Henry McCullough

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Henry McCullough
McCullough in the studio in 2008
McCullough in the studio in 2008
Background information
Birth nameHenry Campbell Liken McCullough
Born(1943-07-21)21 July 1943
Portstewart, County Londonderry, Northern Ireland
Died14 June 2016(2016-06-14) (aged 72)
Ballywindelland, Ballymoney, County Antrim, Northern Ireland
  • Musician
  • singer
  • songwriter
Years active1961–2012
Formerly of

Henry Campbell Liken McCullough (21 July 1943 – 14 June 2016)[1] was a musician and singer-songwriter from Northern Ireland. He was best known for his work as a member of Spooky Tooth, The Grease Band and Paul McCartney and Wings. He also performed and recorded as a solo artist and session musician.

Early life[edit]

McCullough was born in Portstewart, County Londonderry, to a Protestant family.[2] He first came to prominence in the early 1960s as the teenage lead guitarist with the Skyrockets showband from Enniskillen.[3]

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. In mid-February 1968, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, while the band was touring with the Animals, McCullough returned to the United Kingdom, officially because of "visa problems",[clarification needed] and Mick Cox flew out to take his place in the band.[4] Back in Ireland, around May 1968, McCullough joined folk group Sweeney's Men.[5]


McCullough returned to London around 1969 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.[1][6] He later played on the Grease Band's eponymous album. During his time with the band he appeared as lead guitarist on the studio album of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar (1970) and on the progressive Spooky Tooth album The Last Puff (1970).[7]

In January 1972 Paul McCartney asked McCullough to join his new band, Wings, with an eye toward starting a tour of British universities.[8] McCullough's first recording with Wings was the February 1972 protest single, "Give Ireland Back to the Irish".[9] The song, which expressed outrage at the events of Bloody Sunday, proved controversial. McCartney was accused by the British media of expressing support for the Irish Republican Army, and author Howard Sounes suggests that McCullough, as an Ulster Protestant with British unionist sympathies, may have had his misgivings about releasing the song as a single.[10] He spent more than a year in the band, playing lead guitar on several singles, including "Hi, Hi, Hi", "Live and Let Die" and "My Love", as well as on the album Red Rose Speedway.[7] Musical and business differences with McCartney, however, saw McCullough leave on the eve of the Band on the Run sessions in August 1973.[11]

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.[12]

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. Later the same year McCullough released Mind Your Own Business on George Harrison's Dark Horse label.[7]

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.[13]


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 old friends the Fleadh Cowboys, at their Sunday afternoon residency in The Lower Deck in Dublin. Following this he moved 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 travelled to Poland, where he rehearsed with a band of Polish musicians for a tour. After the tour, they recorded a 'live' album which was released as Blue Sunset. This was followed by a further 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.[14]


McCullough continued to record and perform and released solo material, including Belfast To Boston (2001) and Unfinished Business (2003). The latter contained his 1998 single, "Failed Christian". McCullough performed at concerts in Northern Ireland and Scotland, playing with a backing band (featuring Stephen Quinn on drums and Sean McCarron on saxophone).

McCullough contributed guitar on and organised the band for the Alaskan musician, The Rev Neil Down's 2003 release, When A Wrong Turns Right. The Henry McCullough Band – FBI Live was released in 2007 on Mundell music, from a recording at The Famous Bein Inn in 2006.

In 2007, Over the Rhine covered "Failed Christian" on their album, Live from Nowhere, Vol. II. In the same year, McCullough started to work with Dave Sharp from The Alarm) and together they enlisted keyboard player Zoot Money, bassist Gary Fletcher and drummer Colin Allen, a line up which became known as the Hard Travelers. In January 2008 the Hard Travelers performed their debut gig at The Cellars in Portsmouth.

In 2008 McCullough recorded Poor Man's Moon at Amberville Studios, which was released in Ireland only on 5 September 2008. and featured new McCullough compositions. The album also included a number of songs co-written with poet Eamon Carr from Horslips and included the single "Too Late to Worry". Among the musicians featured on the album were keyboard player James Delaney, bassists Roe Butcher and Nicky Scott (also double bass), keyboard player Enda Walsh, drummer Adie McIlduff and Percy Robinson on dobro and pedal steel guitar. The album also included drum sequences by Peter McKinney.

At the end of 2007 he worked on the album Dark Nite of the Soul with Jeff Greene, as well as other musical collaborations recorded at Wind-Mill Lane Studios, Dublin; Metropolis Studios, London; and The Sound Kitchen, Nashville. McCullough attended Paul McCartney's concert at the O2 in Dublin on 20 December 2009 and McCartney publicly acknowledged McCullough's contribution to Wings. On 13 March 2010, McCullough and his band were the headline act at the Fifestock Festival at the Inn at Lathones, Scotland.[15]


McCullough remained active in the European music scene and played regular live gigs with artists including Ed Deane, James Delaney, Noel Bridgeman, also John Quearney. In 2011 Henry collaborated with songwriter Paul Doherty and the Vals on the track "Look to the One". The song gained worldwide airplay, with McCullough contributing backing vocals and guitar.[16]

Health problems and death[edit]

McCullough suffered a heart attack in November 2012, leaving him in critical condition.[17] His death was mistakenly reported on Ronan Collins's RTÉ Radio 1 show on 7 November and the BBC also apologised after prematurely reporting his death.[18] In an interview with website Something Else, Denny Seiwell, who had played with McCullough in Wings, stated that it was doubtful McCullough would make a complete recovery.[19]

On 17 March 2015, a benefit concert for McCullough was held at the Half Moon music venue in Putney, featuring Paul Carrack, Nick Lowe, Andy Fairweather Low, Suggs and Bobby Tench (who also performed with the backing band).[20] The backing band was named Henry's Heroes, and included Tim Hinkley, Mel Collins, Neil Hubbard and John Halsey[21] and bass player Kuma Harada.[22]

On 14 June 2016, his wife Josie confirmed that McCullough had died at his home at Ballywindelland, Ballymoney, County Antrim, earlier that morning after a long illness. He had never fully recovered from the heart attack he suffered in 2012.[23] Some sources state he also suffered a major stroke.[24][25]


Solo albums

  • Mind Your Own Business (1975)
  • All Shook Up (1982; maxi-single)
  • Hell of A Record (May 1984)
  • Cut (1987)
  • Get in the Hole (1989; live recording)
  • Blue Sunset (1998)
  • Belfast To Boston (2001)
  • Unfinished Business (2002)
  • The Henry McCullough Band: FBI Live (2007)
  • Poor Man's Moon (2008)
  • Shabby Road (2012)[7]

Other album credits

Credits on singles


  1. ^ a b "Henry McCullough, Guitarist for Wings, Dies at 72". The New York Times. 14 June 2016. Retrieved 14 November 2016.
  2. ^ Pollock, David (19 June 2016). "Obituary: Henry McCullough, guitarist". The Scotsman. Retrieved 14 November 2016.
  3. ^ Sounes, Howard (2010). Fab: An Intimate Life of Paul McCartney. London: HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0-00-723705-0.
  4. ^ Ross Hannan and Corry Arnold Eric Burdon and The Animals, chickenonaunicycle.com; accessed 10 November 2016.
  5. ^ Daragh O'Halloran, Green Beat: The Forgotten Era of Irish Rock, Brehon Press (2006)
  6. ^ "Henry McCullough Brain Damage: Ex-Wings Guitarist in Bad Condition After Heart Attack". spinner.com. 11 August 2012. Archived from the original on 9 August 2013. Retrieved 25 February 2015.
  7. ^ a b c d Eder, Bruce. "Henry McCullough biography". allmusic.com. Retrieved 25 February 2015.
  8. ^ Kozinn, Allan; Sinclair, Adrian (13 December 2022). The McCartney Legacy: Volume 1: 1969–73. HarperCollins. p. 340. ISBN 978-0-06-300072-8. Retrieved 22 December 2022.
  9. ^ Kozinn and Sinclair, p. 345–347
  10. ^ Sounes 2010, p. 294.
  11. ^ Kozinn and Sinclair (2022), p. 603–604
  12. ^ Willman, Chris (10 March 2013). "Pink Floyd's 'Dark Side': 40 Years Later, 40 Mind-Blowing Facts About The Mad Classic". Stop the Presses!. Yahoo. Retrieved 11 March 2013.
  13. ^ Moon, Tony (2002). Down by the Jetty – The Dr Feelgood Story (2nd ed.). Borden, Hants, UK: Northdown Publishing Ltd. p. 60. ISBN 1-900711-15-X.
  14. ^ Erlewin, S.T. "Nick Lowe. Dig my mood". allmusic.com. Retrieved 25 February 2015.
  15. ^ "The Fifestock Festival 2010". list.co.uk. 17 February 2010. Retrieved 17 March 2015.
  16. ^ "Discography". thevals.co.uk. Retrieved 17 March 2015.
  17. ^ "Wings guitarist Henry McCullough critically ill". BBC News. Retrieved 7 November 2012.
  18. ^ "BBC apologises after announcing death of guitarist". Donegal Daily. Retrieved 7 November 2012.
  19. ^ "Henry McCullough Brain Damage: Ex-Wings Guitarist in Bad Condition After Heart Attack". AOL Music. Archived from the original on 8 February 2013. Retrieved 31 January 2013.
  20. ^ Kielty, Martin (20 February 2015). "Henry McCullough. Help at the Half Moon". classicrock.teamrock.com. Archived from the original on 26 March 2015. Retrieved 19 March 2015.
  21. ^ "Henry's Heroes". geronimo-inns.co.uk. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 18 March 2015.
  22. ^ Cooper, Kevin (20 February 2015). "In support of Henry McCullough, Henry's Heroes announce concert". ukmusicreviews.co.uk. Archived from the original on 17 March 2015. Retrieved 18 March 2015.
  23. ^ III, Harris M. Lentz (11 August 2017). Obituaries in the Performing Arts, 2016. McFarland. ISBN 9781476629124. Retrieved 23 April 2019 – via Google Books.
  24. ^ "Former Wings guitarist Henry McCullough dies, aged 72". The Guardian. 15 June 2016. Retrieved 10 November 2016.
  25. ^ Bell, Johnny (14 June 2016). "The former Wings guitarist and Northern Ireland music legend Henry McCullough has died". Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 10 November 2016.
  26. ^ "Henry McCullough credits". allmusic.com. Retrieved 26 February 2015.

External links[edit]