Today’s marks the birthday of Jimmy McCullough, the Scottish musician who pretty much played with a virtual who’s who of British rock and roll artists of the 1970s, but succumbed to a heroin overdose at the tender age of 26 and has been mainly forgotten about in today’s day and age.
McCullough is best remembered for his stint in Paul McCartney’s Wings from 1974 to 1977, playing lead guitar on many of their hits, including the number one singles “Listen to What the Man Said,” “Let em In,” and “Silly Love Songs.” He also played in a band prior to Wings, known as Thunderclap Newman, which is remembered for their song “Something in the Air,” (number one in the UK) which has been covered by artists such as Tom Petty, The Eurythmics, jazz impressario Herbie Mann, and Donald Fagen among others. McCullough was only 15 when he performed on that track, still holding the record for the youngest person to date to have performed on a number one single in the UK.
He started playing guitar at 10 years old, and by the time he was barely a teenager, he made the aforementioned stint in Thunderclap Newman, who were a band by proxy – they were friends of Pete Townshend (The Who). The band played for a few years until disbanding and McCullough jumped ship to play with John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. McCullough then went to another blues band, Stone the Crows, replacing the original guitar player, who had died very eerily and Spinal Tap-like from electrocution on stage. After making some appearances on a John Entwistle (also from The Who) solo album, Wistle Rhymes, playing alongside Peter Frampton on a few tracks and soon after guesting on a Ron Harper solo release, he became employed in former Beatle Paul McCartney’s Wings in 1974 to massive success. He left that band a few years later and joined a reformed Small Faces line up for a small tour covering some of England. His last musical stints were low key releases. McCullough died from heart failure due to a heroin overdose on September 27, 1979.
Jimmy McCullough’s style was decidedly blues, and that flashy, tasteful guitar style of his certainly anchored many of those aforementioned bands and projects. He is definitely an unsung figure in the annals of music and rock and roll history, hence this article, which is an attempt to bring back the name and presence of yet another tragic rock and roll figure for at least one day today, in these contemporary times. His playing is still heard on classic rock radio of course whenever some of those old Wings songs gets spun. Here’s to another invisible today, yet visible in yesteryear, force of musical talents, Jimmy McCullough.