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Henry Campbell Liken McCullough (21 July 1943 – 14 June 2016) was a Northern Irish guitarist, vocalist and songwriter. He was best known for his work as a member of Spooky Tooth, Paul McCartney & Wings, The Grease Band and Sweeney’s Men. He also performed and recorded as a solo artist and session musician.
McCullough was born in Portstewart, and first came to prominence 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 the innovators of Folk rock.
Joe Cocker and Grease Band
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).
Paul McCartney and Wings
In 1971 Paul McCartney asked McCullough to join his new band, Wings, alongside Denny Laine and Denny Seiwell. His guitar solo on “My Love” has been described as one of rock music’s greatest solos. Musical differences with McCartney, however, saw McCullough move on the eve of the Band on the Run sessions. He spent two years in the band, playing lead guitar on “Hi, Hi, Hi“, “Live and Let Die” as well as “My Love“.
McCullough’s spoken words “I don’t know; I was really drunk at the time” can be heard on the Pink Floyd album The Dark Side of the Moon (1973), at the end of the song “Money“. He was recalling a fight he had the night before with his wife.
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.
McCullough played concerts as a session musician with Roy Harper, Frankie Miller, Eric Burdon, Marianne Faithfull, Ronnie Lane and Donovan. In 1977 he temporarily joined Dr. Feelgood, following the departure of Wilko Johnson. […]
From Something Else!, August 24, 2011:
Nick DeRiso: You joined Wings at a time when Paul McCartney was issuing a series of memorable stand-alone singles, starting with the banned recording “Hi Hi Hi.” Wings followed that with a reworking of the nursery rhyme “Mary Had A Little Lamb.” Did you start to question just what you’d gotten yourself into?
Henry McCullough, (after a good chuckle): I remember performing ‘Mary Had A Little Lamb’ (for the ‘James Paul McCartney’ television special) outside, and we were all dressed in white with lambs all around. There I was, leaned up against a tree, singing ‘Mary Had A bloody Little Lamb!’ It was one the many instances where I thought: ‘How long will this last?’ He brought in guitar players after me but it was never going to be ‘Wings,’ as a real band. It was always going to be Paul McCartney. They were a great couple, he and Linda – God bless her soul. But that was the way it went. Saying all of that, I have always had a great respect for Paul. The time we spent together, out bonding on the road, it meant we didn’t have to work at it. […]
From songfacts.com, interview with Henry McCullough, August 23, 2011:
[…] I met Paul in Dublin at one of the gigs he was doing, and he was fantastic. He’s been ever so generous over the years with his talk about how this Irish guy was in the studio telling him the solo he wrote wasn’t good enough.
I walked away at a very wrong time, which was just like a week before going off to Vegas. We had all been up and rehearsed in Scotland at his place, the Mull of Kintyre, when meself and Paul had a few words to say to each other on a particular day and that was it. The minute he left I knew that was it. I just packed my guitar, I didn’t say anything to Paul. I just left. And it was probably the most unprofessional thing I’ve ever done in me life.
Less than a week later, Denny Seiwell left. It wasn’t for the same reason as me, but we were friends in the band and he didn’t want to be there if I wasn’t going to be there. You know, there was a huge bond within the band before we went out to play one note of music. It was Paul’s first time out with Wings, and we were all very protective of him and wanted to do our very best with him. But he very quickly became Paul McCartney again. After Denny and I left, I saw a little bit of Paul on TV, where he says, “Well, the guys just didn’t want to go to Africa.” That sort of says it all. We had never brought up that subject at all. But it was easier for him. “You guys didn’t want to go to Africa.” And that was it. They had no more story. But he’s a great musician and a great man. I have nothing but the utmost respect for him. What happened between us was too many years ago to bother about. […]
On a side note, Henry McCullough is credited on “Money“, by Pink Floyd. From Something Else!, August 25, 2011:
Wings were in Studio 1 at Abbey Road, and Pink Floyd were doing Dark Side in Studio 2 right across the hall. They asked Paul to do a little bit of work on it with them. He said: ‘Henry, I’m busy. Nip across and see what the lads want.’ I go over, and they have six questions on pieces of paper, face down. For whatever reason, they wanted me to answer one — and the first thing you said was going to be recorded. They wanted something spontaneous. My piece of paper said: ‘When was the last time you had a fight with your wife?’ (Laughs uproariously.)Henry McCullough
From paulmccartney.com, June 14, 2016:
“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.” – Paul
Last updated on November 25, 2018