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Lowe tribute to McCullough at Belfast gig

By Ivan Little

Published 22/08/2016

Long-time pal of Henry, Nick Lowe
Long-time pal of Henry, Nick Lowe
The late Henry McCullough

A veteran English rock star has paid a powerful tribute to Ulster guitar legend Henry McCullough, who died two months ago.

Hundreds of fans applauded as Nick Lowe - who wrote a string of hits for himself and the likes of Elvis Costello and Johnny Cash - described Henry, who played with Paul McCartney's post-Beatles band Wings, as his "friend and hero".

And, by a strange twist of fate, Lowe's homage to the only Irishman to appear on the bill of the legendary Woodstock Festival in America in 1969 came at a concert on the Woodstock Road in Belfast.

Lowe, whose biggest hits include (I Love The Sound Of) Breaking Glass and Cruel To Be Kind sang a McCullough song at Willowfield Parish Church - Failed Christian. The singer told his audience that Henry befriended him at the start of his career in the Sixties and gave him invaluable advice.

He said he had a fantastic knowledge of all forms of music and shared it with him.

But he added: "Henry was so nice that I thought that whenever I met any of my musical heroes they were all going to be friendly and helpful, but how wrong I was."

He joked that he would "skirt round the mischief and mayhem" that Henry got him into, but added that the pair lost touch in the Eighties when they both experienced what he called "troubled waters" in their private and professional lives.

He said he was reunited with Henry in the Nineties after he had come along with his wife Josie to see Lowe at a concert in a Belfast park.

He revealed that at the end of the night Henry gave him a cassette tape with two of his songs on it, and he later recorded one of them, Failed Christian.

Lowe proceeded to sing Failed Christian, even though he said some people had questioned the wisdom of performing it in a church.

After receiving a standing ovation he pointed heavenwards and said: "Thanks, Henry."

Portstewart-born Henry died in June aged 72 at his home in Ballymoney after a long illness. McCartney and Van Morrison were among many stars who praised him as a guitarist and as a man.

Henry started playing with showbands and folk groups, but he went on to support Jimi Hendrix on an American tour with Irish rock outfit Eire Apparent.

He later joined Joe Cocker's Grease Band, with whom he played at Woodstock, before being recruited by The Beatles legend for Wings.

Henry recorded the James Bond theme Live And Let Die with Wings, but he quit the band after a row with McCartney and later fell on hard times, ending up busking on the streets to feed his drink habit.

He gave up drinking, however, and started playing again in Ireland and Europe.

But four years ago he suffered a heart attack that left him severely disabled.

Morrison paid for alterations to Henry's home to make life easier for him, and a number of musicians including Lowe also staged a benefit concert in London for him.

Belfast Telegraph

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