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Former Wings Guitarist Henry McCullough Dies at 72

Jorgen Angel, Getty Images
Jorgen Angel, Getty Images

Henry McCullough, who played guitar on some of Wings‘ earliest records, has died. The Irish guitarist, who also played with some of rock’s biggest names, was 72.

In addition to his work with Paul McCartney‘s post-Beatles group, McCullough was also a member of Spooky Tooth, Joe Cocker‘s Grease Band and the traditional Irish folk group Sweeney’s Men.

But he was probably best known for being tapped by McCartney to play guitar on Wings’ second album, 1973’s Red Rose Speedway, as well as a handful of singles from the era, including “Hi, Hi, Hi” and “Live and Let Die.” He also performed the celebrated solo on the No. 1 hit “My Love.”

McCullough got his start in local Northern Ireland bands while in his teens. He later joined Éire Apparent, a group managed the Animals‘ Chas Chandler, who also spearheaded Jimi Hendrix‘s career at the same time. The association led to shows with Hendrix, the Move and Pink Floyd.

By the end of the ’60s, he had joined Cocker as a member of the singer’s Grease Band, and was onstage with them during their career-making Woodstock performance. Around the same time, he played guitar in the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar and then joined Spooky Tooth for an album.

He was then asked by McCartney to join Wings. After a year or so with the band, he left before Band on the Run was recorded. Over the next decade, he performed onstage with and on records by Pink Floyd (that’s him muttering “I don’t know; I was really drunk at the time” on The Dark Side of the Moon), Roy Harper, Marianne Faithfull, Donovan and Dr. Feelgood.

In the ’00s, he continued to release solo albums and play shows throughout Europe. He had a heart attack in late 2012 that left him in critical condition. In March 2015, a benefit concert was held for McCullough that included performances by Paul Carrack, Nick Lowe and others.

UPDATE: McCartney commented on the death of McCullough on his official site: “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 humor. 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.”

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