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Paul McCartney leads tributes to guitar genius Henry McCullough

By Ivan Little

Published 15/06/2016

Henry McCullough played with the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Paul McCartney
Henry McCullough played with the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Paul McCartney

Paul McCartney and Van Morrison yesterday led the tributes to one of Northern Ireland's foremost guitarists who has died after a lengthy illness.

Henry McCullough (72) played alongside McCartney in his post-Beatles band Wings and he was also been a member of Joe Cocker's Grease band at the legendary Woodstock festival in 1969, the only Ulsterman on the line-up.

Sir Paul said that Henry had been a pleasure to work with, adding: "He was a super-talented musician with a lovely sense of humour."

He revealed that the solo which the guitarist had devised and played on Wings' massive hit My Love was totally spontaneous.

"It was a classic that he made up on the spot in front of a live orchestra," he said.

"Our deepest sympathies from my family to his."

Sir Van Morrison said Henry would be remembered for his long and productive career in music, adding: "I know he had some difficult times recently. My thoughts are with his friends and family."

It's understood that Morrison paid for alterations to Henry McCullough's home after he suffered a severe heart attack four years ago which left him incapacitated.

Henry's French wife Josie told Belfast music promoter Nigel Martyn that her husband passed away yesterday morning.

"She said she had lost her one true love," he added.

Former Radio Ulster presenter Alan Simpson, who knew Henry, said the guitarist's long-time musical ally Joe Cocker rated the Portstewart man highly.

"In one interview Joe told me that Henry was a great man and an amazing guitarist," he said.

Henry's former colleague in Wings, Denny Seiwell, said on Twitter: "My dear friend and brother Henry McCullough passed away. Keep his wife Josie in your thoughts. He will be missed."

Henry, who famously played lead guitar on Wings' James Bond theme Live and Let Die, also contributed spoken words on the Pink Floyd song Money from their hugely successful album Dark Side of the Moon.

Henry was recording next door to the Floyd and bumped into them during sessions and they got on famously.

So much so they decided to have his voice on their album.

His words: "I don't know. I was really drunk at the time," were recalling a fight he'd had the night before with a former partner.

The much sought after guitarist went on to play with everyone from Jimi Hendrix to Marianne Faithfull and Dr Feelgood.

After returning home to live in Northern Ireland in the 1980s, Henry formed his own band and released a number of highly acclaimed albums.

The late radio presenter Gerry Anderson, who like Henry was a former showband musician, was an enthusiastic champion of his friend's solo career, regularly playing songs like Belfast to Boston and Failed Christian.

Henry's death was mistakenly reported on RTE radio shortly after his heart attack and the broadcaster later apologised.

One of Henry's last live concerts was in a rock club in Draperstown, Co Londonderry, the year before his heart attack.

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