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Friday People with Rab McCullough


Another string: Rab McCullough learned to play guitar to help him cope with the death of his dad

Another string: Rab McCullough learned to play guitar to help him cope with the death of his dad

Another string: Rab McCullough learned to play guitar to help him cope with the death of his dad

The acclaimed Blues guitarist (66) and his band will be playing at the 7 Hills Blues Festival in Armagh this weekend. He lives in Belfast with his wife Marian and they have three grown-up children, James (42), Louise (36) and Robert (35)

My wife, Marian

Marian and I met in Kelly's Cellars, in Belfast, in 1976. I was meeting a friend who worked with Marian for lunch there. Marian was there, too, and I asked who she was. We've been together ever since.

When we were out touring all the time they used to call wives like Marian 'showband widows'. She's had her own back, though, as after she retired from the Northern Ireland Tourist Board she took up bowls. Now I'm a 'bowling widower'.

Besides being very good-looking Marian has a very infectious personality – she's bubbly and makes friends very easily.

My children

Robert is the only one still here in Northern Ireland; he works for Bombardier, but he also mixes music as a DJ. The other two, James and Louise, are in the United States and are involved in the music business.

We're in contact every day now thanks to modern technology so we're still very close.

My best friend

That would be Sumi, my bassist. He's been playing with me since 1976 and we've never had a cross word. He's one of those rare people who is just one of the nicest guys you will ever meet.

My parents, Robert and Mary

My father, Robert, died when I was eight. My mother, who died in 1973, had supported us by being a weaver. My father was in the Merchant Navy after the war and would have brought back records from the United States.

I have two brothers and three sisters – one of whom has passed away. I was the baby of the family.

After my father died, I withdrew into myself a little so my sister would bring me into town each Saturday where I would look at guitars in the shops. To cheer me up she bought me a Spanish guitar one Christmas and I taught myself how to play. I found out that I could play songs after hearing them just a couple of times.

Who I go to for advice

It's always Marian. We tend to talk things over and see how we can do things. Marian looks after the band and organises gigs, so she knows as much about it as I do.

My mentor, Jim Armstrong

Jim is a fantastic guitar player. His first band used to practise at the bottom of my street and whenever they played they saw me sitting at my front door playing my guitar. Jim stopped and talked to me a few times and then I started running errands for the band.

He told me to try to remember what I was playing and the sound of it so I could train my ear. I was able to watch where his hands went on the guitar to get a particular sound. He made me look at how guitar players put their hands to get certain sounds. I used to do the same thing with The Old Grey Whistle Test when watching it on TV.

My secret crush ... Honeysuckle Weeks

She's an actress who has appeared in the drama series Foyle's War, and for me, there's just something about her that I really like. I would love the chance to meet her and have a chat.

My fantasy dinner party

I would have loved to have met Martin Luther King – I'm a Blues musician and it ties in very closely with the civil rights movement in America in the Sixties. Next, I'd love to invite Jimi Hendrix, who was a hero guitar player of mine.

I'd also ask Burt Lancaster, as I was always a big fan of his and he took his work very seriously.

Finally, I'd ask Jack Nicholson because he's such an amazing actor.

  • Rab and his band will be appearing at the Victoria Bar, Armagh, tomorrow night. For details, visit www.armagh.co.uk/7hills, follow 7 Hills Blues Fest on Facebook or call the Armagh Tourist Information Centre, tel: 028 3752 1800

Belfast Telegraph