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Remembering Jimmy McCulloch

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Thunderclap Newman 'Hollywood Dream' artwork - Courtesy: UMG

Whether you knew him as the guitarist with Wings, the teenage prodigy with Thunderclap Newman, an associate of Pete Townshend or anything else in his all-too-short career, he was a singular British talent. Today, on the anniversary of his death at the tragically early age of 26, we’re remembering Jimmy McCulloch.

Jimmy was born in Dumbarton, in the Scottish Lowlands, on June 4, 1953, just a year after David Byrne, the future frontman of Talking Heads was born there before his relocation to America. It’s often forgotten these days what a unique career McCulloch had from an incredibly early age, which had him making his mark as a guitarist on a national scale before he even reached 14 years old.

Having been in his first band, the Jaygars, with his older brother Jack, when Jimmy was a mere 11) he progressed with Jack to the group later One In A Million. They released two singles, supported The Who and played at the famous 14-Hour Technicolour Dream event at Alexandra Palace in London — two months before his 14th birthday.

The Beatles - Now And Then
The Beatles - Now And Then
The Beatles - Now And Then

In 1969, McCulloch joined Thunderclap Newman, whose Andy Newman (nicknamed ‘Thunderclap’) and John ‘Speedy’ Keen were friends of Townshend’s. The Who frontman produced their superbly evocative single ‘Something In The Air,’ and pop history was made, as the single raced to No. 1 in the UK. Pete played bass under the playful pseudonym Bijou Drains, and the song remains Townshend’s only UK chart-topper as producer or artist.

Thunderclap Newman was relatively short-lived, splitting in 1971 after the album ‘Hollywood Dream.’ But they gave McCulloch a valuable springboard as a guitarist and writer, and in the early 1970s, he was an in-demand session player for the likes of John Mayall. He fronted his own group, then joined established Scottish rockers Stone The Crows, among many other prestigious gigs.

It was, of course, Jimmy’s tenure in Wings that gave him the biggest global recognition. Recruited by Paul McCartney to play on the Susie and the Red Stripes project for his wife Linda (which produced the single ‘Seaside Woman’), he became an official member of Wings in 1974 and appeared on the ‘Junior’s Farm’ single, a top-three hit in the US that made the UK top 20. Not included on an album at the time, it’s now set to be one of the tracks on the bonus CD of the forthcoming ‘Venus and Mars’ reissue.

McCulloch was on that 1975 album, contributing the song ‘Medicine Jar’ and then ‘Wino Junko’ to the follow-up set released the next year, ‘Wings At The Speed Of Sound.’ By 1977, the restless McCulloch was off again, leaving Wings for the reformed Small Faces, then Wild Horses with former Small Face Kenney Jones, Ally Bain and Brian Robertson, just after the latter had left Thin Lizzy.

Jimmy died of a drug-related heart attack in north London 35 years ago on this date. Remembering how much he packed into his short career, we can only wonder what else he would have achieved if he hadn’t been taken so early.

“He was always a little dangerous,” Paul McCartney was quoted as saying about the fresh-faced, hard-living guitarist. “In the end, he was just too dangerous for his own good.”

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  1. shogo yamauchi

    January 12, 2015 at 11:06 pm

    Jimmy McCulloch was NOT a session player for John Mayall — he was actually Mayall’s guitarist (briefly). He was a session player for Roger Daltrey, John Entwistle, Billy Lawrie, and others though.

  2. Jujubegood

    August 1, 2015 at 4:46 am

    Jimmy’s body was found by his brother Jack on the 27th, so this was used as the official date of death, NOT the 28th. It was never the 28th. He didn’t from the results of a “heart attack”. He died from the effects of cardiac arrest. Not the same thing.

  3. david w gillenwater

    August 11, 2015 at 5:52 am

    one that is truly mist and so young when he started .thanks for the music jimmy mcculoch .

  4. Morten Berger Karlsen

    February 29, 2016 at 9:54 am

    I’m planning a rock history walk for me and some friends, from Paddington through Maida Vale to Landbroke Grove/Notting Hill. As one of my companions is a hughe Jimmy McCulloch fan I would like to walk us past where he died. Can you tell med where I can find the address of his flat i Maida Vale?

    Morten, Oslo, Norway

    • Dee

      March 31, 2016 at 10:53 pm

      I believe it was 8 Lampard on Maida Vale Street in Little Venice – he lived on the top floor

      • Nick

        January 11, 2021 at 7:32 am

        Just 8 Lampard? No cross street there? I can’t find it on the map.

    • Nick

      January 11, 2021 at 9:41 pm

      Hi Morten,
      Were you able to find the house where Jimmy lived in London? I was unable to find it on map. Pity:(

  5. David Thomson

    June 7, 2016 at 1:21 am

    Jimmy taught me my first chords on guitar when he lived in Cumbernauld Scotland. I never quite made it as a musician but check out Lisa T. She’s my daughter an up and coming country artist .. You tube Lisa T 72 hours

  6. piet

    September 8, 2016 at 7:58 pm

    so schade so schade fur jeden menschen in der welt

  7. Mike

    February 12, 2018 at 4:14 am

    I wish Jimmy and Denny would have stayed with Wings. I think they all
    We’re an awesome force. I know Paul kept Jimmy in check but Paul kept
    Jim alive. Jimmy needed big time help from his own self…and should
    Have gotten out in rehab.

  8. Steve

    August 16, 2018 at 6:37 pm

    I knew Jimmy ( and Jack) when he lived in North Weald Essex. I played in a local band and he used to turn up and play at our gigs. His brother Jack used to roadie for us. Then Jim joined wings and I never saw him again. He toured with John Mayal before I knew him. You have to play with him to fully realise the guys talent. Breathtaking and so original in his style, like his guitar and amp were part of him. What happened to Jack?

    • Iona Gerber

      October 10, 2018 at 8:15 pm

      You can see Jack on YOUTUBE.

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The Beatles Red and Blue Boxsets
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