Having started life in the early 1960s travelling the UK in a van as John Lee Hooker‘s backing band, by the mid-70s, The Groundhogs – named after the John Lee Hooker song Groundhog’s Blues – had become a trio who supported The Rolling Stones and had three Top 10 albums as purveyors of heavy psychedelic blues.
Tony ‘TS’ McPhee was arguably the greatest living British bluesman of the 20th Century. Not only did he play great blues, he effortlessly churned out some of the best riffs ever recorded. Sadly, it took an unbelievable 30 years or more for people to begin giving him the credit he deserved.
The Groundhogs’ third and best album, Thank Christ For The Bomb (1970) was a work of genius, with Ship On The Ocean and the controversial title track being particularly impressive.
McPhee’s first solo album, The Two Sides Of Tony (1973), was a minor masterpiece released on the newly-formed WWA label.
The LP was split into two distinct halves, with very little consideration to commercial success. Side One mainly consisted of acoustic blues with some choice cuts, particularly the memorable Dog Me Bitch. The real ace, however, was Side Two, which consisted of one lengthy track, the intelligently constructed and dazzlingly effective synth-led The Hunt.
Since the demise of the definitive power trio – bass player Pete Cruikshank, drummer Ken Pustelnik and guitarist Tony McPhee – in the mid-1970s, The Groundhogs enjoyed a double life. Their terrestrial selves played on the pub circuit while their records enjoyed a glowing reputation amongst the likes of Julian Cope, Mark E Smith and Steve Malkmus.
In 2009, Tony McPhee suffered the first of several strokes, affecting his speech and singing voice. He died on 6 June 2023. peacefully at home from complications arising from a fall the previous year. He was 79.
Guitar, vocals, keyboards