The Groundhogs frontman Tony McPhee dies aged 79

The Groundhogs frontman Tony McPhee dies aged 79

Singer and guitarist Tony McPhee, who fronted British blues and rock group The Groundhogs across six decades, has died aged 79.

The band confirmed McPhee’s death in a statement on their Facebook page, which read: “We are deeply saddened to announce that 79-year-old guitar and blues legend Tony (TS) McPhee, died peacefully at home today 6th June, from complications following a fall last year.”

Born on March 22, 1944, in Humberston, Lincolnshire, McPhee began listening to imported blues albums that his brother would bring home. He told Classic Rock in 2007 that “it was then that I first heard this raw stuff and my ears pricked up. There was some good pop music at the time but nothing that really stirred you. Then I went to see Cyril Davies at the Marquee in 1963, heard proper R&B and thought: ‘this’ll do’”.

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He joined a south London group, the Dollar Bills, in 1962 and renamed them the Groundhogs after the John Lee Hooker song ‘Groundhog Blues’. The band stuck to their blues roots while their peers strayed away leaning into pop as a way to attract more of a mainstream audience.

The Groundhogs would get the chance to work with Hooker himself, backing him on his 1965 LP ‘Hooker And The Hogs’ and then on two UK tours. Their debut, 1968’s ‘Scratching The Surface’ faltered as Motown took over. “The first blues boom ended when soul came in, that killed it stone dead,” shared McPhee.

With Fleetwood Mac and Humble Pie entering the scene, The Groundhogs returned with their second album ‘Blues Obituary’ which was followed by ‘Thank Christ For The Bomb’, ‘Split’ and ‘Who Will Save the World?’.

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“Tony McPhee is an absolute genius. He was the British Hendrix, y’know? He could do soaring feedback solos, and really took the whole guitar-playing thing as far as he could. And what he doesn’t know about the blues isn’t worth knowing,” shared The Dammed’s Captain Sensible in an interview with Classic Rock.

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