You may have never heard of guitar player Henry McCullough – but you’ve definitely heard him a number of times. McCullough played with some of rock’s most influential bands, including Paul McCartney and Wings, Joe Cocker’s backing group the Grease Band and Spooky Tooth, while also contributing to several records as a solo guitarist and session musician.
McCullough, a native of Northern Ireland, died in 2016, and had conceived a tune called “Live Long Rock ‘n’ Roll” with Irish musician and songwriter Don Mescall prior to his death. That song has now come to light as a tribute to McCullough and his fascinating rock journey, recorded by the super group who called themselves McCullough’s Fusiliers.
That term “super group” is no mere hype. Here’s the list of players that make up the band: Sir Paul McCartney on bass; Procol Harum vocalist and keyboard player Gary Brooker; McCullough’s former Grease Band mate Chris Stainton on Hammond and keys; guitarist supreme Albert Lee (a former member of Emmylou Harris’ Hot Band); versatile English singer/songwriter Paul Carrack; Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason; singer Paul Brady and Mescall himself. Talk about rock ‘n’ roll royalty. (Background vocals were performed by Carrack, Brady and the London Community Gospel Choir/ and strings were performed by Fiachra Trench.)
Mescall spoke with Hot Press journalist Peter McGoran about the making of “Live Long Rock ‘n’ Roll.” The song was inspired by McCullough’s amazing career that spanned several decades, as well as the countless stories he could relate. McCullough had suffered a heart attack in 2012, and Mescall kept up with the guitarist and visited him often in Ireland. Around 2013, Mescal met Nick Mason, who also knew McCullough.
“I was producing an album for an artist on Decca Records , the artist had invited Nick Mason (Pink Floyd) in to the studio to play on a few tracks. Over lunch, Nick and I were talking about early Pink Floyd days I mentioned my friend Henry McCullough from the Grease Band and that he had taken ill,” Mescall recalled. Mescall told Mason about the song and thought that he could invite several musicians to play on it. “So he said, ‘Look, send me the song.’ So I did,” Mescall continued. “I was in Britannia Row and I put down a very basic guitar track and bass drum and sang a guide vocal and sent it to Nick. He got back right away and said, ‘That’s a cool song, I want to play drums on it.'”
The song developed from that point. Albert Lee was recruited to play guitar, and Mescall wanted a certain superstar for the bass part – Sir Paul McCartney. “Everyone told me I was crazy and I’d never get him,” Mescall said. “But a week or two later, word got back to me . . . that he loved the song and he really wanted to play on it. There are still some times when I’m on my own in the studio,” Mescall added, “when I’ll listen to Paul McCartney’s bass on the track and think, ‘If anyone brought magic to this track, it was Sir Paul McCartney.’ I have to hand it to him. This wasn’t a rushed job. He put heart and soul into the bass line on the track. It’s absolutely incredible.”
A common thread ran through the recording. Simply, the musicians loved Henry McCullough and wanted to honor him in a most respectful manner.
“Live Long Rock ‘n’ Roll” was released August 16th along with McCullough’s solo 15-track album “Ballywonderland” on the Ballywonderland Record Label.
For more on Don Mescall visit his website or follow him on social media.