Tony McPhee, longtime Groundhogs frontman and guitarist, dies aged 79

The beloved musician has often been credited for his enduring influence on the blues and rock scene.

Tony McPhee of the Groundhogs

Image: Brigitte Engl / Getty Images

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Tony McPhee, frontman and guitarist of English blues-rock band The Groundhogs, has died at the age of 79.

In a short statement on Facebook, the band say that McPhee “died peacefully at home” on 6 June from complications after a fall last year.

Originally formed as the Dollar Bills with brothers Pete and John Cruickshank in the early ’60s, the group got their break in 1964 when John Mayall and his band were unable to back American blues singer John Lee Hooker on his UK tour. The trio took their place and were soon booked for another tour with Hooker. Both sides later on recorded an album together titled Hooker and the Hogs.

In 1968, The Groundhogs’ debut album Scratching The Surface arrived, and the early ’70s marked the band’s most commercially successful period. They supported the Rolling Stones’ 1971 tour and released three consecutive UK top 10 albums in the early 1970s – Thank Christ for the Bomb, Split and Who Will Save the World? The Mighty Groundhogs.

Over the years, the band underwent multiple lineup changes, splits and reforms, with only McPhee remaining a constant member throughout. In 2003, The Groundhogs went on a tour to celebrate their 40th anniversary, reuniting McPhee, Cruickshank and drummer Ken Pustelnik who played on most of their hit ’70s records.

Aside from his stint in The Groundhogs, McPhee also released a number of singles and solo albums across his career. He also enjoyed a long-standing creative partnership with vocalist Joanna Deacon, with whom he collaborated frequently on duets.

In 2009, McPhee suffered a stroke which affected his ability to sing; the musician eventually retired from the band in 2015.

“My main wish is to be recognised for my contributions to blues and rock and the guitar,” McPhee told US radio station WMFU in 2011. “That’s all the status I need.”

McPhee is survived by his wife Joanna, sons Conan and Vincent, grandchildren Scarlett and Victor and sister Olive.

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