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.

17 Responses to The Unsung, Late Wings Guitarist Jimmy McCulloch

  1. McCulloch-not-McCullough says:

    Quick comment regarding spelling:

    Correct spelling: Jimmy McCulloch.

    McCulloch = Scottish (e.g., Jimmy McCulloch)

    McCullough = Irish (e.g., Henry McCullough)

    • DailyMelody says:

      Thank You. It was a typo and is fixed now.

  2. Flip says:

    Great guitarist. Sadly overlooked in rock history. Check out Wings Over America and Rockshow (DVD) to hear/see him at his best.

    • David Harvey says:

      I agree with you. I personally think that Wings were at their zenith as a touring band on their ’75-76 World Tour and it happened to coincide with the recording of ‘Wings Over America’, a permanent historical artefact of this massive world tour.

  3. Joe T. says:

    Check him out with The Dukes! Those guys killed it. Great album. Jimmy was a great guitarist and I hope that he was right with Jesus before leaving us.

    • Laura Edrington says:

      I sure hope so too! Reminds me of my brother who also passed at 26 of same! My brother had a tremendous gift of guitar! He was incredible and if not for drugs was set to have a successful musical career ! ?

    • Caroline Yates says:

      On of the most overlooked guitarists of all time.

  4. Jon Cole says:

    I’ve really been enjoying the rock show DVD lately, which made me aware of this incredibly talented guitarist. So sad that Jimmy McCulloch died so young. May he rest in peace.

  5. family dogg says:

    anyone know what Mayall LP he is on?

    • John Benard says:

      In October 1971, McCulloch played guitar in concert with John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers in England and Germany

  6. Mark says:

    I will always remember him as one of the greats he was a big part in why wings did so well not to mention Paul of course but missed i over came my herion addiction 13 years ago by the grace of God there go I rip Jimmy

  7. Lisa C says:

    He really contributed quite a bit in a short time to Wings. Juniors’ Farm has one of the best rock guitar solos ever, in my humble opinion. What a shame that drugs take so many talented musicians from us so young. My own nephew has used heroin and I pray daily he’ll stay the hell away from it and the users he befriended. Rock on in R &R Heaven, Jimmy!

  8. Brian says:

    What a talented guitarist, he seemed like such a happy guy too. This was a huge loss.

  9. Chuck says:

    Jimmy McCulloch had an incredible tone and his guitar sound had that sharp bite to it that made it sing. “Maybe I’m amazed” is quintessential McCulloch: razor sharp, just bordering on feedback but always controlled. Even before I played guitar, I knew what I wanted my guitar to sound like. The one player that defined rock to me was Jimmy McCulloch. Yet not even most guitarists recognize his name. That’s sad.

  10. Geoff Harris says:

    Watching The Repair Shp recently and his young cousin walked in with 2 platinum albums she wanted repaired. He was a master guitar player at such a young age, RIP

  11. David Harvey says:

    I agree with you. I personally think that Wings were at their zenith as a touring band on their ’75-76 World Tour and it happened to coincide with the recording of ‘Wings Over America’, a permanent historical artefact of this massive world tour.

  12. Alex N says:

    Jimmy McCulloch was the lead vocal in the PM & the Wings’ Medicine Jar which is a sort of anti-drug abuse song, yet he died of drug overdose. A bit ironic…Rest in peace JM.

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