Cape Town, South Africa (1965 - present) McCully Workshop is arguably one of South Africa's finest pop rock bands. They started way back in the '60's, dominated the South African airwaves in the '70's, continued through the '80's and '90's and in the 21st century are still going strong. In 1965, the McCullagh brothers, Tully (born Terence on 31st May 1953) and Mike (born Michael on 7th April 1947) started as a folk-rock trio with Richard Hyam and called themselves the Blue Three. Hyam had prev...
Cape Town, South Africa (1965 - present)
McCully Workshop is arguably one of South Africa's finest pop rock bands. They started way back in the '60's, dominated the South African airwaves in the '70's, continued through the '80's and '90's and in the 21st century are still going strong.
In 1965, the McCullagh brothers, Tully (born Terence on 31st May 1953) and Mike (born Michael on 7th April 1947) started as a folk-rock trio with Richard Hyam and called themselves the Blue Three. Hyam had previously been in a folk duo, Tiny Folk, with his sister Melanie.
After a few personnel- and name-changes, like The Blue Beats and Larfing Stocke, the line-up settled down (for a while) in 1969 and they called themselves the McCully Workshop because they used to rehearse in Mrs McCullagh's garage.
Their debut album, 'McCully Workshop Inc.' was produced by great South African singer and producer Billy Forrest (born William Boardman). The album features a variety of styles and influences including The Beatles, Frank Zappa and early Pink Floyd.
The Forced Exposure website has this quote: "A superb South African band's stunning debut album. 'Sgt. Pepper' influenced psychedelic music blended with R&B, garage punk tunes. Great songs, lovely vocals, strong harmonies, great distorted guitar work."
'Inc.' was released in June 1970 and included the epic and powerful 'Why Can't It Rain', which went to #12 on the Springbok Radio charts in July 1970 and reached #13 on the LM Radio charts. This hit single featured a fiery guitar solo by Allan Faull who went on to form the eclectic Falling Mirror with his cousin Nielen Marais. Tully McCullagh was also very involved with Falling Mirror, but that's another story…
McCully Workshop also played on country-pop singer Jody Wayne's 'The Wedding' in 1970 which hit #1 for 3 weeks on the Springbok Radio charts.
The follow-up to 'Inc' was the album 'Genesis' released in June 1971. This was a concept album based on the book of Genesis from the Bible and included a number of long tracks with sub-sections, typical of other prog-rock albums of the time. 'Sweet Fields Of Green' was released as a single, reaching #2 on the LM Radio charts in August 1971. The follow-up single 'Birds Flying High' (actually the flipside of 'Rainbow Illusion'), recorded during the 'Genesis' sessions, but not included on the album, peaked at #9 on the LM Radio charts.
Richard Black (born 9th December 1946) joined McCully Workshop on guitar in 1975. Black had been playing since the early 60's in bands like Rigar 5 and the Nu-Trends. In 1969 he had been in Elephant with Savvy Grande (who went on to form Suck) and George Wolfaardt from Abstract Truth.
'Ages' was released in 1975 which reflected musical styles from the different ages of music and various influences could be heard: Uriah Heep, The Beatles, The Kinks, The Beach Boys, etc. The vocal harmonies are superb throughout. '1623' is a wonderful violin-led instrumental and the keyboard-dominated 'Guinevere' reached #10 on the LM Radio charts and the band even appeared on the very early days of South African TV playing this hit song.
In 1977 the best-known incarnation of McCully Workshop was formed with the addition of Rupert Mellor (born Anthony Rupert Mellor, 7th August 1947). Mellor had been in a variety of bands including The Difference, First Acquaintance, The Hedgehoppers and The Claude Larson Singers (yes, really).
The 4th McCully Workshop album, 'Workshop Revisited', released in late 1977 shot them to prominence when it introduced South African fans to the hits 'Buccaneer' and 'Chinese Junkman'.
'Buccaneer' entered the Springbok Radio charts on 11th November 1977 and spent 15 weeks on the charts, reaching the coveted top spot on 30th December that year and staying there for 2 weeks. 'Buccaneer' also hit #1 on the Radio 5 charts and Mike McCullagh won the 1978 'Songwriter Of The Year' award for this composition.
The follow-up single 'Chinese Junkman' entered the charts in March 1978 and peaked at number 9, spending a total of 8 weeks in the top 20. However on the Radio 5 charts it followed 'Buccaneer' to number 1. The next single which was released in 1978 was the non-album track 'Villa Muddy Water' which unfortunately did not chart.
McCully Workshop used to play in the late '70's at the Canterbury Inn at the Fairmead Hotel in Rondebosch, Cape Town. They were famous for their comedy, ripping off many of the politicians and sportsmen of the day. On Saturday nights McCully Workshop were the resident dance band, and on Sunday nights wonderful renditions of classic progressive rock tunes could be heard. Of course no dancing was allowed on a Sunday in those dark days, so the audience had to just sit and listen... and listen they did (I know, 'cos I was there).
In 1998 the line-up from the late '70's reformed and re-recorded the McCully Workshop classics and hits as well as 6 new songs and released the album 'Buccaneer'. 'Why Can't It Rain' also received a make-over losing none of its power and gaining an even stronger production. Allan Faull again featured as guest guitarist.
In 2003 a Korean label, Beatball Records, re-issued the first album, 'McCully Workshop Inc.' in a mini-gatefold cover. This CD re-issue included detailed sleeve-notes and a printed version of the online Family Tree which is available on the official McCully Workshop website at www.mccullyworkshop.co.za.
Tully McCullagh is still running his successful Spaced-Out Sounds Studio in Cape Town. He wrote most of the songs and played bass on the highly acclaimed 2003 CD release by Cape Town rockers Blue Scream. Mike McCullagh has directed many popular musicals since 1988, most notably "Tribute To Bob Dylan", "Beatlemania" (for Artscape), "Station 70", "Sixty Something", "Eighty Something" and "Milestones To The Millennium". Richard Black co-founded Street Level Productions with James Stewart. Black released an instrumental solo CD 'Skadu Dans' (Shadow Dance) in 1997. Rupert Mellor is a sort-after session musician and can be still be seen performing in and around Cape Town.
Mellor and Black along with Flibbertigibbet's Dave Williams on fiddle, released 'Sheriff Bush and Deputy Blair' as an mp3 single in January 2003. Calling themselves the Nukular Stompers they saw this novelty song topping the SAmp3.com charts for 3 weeks and they even appeared on eTV.
In 2005 McCully Workshop finally released a much-demanded 'Best Of' CD. All tracks were newly remastered by Tully McCullagh at his Spaced Out Sound Studio, though in some cases the master tapes were missing, so the original vinyl had to be used. A brand new song, 'Reaching For A Dream' was also included on the 'Best Of' CD. This uplifting song was composed by all 4 members of McCully Workshop with lyrics by Alistair King and was used as part of a campaign for the Reach For A Dream Foundation.
McCully Workshop also got back together in February 2005 to perform again after a 25 years absence from playing on stage.
In early 2008 they played gigs at Die Boer in Durbanville & the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens to capacity crowds. A live album recorded at these venues, 'McCully Workshop Live!' was released in March 2008 and launched at a series of concerts at The Barnyard Theatre in Willowbridge. This album also included a new studio recording, 'The Aliens Are Landing'.
The band is currently working on new material.
Biography by Brian Currin - read the full biography here. Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply.