Daily Archives:

The Unsung, Late Wings Guitarist Jimmy McCulloch

27 September 1979, the Scottish guitarist Jimmy McCulloch died from a heroin overdose in his flat in Maida Vale, London, aged 26. Member of Stone The Crows, Thunderclap Newman and Wings (1974 to 1977). When ‘Something in the Air’ by Thunderclap Newman went to No.1 in 1969, it made McCulloch the youngest guitarist to ever play on a UK No.1 single, as he was was just sixteen years old at the time. Best known for playing lead guitar in Paul McCartney’s Wings from 1974 to 1977, he succumbed at the tender age of 26 and has been mainly forgotten about in today’s day and age. McCulloch composed the music score of the anti-drug song “Medicine Jar” on Wings’ Venus and Mars album and the similar “Wino Junko” on the band’s Wings at the Speed of Sound album. He also sang both. Colin Allen, former drummer for Stone The Crows, wrote the lyrics of both songs.

Born in Dumbarton and raised in Clydebank and Cumbernauld, Scotland, McCulloch began to play the guitar at the age of 11 and at that age, he made his performance debut as the guitarist for The Jaygars, which was later known as One in a Million. One in a Million performed live in support of The Who during The Who’s tour of Scotland in 1967. 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 JimmyMcCulloughplayed for a few years until disbanding and McCullouch jumped ship to play with John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. McCullouch 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.

McCulloch first rose to fame in 1969 when he joined Pete Townshend’s friends, Andy ‘Thunderclap’ Newman (piano) and songwriter John ‘Speedy’ Keen (vocals, drums), to form the band Thunderclap Newman. The band enjoyed a UK #1 hit with Something in the Air that year. Thanks to “Something In The Air”, McCulloch is the youngest person to date to have performed on a number one hit song in the U.K. Jimmy McCullouch’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.