Interview: Young Wings fan writes Jimmy McCulloch biography

The first interview on The Diversity of Classic Rock is author Paul Salley. Hope you enjoy it! 🙂

Angie’s Note – 21/9/2018: I’ve received multiple emails asking for an update on the book’s publishing date. On 12 September, Paul posted that the book will be finished this winter and published next year. I will post a link to buy the book when it becomes available. The Facebook post mentioning this information is below. Thank you.

But before we get to the interview, I’ll give you a little context and history about Jimmy McCulloch. I’ve mentioned him before on the blog, but as a recap, Jimmy McCulloch was born on 4 June 1953 in Dumbarton, Scotland. He started playing the guitar as a kid and a few years later was the guitarist for the Jaygars/One in a Million. In 1967, Jimmy McCulloch’s band opened for The Who when they toured Scotland. Pete Townshend really liked Jimmy McCulloch and two years later, 1969 – Jimmy joined Pete Townshend’s friends Andy “Thunderclap” Newman and John “Speedy” Keen to join the band Thunderclap Newman. They released one album in 1970, Hollywood Dream, produced by Pete Townshend. The anti-war song “Something in the Air” went to #1 in the UK. Jimmy McCulloch was only 15 when he played on that song, making him the one of the youngest people to play on a #1 UK hit single. At the age of 21 Jimmy McCulloch joined Wings. Jimmy McCulloch worked with many famous musicians besides Paul McCartney. He worked with Steve Marriott (Small Faces/Humble Pie), Maggie Bell (Stone the Crows), Kenney Jones (Small Faces), Brian Robertson (Thin Lizzy/Motörhead), Ricci Martin (son of Dean Martin), and Jimmy Bain (Rainbow/Dio). Jimmy McCulloch died at the age of 26 in London.

“I got started in writing through my love of history and reading. I mostly wrote historical fiction when I started out because I wanted to make up stories of my own choosing in the eras that I was intrigued by,” Paul Salley said about his beginnings in writing as a teenager. The transition to writing about history to writing about music was only natural, since he is writing about music from the 60s and 70s.

Paul Salley is a 29-year-old writer originally from Centerville, Iowa who now lives in Missouri. For the past decade, he has been working on a biography of the late Wings guitarist Jimmy McCulloch called Little Wing: The Jimmy McCulloch Story.

Jimmy McCulloch’s family have been supportive of Paul’s project and they are amazed at his dedication and enthusiasm. Paul has even spent time with Jimmy McCulloch’s family while he was on study abroad in London.

Paul first started listening to The Beatles when he was 13. He listened to their music and enjoyed Paul McCartney’s music the most. He wanted to listen to more of Paul McCartney’s work, so he started listening to Wings, the band Paul McCartney started after leaving the Beatles.

He first got into Wings in 2001 when he watched the television documentary, Wingspan. Paul was fascinated by the 5’4”, 7 stone guitarist (hence the nickname “Little Wing”), Jimmy McCulloch. One reason was because he could relate to him because he is young and has a similar build to the musician, but mostly it was because of his music and personality.

As he was reading about Wings he noticed that the books contained misinformation or very little information about Jimmy McCulloch. “I felt he deserved much better than just misinformation and blurbs in the rock history books,” he said.

During the summer of 2007, he contacted Jimmy McCulloch’s bandmate Colin Allen of Scottish band Stone the Crows and the work on the book began. Since then he has interviewed rock musicians like Pete Townshend and John Mayall for the book.

Two main misconceptions that Paul wants to correct is that Jimmy McCulloch was a junkie and warned himself with the Wings songs “Medicine Jar” and “Wino Junko”. In fact, he said, “Jimmy never did hard drugs.” The other misconception is the infamous story of how Jimmy McCulloch tried to murder Paul and Linda McCartney in their sleep. “That is absurd and if you read the book where that myth originates from, it reads like an awful fan fiction,” Paul Salley said.

Over the years, he has run into challenges such as being based in America when most of the people he has spoken to for the book are in England, so he doesn’t get to meet with them in person to interview them. Another challenge he runs into is balancing work and writing. He works a full-time job and after a ten-hour work day, often when he comes home, he is too exhausted to write.

When he’s not writing or working, he likes to travel, watch sports, collect records, and edit videos. He worked as a sports production intern at a radio station in St Louis in 2011 when the Cardinals won the World Series. He was also a video intern with minor league baseball team the West Michigan Whitecaps. One of his dreams is to visit Australia.

Paul’s advice for writers: “Do what you love to do and put your heart and soul into it. Also (although I don’t follow this advice!), allow some time to write a little bit every day. Set a word limit.”

You can follow Paul’s journey writing about Jimmy McCulloch on his Jimmy McCulloch fan page on Facebook. There are lots of great pictures, newspaper and magazine clippings, and excerpts of interviews. Check it out!

Update 7/2021: Little Wing is now available to buy on Amazon. You can read my review here.