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Gigs, Music

Henry and Me

I first met Henry in Homestead studios in Randalstown. It’s gone now, some rotten prospectors took
a great big shit on the onlyJunior and Henry piece of heritage that place had left. Ian Fleming lived nearby, once, and
some locals love to lay claim to the ancestors of John Wayne. But, they all left.

I had written some songs, my friends liked them and I’d approached Mudd, the local and world
famous producer. He was recording some songs that he’d collaborated in at the time and he was
able to cajole some heavy players into playing on my record, too. More about them later.

On the other gig he was working on, with great writers Mick O’Mahoney and George McFall; he
wanted old friend and real living legend Henry McCullough on guitar.

Henry came down one evening and brought in two cases. In one was his new (to replace the stolen)
335 Cherry, and in the other, a gold top Les Paul that he’d played on the stage at Woodstock with
Joe Cocker and in Wings with Paul McCartney.

I was just proud to be the one who made the tea.

I listened intently all night to stories of everything, mostly unmentionable here and of course to
some of the finest guitar licks that you’ll probably never hear. The songs were never really released,
but I still have them in a raw form, and listen to them about every single day. Anyone can play guitar,
but it takes a unique style for someone to be prick up their rashers and say, ‘that’s B.B., or Knopfler,
or Henry McCullough.’

Since then I’ve had the enviable pleasure of sharing his company and conversation on many
occasions. For those who don’t know him he’s a gentleman, the kind that is mostly gone now. The
last great generation. And if you’re fortunate enough to talk to him, his jilted take and raw, honest
opinion on most things is laden with both wisdom and comedy.

The pleasure he draws from playing with great musicians is palpable and for two straight hours,
those fellas never stopped. Real Old School Rock n Roll Blues. 44 years since Woodstock, the man
has forgotten more about music, and living, than most of us will ever know. Many people have
written many great things about the man so I’ll save you another diatribe. Just my tuppence and two
more from a good friend.

I love the man.

‘We were in the Menagerie (Belfast) to see Henry; we were about halfway back, waiting on the pills
to come up. There was a guy down front who we hadn’t seen, but who’d been playing with Henry’s
microphone stand. Pushing it back and forth. Hitting Henry in the mouth. Henry told him to stop
and he didn’t. Henry jumped down off the stage, the guy tried to run away, but the crowd was too
thick. Henry raised the 335 up over his head and cracked yer man on the skull, and he went down.
By the time the bouncers got to the fracas Henry was choking him. They dragged the offender off
and fired him out the side door. Henry hopped back onto the stage, hit a big open A chord, and
guttered into the mic, ‘I’ve got fuckin Murder in my HEART!’ And the ecstasy roared up my back like
a freight train.’

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JUNIOR JOHNSON

'I write songs that I believe in'

CONTACT

juniorjohnson@citizenmusicireland.com
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