The great Tony McPhee, one of the most influential – if rarely mentioned in this capacity – British guitarists, passed away today at the age of 79. T.S., as he used to be known, was different from other purveyors of white blues in that he, though bowing to the genre’s traditional roots, always perceived it as progressive music, and what McPhee did, first and foremost, with GROUNDHOGS and, later, TERRAPLANE as well as an individual artist.
The former aspect of Tony’s creativity could be experienced on such HOGS’ albums as 1969’s tellingly titled “Blues Obituary” and the latter is what made the legendary “Split” from 1971 so special – thanks to the platter’s titular four-part suite – but there also were “Hogwash” from the following year and a solo LP “The Two Sides Of Tony (T.S.) McPhee” that saw the singing six-stringer sculpt a side-long “The Hunt” out of synthesizers-created sounds. He might have played with John Lee Hooker – whose “Ground Hog Blues” gave Tony an idea for the ensemble’s name – and Jo Ann Kelly in the ’60s – yet the next century found the veteran collaborate with folk experimentalists CURRENT 93, his appetite for fresh sonics never fully satisfied.
As for McPhee’s melodic gift, his songs got covered by very different performers, including fellow bluesmen like Ty Segall and post-punk heroes THE FALL, and his guitar is loud and clear on Mike Batt’s “Tarot Suite”; however, his love for words remains uncelebrated despite the prominence of “”I Love Miss Ogyny” and other pun-flavored tracks – and don’t forget his “Cherry Red” that lent its title to a certain record label. Still, his personality… T.S. was one of the kindest people in the business, and his country squire looks weren’t deceptive. Which is why Tony McPhee would be sorely missed and warmly remembered by many.