HenryMcCullough, Former Paul McCartney and Joe Cocker Guitarist, Dead at 72

(Image credit: Gijsbert Hanekroot/Getty Images)

Guitarist Henry McCullough, a former member of Paul McCartney & Wings, has died. He was 72.

His death, which was confirmed by his agent, Nigel Martyn, was initially reported by Northen Ireland's Belfast Telegraph. McCullough had been in poor health in recent years; he suffered a heart attack in November 2012, which left him in critical condition. His death was even mistakenly reported on RTÉ Radio that month; the BBC apologized after prematurely reporting his demise.

Besides appearing the first two Wings albums—plus several non-album Wings singles released throughout 1972—McCullough recorded and/or performed with Spooky Tooth, Sweeney's Men and Joe Cocker's Grease Band. He also performed and recorded as a solo artist and session musician for several years.

McCullough was born in Portstewart, Northern Ireland, and first came to prominence in the early Sixties with a local band called the Skyrockets. In 1967, he moved to London, where his then-current band, the People, was signed by Chas Chandler's management team, which quickly changed the group’s name to Éire Apparent. Under the guidance of Chandler—who played bass for the original Animals and managed Jimi Hendrix—the band toured with Pink Floyd, Soft Machine, the Move and the Jimi Hendrix Experience.

In the late Sixties, McCullough began working with Joe Cocker as a member of the Grease Band. McCullough can be seen in the Woodstock film, performing "With a Little Help from My Friends" at the August 1969 Woodstock festval with Cocker. After his stint with the Grease Band, McCullough played lead guitar on Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's 1970 rock opera, Jesus Christ Superstar, and on Spooky Tooth's The Last Puff, also in 1970.

In 1971, Paul McCartney asked McCullough to join his new band, Wings, alongside guitarist Denny Laine, drummer Denny Seiwell and keyboardist/vocalist Linda McCartney. Although he plays on all of Wings' Wild Life (1971) and Red Rose Speedway (1973) albums, his best-known—and possibly best, period—guitar solo can be heard on Wings' 1973 single "My Love," which appears on Red Rose Speedway. McCullough also appears on several other classic McCartney tunes, including "Hi, Hi, Hi," "Live and Let Die," "Little Woman Love," "Give Ireland Back to the Irish" and "The Mess."

On the eve of the sessions for Wings' Band on the Run album in late 1973, which was to be recorded in Lagos, Africa, McCullough and Seiwell abruptly quit the band, leaving McCartney and Laine to create one of McCartney's greatest and most successful post-Beatles albums.

After leaving Wings, McCullough turned to session work with several artists. He also toured extensively with his own band.

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Damian Fanelli
Editor-in-Chief, Guitar World

Damian is Editor-in-Chief of Guitar World magazine. In past lives, he was GW’s managing editor and online managing editor. He's written liner notes for major-label releases, including Stevie Ray Vaughan's 'The Complete Epic Recordings Collection' (Sony Legacy) and has interviewed everyone from Yngwie Malmsteen to Kevin Bacon (with a few memorable Eric Clapton chats thrown into the mix). Damian, a former member of Brooklyn's The Gas House Gorillas (opens in new tab), was the sole guitarist in Mister Neutron (opens in new tab), a trio that toured the U.S. and released three albums (opens in new tab). He now plays in two NYC-area bands.