Paul McCartney’s Wings Bandmate Pulled a Knife and Saved Macca From a Potential Killer

Paul McCartney was helpless as he watched The Beatles fall apart despite his best efforts to stop the breakup. The unofficial songwriting competition between Paul and John Lennon stressed the band to the breaking point. Yet Macca couldn’t keep himself from forming a new band, and it might have saved his life. McCartney’s Wings bandmate Henry McCullough pulled a knife and drove away a person who said he wanted to kill Paul.

Paul McCartney’s Wings bandmate Henry McCullough confronted Paul’s potential murderer with a knife
Once Linda McCartney helped rouse her husband from his post-Beatles stupor, Paul released two solo albums in a little over a year. He dropped McCartney in April 1970 and Ram in May 1971.

He had complete creative freedom as a solo artist, but McCartney felt the pull of assembling a new band. Guitarist Denny Laine and drummer Denny Seiwell were the first to join Paul and Linda in Wings in 1971.

Henry McCullough joined in early 1972. He might have been heaven-sent, considering he didn’t hesitate to pull a knife and defend McCartney from someone threatening to kill him.

A young French fan approached McCartney in a club after a Wings concert during their Wings over Europe tour in the summer of 1972. The man said he had a revolver in his pocket and planned to shoot Paul. As detailed in the book Man on the Run, when McCullough heard about it, he slid a knife out of his boot, grabbed Laine as a wingman, and confronted the potential murderer. The Wings’ guitarists wrestled the Frenchman to the floor, searched him, and forcefully sent him on his way when they didn’t find a gun.

The no-nonsense McCullough, who cut his teeth playing in Northern Ireland’s cutthroat dancehalls, didn’t hesitate when he realized the threat against McCartney.

“[It was] one of those incidents that happens a thousand times on a Saturday night in any given city,” McCullough said (per Man on the Run). “I felt very protective of Paul because of his vulnerability. He needed a strong helping hand from whoever was around him.”

McCullough’s intuition about McCartney needing a helping hand was right. The ex-Beatle encountered self-doubt about his musical direction. Poor reviews for his first solo albums as Wings’ debut, Wild Life, backlash over the controversial song “Give Ireland Back to the Irish,” and the puzzling “Mary Had a Little Lamb” single probably didn’t help.

With McCullough added to the lineup, Wings’ 1973 album Red Rose Speedway contained some of Paul’s earliest and best songs after The Beatles. The album rose to No. 5 in England with the single “My Love” climbing to No. 9 (per the Official Charts Company). America loved it even more. “My Love” spent four weeks as a Billboard No. 1 single, and Red Rose Speedway held the top spot for three of its 32 weeks on the charts.

McCullough left Wings before the band achieved its greatest success
McCullough pulled a knife and saved McCartney from a potential killer, but creative differences led him to leave Wings after their 1973 U.K. tour. In fact, he left the band shortly before they headed to Nigeria to record Band on the Run.

He avoided sharing in the McCartney’s horrific experience of being mugged on the streets of Lagos. Paul also suffered a frightening medical episode that led him to quit smoking cigarettes.

The McCartney-McCartney-Laine lineup forged ahead and created a standout album. “Jet” and “Band on the Run” were both top-10 singles; “Helen Wheels” went to No. 12. The album spent seven weeks at No. 1 in England (according to the Official Charts Company) and lasted nearly two consecutive years among the top 100.

Band on the Run was a Billboard chart-topper for a month and lived among the top albums for 120 weeks. Subsequent records, such as Venus and Mars, Wings Over America, and Wings at the Speed of Sound hit No. 1 while Back to the Egg and London Town reached the top 10 in the U.S.

Yet McCullough didn’t experience any of that success. Less than a year after defending McCartney from a would-be assassin, he left Wings to return to playing in Joe Cocker’s backing band and recording with notable artists such as Roy Harper, Eric Burdon, Donovan, and Laine (after Wings broke up).

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