A musician’s career can take an infinite number of paths. Sure, there’s been hundreds of successful musicians but there are a thousand more who are lucky to even be remembered. When it comes to guitarist Jimmy McCulloch, he has (at most) been left as a blurb in dozens of books and articles related to the Beatles and Paul McCartney. For the first time ever, a biography has been published on the late Wings guitarist. The book, Little Wing, is a unmitigated look into McCulloch’s brief but impressive career. Written over the course of twelve years, author Paul Salley has poured his heart and soul into this project, which shows throughout the entire book. Salley has not only crafted a great rock biography but an overall good book.
Who is Jimmy McCulloch?
While best known for being the lead guitarist for Paul McCartney & Wings from 1974-77, the Scottish born McCulloch was just a kid when he began playing guitar. Prior to joining Wings, McCulloch was in several bands as a pre-teen. By the age of 16, McCulloch found himself in the Pete Townshend produced Thunderclap Newman, who would go on to have a hit single with “Something in the Air” in 1970. In the early 1970s, McCulloch replaced the late Les Harvey in Stone the Crows and played as a session musician on many studio recordings. During his time in Wings, McCulloch would contribute two songs to the band- “Medicine Jar” and “Wino Junko.” In Wings, his work at the fretboard didn’t go unnoticed as he impressed audiences every night Wings performed sold-out shows. When McCulloch left Wings in 1977, he was briefly in a reunited version of the Small Faces. His last work was with a supergroup called The Dukes, who would release one album in 1979. Shortly after the album’s release, McCulloch was found dead in his apartment at the age of 26 after an accidental drug overdose.
The paragraph above is what a majority of rock publications would summarize McCulloch’s life as. In the case of Little Wing, author Paul Salley shows that there was more to the man. Some might notice that compared to other rock biographies, Little Wing is a little bit shorter at a little under 300 pages. Taking into account as to how much information is readily available on McCulloch, along with the fact that he died at a young age- Little Wing is the length that it should be. As per usual with rock biographies, McCulloch’s story is told from beginning to end in chronological order. Paragraphs of information guide the reader along the way throughout the book, with quotes from people that knew McCulloch during that point in time.
One of the book’s strengths is the selection of interviewees. For the most part, Salley seems to have done interviews exclusive to this book with the people that knew McCulloch. Salley doesn’t really leave any person out. Whether they were a roadie or the wife/girlfriend of a bandmate, they were included in the book. Salley’s main source of information, however, seems to come from McCulloch’s older brother Jack. Given the two were close, it seems fitting that Jack would know the most about his late brother. While Jack is interviewed many times throughout the book, the use of interviewees feels like it’s fairly weighted. In taking these quotes from all of these different sources, the reader will get a better idea of McCulloch’s character.
Another strength of Little Wing is the way Salley deals with rumors. Given how successful the Beatles were, there have been hundreds of rumors/myths/urban legends out there about the band. A few years ago, Paul McCartney was quoted to saying that it’s come to the point where it’s hard to tell which ones are true. These rumors not only pertain to the Beatles as a band but to their post Beatle careers too. In the case of Wings, there’s a few out there related to McCulloch. Salley handles these rumors well, explaining the origin of them and then proceeds to dispel them. This is especially the case when handling the taboo subject of McCulloch’s untimely death, which may give some readers new insights on a few things. In the portions of the book devoted to Wings, Salley touches upon things that documentaries such as Wingspan wouldn’t even scratch the surface of. If you’re an avid fan of Wings, there’s some great stories in this book that you’re gonna love.
Along with the story of McCulloch’s life, Salley provides the reader with a plethora of pictures. Many of these pictures might be new to many readers and it adds to the visual aspect of McCulloch’s life. Towards the end of the book, there’s a good amount of extra content. There’s a handy guide to McCulloch’s discography- ranging from the albums he worked on to his work as a session musician. Along with a chapters on McCulloch’s guitar gear and tributes from other musicians, this nicely rounds out the overall book.
Little Wing should be made required reading for both Beatles and Paul McCartney fans. Jimmy McCulloch’s life story has finally been put into a book and that alone should make it worth reading. While Little Wing is a great book, it isn’t without a few flaws. Although the appropriate amount of pages, it feels like the book could’ve been a little bit longer. There’s also parts of Jimmy’s life that could’ve been expanded on but I feel like I’m nitpicking at this point. In short, Little Wing is an impressive book on an criminally underrated musician.
To purchase a copy of Little Wing, click here to order it from Amazon on hardback, paperback or eBook (via Kindle).
To follow all things related to Jimmy McCulloch, you can follow the Facebook page (maintained by author Paul Salley)
I'm a writer/journalist with a passion for music and pop culture. Having graduated from King's College in Wilkes-Barre, PA in 2014, I've been looking for a platform in which I can share my passions. Since 2009, I've been posting to my own blog- The Walrus' Music Blog- via Blogger. I'm also the author of two self-published books, "The Camp: Stories from the Summer" and "The College: Stories from King's." Together, the two books cover the story of my life from 2004 to 2014. I've been lucky enough to interview several of my favorite musicians over the years and go to concerts from time to time. I'm also very devoted to the CBS reality TV show Survivor, which I started watching in 2002 when its fourth season started. I currently live in New Jersey.