Former Wings guitarist Henry McCullough died Tuesday after a long illness, his agent told the Associated Press. He was 72 years old.
“I was very sad to hear that Henry McCullough, our great Wings guitarist, passed away today,” Wings founder Paul McCartney said in a statement on his website. “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.”
Born in Northern Ireland, McCullough took off when he played with Joe Cocker and The Grease Band in the late ’60s as lead guitarist. He was featured with the group at Woodstock and was a guitarist on The Grease Band’s self-titled debut album. McCullough also played on the album for the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, Jesus Christ Superstar.
Wings recruited McCullough in time to record the group’s second album, Red Rose Speedway. He quickly made an impression, as McCartney noted, on the No. 1 single “My Love” with the slick solo complemented by strings. McCullough recorded it while under some pressure.
“There’s Paul, George Martin etc. in the control room, a 50-piece orchestra waiting on me in the studio, (they were recording both the orchestra and guitar solo at the same time),” he recounted to the Examiner in 2012. “It was a one take wonder, a gift from God? I don’t know … somebody, something happened, everybody saw it, felt it. Ask Sir Paul and I think you would get a similar answer.”
McCullough headed up lead duties for another Wings standard, the James Bond theme “Live and Let Die.” He quit before the group recorded their 1973 record, Band on the Run.
Throughout his career, McCullough also worked on Webber’s Evita soundtrack, voiced one of the people heard at the end of Pink Floyd’s “Money,” and recorded his first solo album Mind Your Own Business on the record label former Beatle George Harrison had created.
McCullough regularly played until a nearly fatal November 2012 heart attack that limited his ability.