Northern Ireland and the blues have a long and happy history, beginning in the early 60s when R&B was one of the most popular forms of music on the live scene.
Venues like The Maritime Hotel in Belfast gained a reputation for incubating the best rhythm and blues stars. Early performances from Van Morrison and Them cemented the Maritime’s reputation, and bands like The Mad Lads, Taste, Just Five and The Deltones were much loved throughout the 60s.
Blues and R&B guitarist Rory Gallagher is an adopted son of Belfast. Born in Donegal, he made his name with the band Taste, who had their breakthrough in Belfast. As a solo artist, he was one of a handful of musicians to play gigs in the city at the height of ‘The Troubles’ and had a great love for Belfast.
Portstewart guitarist Henry McCullough is widely regarded as a R&B legend. He played with Joe Cocker and The Grease Band and is the only Irish artist to have played at the Woodstock festival.
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He was also a member of Paul McCartney’s Wings in the early years of the band, before leaving to work as a session musician with Donovan, Frankie Millar, and Marianne Faithful, amongst others.
Rab McCullough is another guitarist who has made an impression on the international blues scene. He played with Jimi Hendrix, John Mayall, and Rory Gallagher during the 60’s and 70’s, but when the violence began in Northern Ireland, he returned to Belfast to be with his family, cutting his promising career short.
With the end of ‘The Troubles’ in the late 90s, Rab returned to Memphis, and was immediately recognised as a blues star. Revitalised, he began to tour international blues festivals, and released his album ‘Belfast Blues’.
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His album 'Belfast Blues' was voted album of the year by the US Real Blues magazine.
Rab McCullough is now recognised as one of the UK’s best blues guitarists, and continues to collaborate with the best contemporary blues musicians in the world.