Interview: Paul Salley, Author of Little Wing

Recently, I reviewed Paul’s book, Little Wing. He’s back again on The Diversity of Classic Rock to talk about his book. If you want to learn more about him and his book, keep on reading! In the interview, we talk about Jimmy McCulloch and the process of writing the book.

Angie Moon: As you were researching for the book what surprised you most about Jimmy McCulloch?

Paul Salley: I’d have to say what surprised me the most was probably getting to know, not really surprising to say, who Jimmy was as a person from the people who knew him like for so many years all you know about Jimmy through the rock history books are just ‘yeah he’s a good guitar player, but man he was wild and he had a lot of problems’, stuff like that. I was like ‘Come on man! There’s more to Jimmy than the narrow minded views all the McCartney biographies take.’ So I was really happy to hear from many different people just how kind and generous Jimmy was and how he had a great sense of humour and he’s very mischievous.

Angie: What were your favourite stories about Jimmy in the book?

Paul: I would have to say probably my favourite stories relate to him being a person, his brother, Jack, tells a great story in the book about Jimmy and Steve Marriott being really good friends and Jimmy wanting to borrow Steve’s new car. He’s like ‘I’ll tell you what, I’ll leave my Rolls Royce with you if you let me take your car out for a drive’. Steve says ‘yeah alright’ and an hour later Jimmy crashed the car, so that was a good one.

Another good story is backstage in New York after the Madison Square Garden gig on Wings Over America, Jimmy was fooling around with a piece of tomato on his plate and he was gonna throw it at Jackie Kennedy Onassis and his girlfriend at the time, luckily she realised in time what he was about to do and put her hand on his wrist and said, ‘don’t you dare!’ and thankfully Jimmy listened. That was a good one. There’s loads of great stories in there, but those are two that spring to mind.

This isn’t necessarily a story, but when Jimmy’s brother, Jack, was describing White Line, I loved how he said ‘White Line was one of those bands where we always had a smile’ and I think that really shines through in all their music and all of the footage you see of them. They’re just a bunch of guys, they’re really good friends and they’re playing music the way they wanted to and that’s what it’s all about.

Angie: How did you get in contact with so many big musicians?

Paul: I’ve been lucky enough to have a lot of good people who’ve helped me out there with their connections, but I’d say probably the main thing is my passion for Jimmy and telling it the right way and I think that’s really apparent so I guess people remembered Jimmy fondly and they want to contribute. It doesn’t hurt to have good people that you’re friends with who are also big fans of Jimmy’s playing who happen to know certain people.

Angie: What are your favourite Jimmy McCulloch guitar moments?

Paul: “Accidents” by Thunderclap Newman that is in my top 10 of all time. I think his longest guitar solo of his career. It’s just mindblowing to me. The guitar solo in “Hollywood #2” from Thunderclap Newman, I love that one. “Letting Go” from Wings Over America, “Medicine Jar” of course, “The Note You Never Wrote” from Wings At The Speed of Sound, “Heartbreaker” by The Dukes, there’s just so many how can you narrow it down? His guitar solo in “Too Many Miles” from White Line is another good one. The life stuff he did with Stone The Crows is great and also John Mayall and some live Thunderclap Newman stuff like “Wild Country”. Oh and “Junior’s Farm”, how could I forget “Junior’s Farm”? Like that is Jimmy’s moment to shine, like “Take me down Jimmy”, Paul’s introducing the world to this young wiz kid and Jimmy sets off on an incendiary guitar solo and William Miller from Almost Famous will be proud of me for using that line.

Angie: If you could go to any live show that Jimmy was a part of, which would you pick and why?

Paul: I have a few for different reasons. I’ve always been fascinated by the Jimmy McCulloch Band or Bent Frame. I would have loved to have gone to their gigs because that’s Jimmy’s band so I would have loved to see them live and I love their material. Wings, obviously that would have been cool. Then I would have enjoyed seeing Jimmy in One in a Million, Thunderclap Newman, Stone The Crows, The Dukes. If I would have seen The Dukes live when they played Music Machine that would have been great. Hearing “Heartbreaker” live, just to see how Jimmy was at that point.

Angie: What’s your favourite Wings/Jimmy/etc vinyl/merch/collectable you own?

Paul: My favourite thing that I own is Jimmy’s gold record for Wings Over America. That was given to me by his brother Jack as a thank you for all of the work that I’ve done in Jimmy’s memory. So that’s one thing that I’ll always cherish.

Angie: What were the biggest challenges in writing and publishing the book?

Paul: The biggest challenges were definitely when you’re in that writer’s block for what seems like ever and you’re just not motivated to do anything. That can be really frustrating and then it can feel really daunting and also knowing how much information is enough, I need to keep researching and keep contacting people and interviewing them. Stuff like that. And publishing the book (laughs), I’m self publishing it. It’s my first time ever doing that. So I’ve run into quite a few issues there. It’s always the little minute details. Definitely making sure that you have everything ready to go so you’re not scrambling at the last second. And also making sure you have everything ready to go a couple months ahead of time. Which leads into number 8 [the next question].

Angie: What kept you motivated when writing and researching for the book?

Paul: Definitely all the people in my Little Wing group that are such fans of Jimmy and Jimmy’s family, his friends, just their trust in me to tell Jimmy’s story the right way and every time I would hear Jimmy play or watch Rockshow, I would be reminded what an incredible talent he was and it just kept me motivated to continue writing and telling his story the best way I possibly can. And I hope that I did that. Definitely my friends and family, especially my dad because he was really looking forward to reading it and I remember one of the last conversations I had with him he told me that he was really looking forward to reading it so that really motivated me to finally finish it up.

Angie: What are your future plans for the book or future projects?

Paul: There’s something in the pipeline that involves the book that’s pretty cool, it’s too early to mention anything yet, but potentially it could be pretty cool. I’ll let you all know all the details for that at a later date. A lot of people want me to do a book tour. I’ll do some podcast interviews and all that fun stuff. No future projects as of yet, but I would definitely love to write another book, subject to be determined.

Angie: What do you think Jimmy McCulloch would have done if he lived and made it to the 80s, 90s, and beyond?

Paul: I definitely think he would have released his own solo material which would have been amazing. I can’t see him in any of the hair metal bands of the 80s, which is great. That’s a really good question. I think he would still be here playing his guitar, making albums, maybe appearing at Beatle conventions, you never know. I wish he was still here doing what he loved and being with his family and stuff like that.

Angie: If you could ask Jimmy McCulloch anything, what would you ask him?

Paul: I would probably ask him for a picture together just like you mean so much to me, I just need a photo with you and to listen to all his unreleased stuff. That would be amazing. I got to listen to some of it with Jack, but to hear everything would be really cool.

Angie: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to take on a big project like this?

Paul: My advice would be start when you’re young and have a lot of energy and passion. Definitely passion #1. You have to have passion for your subject and what you’re writing about. And you have to want to do it for the right reasons and don’t give up if people come at you negatively and try to bring you down. You just got to keep grinding because there’s plenty of people out there who support what you’re doing and want to read your work. If anybody wants to come to me for advice, I’m always open and I’d love to help you realise your dreams, like I realised mine with this book on Jimmy.

You can purchase Little Wing through Amazon, here. For international readers, you can find it on any country’s Amazon page. More information can be found on the website.

Shoutout to Patrick and Jeffrey from Maryland for supporting the blog!

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