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Interview: TONY McPHEE

Rock Stars...

Until recently, Tony McPhee was still gigging with The Groundhogs the band he formed in 1963 and named after a John Lee Hooker track. Tony backed several notable blues singers before fashioning his own trio, and producing a series of successful albums un the early seventies including 'Thank Christ For The Bomb' and 'Split'.

You recently disbanded the Groundhogs for a solo blues project. Is this permanent and what were your reasons?

It's permanent as far as the name goes. A change is as good as a rest and I'm hoping to get a new band together in the near future. It just won't be called The Groundhogs.

How has the recent tour gone down?

The tour with Alvin Lee & Edgar Winter was last year now, but it went so well its what turned my thoughts into doing more solo/duet work with my partner Joanna Deacon. We only did a short set and I was just warming up when it was time to get off stage. We got fantastic feedback from everyone who saw us.

We've had a few gigs this year and are set to get a lot more from June, including some big blues festivals all the details are on the web site (

What have been the highs & lows of your career?

(Not in any particular order)


Playing with Hooker, Jimmy Reed, Jack Dupree & Howling Wolf.

Touring with the Rolling Stones.

After the Stones tour, playing Greens Playhouse Glasgow to our own sell out audience.

TV appearences on Top of the Pops & Whistle Test.

Being voted 4th best British guitarist in Sounds.

Split going gold.

Finding out that I have been inspirational for many musicians I admire.

Lows - Let's call this dissapointments.

Breaking my wrist while on tour in the USA.

Hogwash not getting into the charts.

Realising that you cannot go back! (see question 1).

Getting personally slagged off by the music press because we were never 'fashionable'.

The Groundhogs have a great live reputation. Why is that? Is your life on the road?

I suppose the reputation comes from never playing the same gig twice, by that I mean we played the songs differently every time and there was always room for improvisation. These days I enjoy gigging and although we gig all year (no set tours at the moment) we want to keep it to three - four dates a month.... which is the best of both worlds.

Your back catalogue has been pretty much abused over the years, especially with live albums. How do you feel about that?

If you mean repackaging of live albums under different titles, it's out of my control unfortunately. It happens to all artists, someone's always trying to make a fast buck.

You were heavily involved with the Live 76 CD last year. How did that happen and were you pleased with it.

Mike Dixon of MLP records phoned me asking my permission to release a live recording made in Derby. I didn't know that the gig had been recorded so listened to a CD and was impressed both with the quality and the performance. The numbers were different from the usual live set and I was very pleased wih the final product.

What kind of legacy do you feel the Groundhogs have left?

As in the highs list, finding out that we have been inspirational for many musicians I admire is the legacy. Its for history to judge.

If you recommend one Groundhogs album to the world, what would it be?

It has to be 'Thank Christ for the Bomb'. I am still immensely proud of that album and think that the issues are still current.

I can't see you stopping touring. What are your future plans?

At the moment I am gigging with Joanna and hope to carry on with that, as we really enjoy it. I have just bought myself a new, old Gibson SG, valve amp and transmitter I am going to get a new band together not too sure of the direction yet but I have been writing new material for a while and would like to get it recorded and played.

It wont be called The Groundhogs, probably something like The Tony McPhee Old Farts Club! (joke) and I'm bound to get hounded into playing Cherry Red so the Hogs numbers will always be there in the background.

Any message for your fans?

Meat is murder


Interview © 2005 Joe Geesin

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