McCullough was born in Portstewart, and first came to prominence in the early 1960s as the teenage lead guitarist with The Skyrockets showband from Enniskillen. In 1964, with three other members of The Skyrockets, he left and formed a new showband fronted by South African born vocalist Gene Chetty, which they named Gene and The Gents.
In 1967 McCullough moved to Belfast where he joined Chris Stewart (bass), Ernie Graham (vocals) and Dave Lutton (drums) to form the psychedelic band The People. Later that year the band moved to London and were signed by Chas Chandler's management team, who changed the group’s name to Éire Apparent. Under Chandler's guidance after a single release they toured with groups such as Pink Floyd, Soft Machine, the Move and the Jimi Hendrix Experience, as well as Eric Burdon and the Animals.
Things went well until in Vancouver, Canada in mid-February 1968, while the band was touring with the Animals, McCullough returned to the United Kingdom, officially because of "visa problems" and Mick Cox flew out to take his place in the band. Back in Ireland, around May 1968, McCullough joined folk group Sweeney's Men.
McCullough returned to London around 1969 to work with Joe Cocker as a member of his backing band, the Grease Band. With Cocker he toured the U.S. and performed at the Woodstock Festival. He later played on The Grease Band's eponymous album. During his time with the band he appeared as lead guitarist in Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar (1970) and on the progressive Spooky Tooth album The Last Puff (1970).
In 1971 Paul McCartney asked McCullough to join his new band, Wings, alongside Denny Laine and Denny Seiwell. His guitar solo on "My Love" has been described as one of rock music’s greatest solos. Musical differences with McCartney, however, saw McCullough leave on the eve of the Band on the Run sessions. He spent two years in the band, playing lead guitar on "Hi, Hi, Hi", "Live and Let Die" as well as "My Love".
McCullough's spoken words "I don't know; I was really drunk at the time" can be heard on the Pink Floyd album The Dark Side of the Moon (1973), at the end of the song "Money". He was recalling a fight he had the night before with his wife.
In 1975 McCullough joined The Frankie Miller Band with bassist Chris Stewart, keyboard player Mick Weaver and drummer Stu Perry. They recorded the album, The Rock with Miller. The song "Ain't Got No Money" taken from this album, inspired Bob Seger to write and record "The Fire Down Below". Later the same year McCullough released Mind Your Own Business on George Harrison's Dark Horse label.
McCullough played concerts as a session musician with Roy Harper, Frankie Miller, Eric Burdon, Marianne Faithfull, Ronnie Lane and Donovan. In 1977 he temporarily joined Dr. Feelgood, following the departure of Wilko Johnson.
Recovering from an injury to his hand while visiting his family in 1980, McCullough decided to stay in Ireland. He began to sit in with old friends The Fleadh Cowboys, at their Sunday afternoon residency in The Lower Deck in Dublin. Following this he moved back to Portstewart and put a new band together. He was joined by Percy Robinson on pedal steel guitar, Roe Butcher on bass and Liam Bradley on drums.
In 1998 McCullough travelled to Poland, where he rehearsed with a band of Polish musicians for a tour. After the tour, they recorded a 'live' album which was released as Blue Sunset. This was followed by a further Polish tour. On returning home, McCullough recorded and released "Failed Christian", a song that has since been covered by Nick Lowe on his album Dig My Mood.
McCullough continued to record and perform and released solo material, including Belfast To Boston (2001) and Unfinished Business (2003). The latter contained his 1998 single, "Failed Christian". McCullough performed at concerts in Northern Ireland and Scotland, playing with a backing band (featuring Stephen Quinn on drums and Sean McCarron on saxophone).
McCullough contributed guitar on and organised the band for the Alaskan musician, The Rev Neil Down's, 2003 release, When A Wrong Turns Right.The Henry McCullough Band – FBI Live was released in 2007 on Mundell music, from a recording at The Famous Bein Inn in 2006.
In 2007, Over the Rhine covered "Failed Christian" on their album, Live from Nowhere, Vol. II. In the same year, McCullough started to work with Dave Sharp from the Alarm) and together they enlisted keyboard player Zoot Money, bassist Gary Fletcher and drummer Colin Allen, a line up which became known as The Hard Travelers. In January 2008 The Hard Travelers performed their debut gig at The Cellars in Portsmouth.
In 2008 McCullough recorded Poor Man's Moon at Amberville Studios, which was released in Ireland only on 5 September 2008. and featured new McCullough compositions. The album also included a number of songs co-written with poet Eamon Carr from Horslips and included the single "Too Late to Worry". Among the musicians featured on the album were keyboard player James Delaney, bassists Roe Butcher and Nicky Scott (also double bass), keyboard player Enda Walsh, drummer Adie McIlduff and Percy Robinson on dobro and pedal steel guitar. The album also included drum sequences by Peter McKinney.
At the end of 2007 he worked on the album "Dark Nite of the Soul" with Jeff Greene as well as other musical collaborations recorded at Wind-Mill Lane Studios, Dublin Metropolis Studios London and The Sound Kitchen Nashville. McCullough attended Paul McCartney's concert at the O2 in Dublin on 20 December 2009 and McCartney publicly acknowledged McCullough's contribution to Wings. On 13 March 2010, McCullough and his band were the headline act at the Fifestock Festival at the Inn at Lathones, Scotland.
McCullough remained active in the European music scene and played regular live gigs with artists including Ed Deane, James Delaney, Noel Bridgeman, also John Quearney. In 2011 Henry collaborated with songwriter Paul Doherty and The Vals on the track 'Look to the One'. The song gained worldwide airplay, with McCullough contributing backing vocals and guitar.
McCullough suffered a heart attack in November 2012, leaving him in critical condition. His death was mistakenly reported on Ronan Collins's RTÉ Radio 1 show on 7 November and the BBC also apologised after prematurely reporting his death. In an interview with website Something Else, Denny Seiwell, who had played with McCullough in Wings, stated that it was doubtful McCullough would make a complete recovery.
On 17 March 2015 a benefit concert for Henry McCullough was held at The Half Moon, Putney music venue, featuring Paul Carrack, Nick Lowe, Andy Fairweather Low, Suggs and Bobby Tench (who also performed with the backing band). The backing band was entitled Henry's Heroes and included Tim Hinkley, Mel Collins, Neil Hubbard and John Halsey and bass player Kuma Harada.
On 14 June 2016, his wife Josie confirmed that he had died at his home at Ballywindelland, Ballymoney, Northern Ireland, earlier that morning after a long illness. He had never fully recovered from the heart attack he suffered in 2012. Some sources state he also suffered a major stroke.
Other album credits
Credits on singles