Marriott's Allstars (2007)