Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Beatle People: Henry McCullough

Henry McCullough (born 21 July 1943) is a guitarist, who has played guitar in such bands as Spooky Tooth, Paul McCartney's Wings, and The Grease Band. Born in Portstewart, County Londonderry, Northern Ireland, Henry McCullough is a guitarist, vocalist and songwriter, and is the only Irishman to play the Woodstock Festival (backing Joe Cocker). He turns up in many different places as sideman or a performer in his own right. In 2008, he recorded Poor Man's Moon, featuring the single "Too Late to Worry."


McCullough 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 √Čire Apparent. Under Chandler’s guidance, despite only having one single released, they toured with groups such as Pink Floyd, Soft Machine, The Move and The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Things went well until 1968, when McCullough was sent back to Ireland, from Canada, due to visa problems, and Mick Cox took his place in the band.

Back in Ireland McCullough joined what was primarily a folk group called Sweeney's Men. Under his influence, however, they soon began to mix folk and rock, and are often regarded as the innovators of the folk/rock genre. After a year in Ireland, McCullough returned to London to work with Joe Cocker as a member of his backing group, The Grease Band (also playing on their eponymous LP minus Cocker.) With Cocker he toured the U.S. and performed at the Woodstock Festival.

In 1973 Paul McCartney asked McCullough to join his new band, Wings, alongside Denny Laine and Denny Sewell. His guitar solo on "My Love" is regarded by many as one of rock music’s greatest solos. Musical differences with McCartney, however, saw McCullough move on once again within a year. McCullough also appeared as lead guitarist on the original 1970 recording of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar.

In 1975, McCullough released Mind Your Own Business, his sole album on George Harrison's short-lived A&M Records' distributed Dark Horse label.

McCullough then did some session work, and played concerts with Roy Harper, Frankie Miller, Eric Burdon, Marianne Faithfull, Ronnie Lane (whose Kuschty Rye is a McCullough live favourite), and Donovan. In 1977 he temporarily joined Dr. Feelgood, following the departure of Wilko Johnson. He also spent some time with progressive band Spooky Tooth. While recovering from an injury to his hand while visiting his family in 1980, McCullough decided to stay in Ireland. He began to sit in with some old friends, The Fleadh Cowboys, at their Sunday afternoon residency in The Lower Deck in Dublin, and soon decided to move back to Portstewart and put a new band together. He was joined by Percy Robinson on pedal steel guitar, Roe Butcher on bass and Liam Bradley on drums.

In 1998 McCullough went to Poland, where he rehearsed with a band of Polish musicians for an upcoming tour. After the tour, they went into a recording studio and recorded a ‘live’ album which was released as Blue Sunset. This was followed by a further successful Polish tour. On returning home, McCullough recorded and released Failed Christian, a song that has since been covered by Nick Lowe on his album, Dig My Mood. In 1999, his beloved and invaluable cherry red 1963 Gibson ES335 guitar went missing during a flight from Warsaw to London. To date, it has never been recovered.

McCullough continues to record and perform and has released some solo material, including Belfast To Boston (2001) and Unfinished Business (2003). The latter contains his 1998 single Failed Christian, a powerful song best appreciated in live performance. Musically, he is bluesy and upbeat, with excursions into country and folk. McCullough gigs regularly in Northern Ireland and Scotland, playing with a solid backing band (featuring Stephen Quinn on drums and Sean McCarron on sax) with obvious enthusiasm.

McCullough's spoken words "I don't know; I was really drunk at the time" can be heard on Pink Floyd's album The Dark Side of the Moon, at the end of the song "Money".

In 2007, Over the Rhine covered Failed Christian on their album Live from Nowhere, Vol. II.

In late 2007 McCullough teamed up with Dave Sharp (ex Alarm) and together they enlisted the talents of Zoot Money (The Animals, Big Roll Band), on Keyboard; Gary Fletcher, (The Blues Band) on Bass; and Colin Allen, (Bob Dylan, John Lee Hooker) on Drums. In Jan 2008 The Hard Travelers performed their debut gig at The Cellars, Portsmouth.

McCullough contributed guitar on and organized the band for Alaskan musician The Rev Neil Down's 2003 release 'When A Wrong Turns Right'

In 2008 McCullough recorded Poor Man's Moon at Amberville Studios. The album is scheduled for release in Ireland only on September 5, 2008 and features new McCullough compositions and a number of songs co-written with poet Eamon Carr (of Horslips) including the single “Too Late to Worry” released in August.

Among the musicians featured on the album are James Delaney on keyboards; Roe Butcher on electric bass guitar; Nicky Scott on double bass and electric bass guitar; Enda Walsh on keyboards; Adie McIlduff on drums; Percy Robinson on dobro and pedal steel guitar and Peter McKinney on drums/sequencing.


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