Formed around Scottish singer Maggie Bell the band worked initially in clubs and air bases around the UK and Europe before arriving in London in 1969, where they were christened by their manager, Led Zeppelin Svengali Peter Grant.
The group had fantastic talent in vocalist Bell, guitarist Les Harvey, bassist Jim Dewar and drummer Colin Allen. As teenagers, Maggie and Les had worked together in a local group.
Maggie (born in Glasgow on 12 January 1945) came from a musical family who supported her ambitions. Les was the younger brother of singer Alex Harvey who led the Sensational Alex Harvey Band (SAHB).
Maggie was just 17 years old when she started singing professionally in the city’s Locarno Ballroom. She soon found herself earning £70 a week singing pop hits of the day under the spotlights. It was a much better life than earning a pittance as a window dresser.
Maggie and Stone the Crows were thrown into a cross-country American tour four months after they came into being. Most of it was a supporting act for Joe Cocker‘s Mad Dogs and Englishmen.
Stone The Crows (Polydor) was produced by Mark London and released in 1970. Jimmy Dewar shared some vocal duties with Maggie and co-wrote the material. “We recorded the album in Advision studios, London, with Jimmy Dewar and John McGinnis. Jimmy was a great singer and he sounded a bit like David Clayton Thomas of Blood, Sweat & Tears. We shared the vocals on that album and we made a great team.”
After their second effort, Ode To John Law (1970), John McGinnis and Jimmy Dewar quit and were replaced by Steve Thompson (bass) and Ronnie Leahy (keyboards).
The next album Teenage Licks (1971), proved to be their most successful and from then on Stone The Crows played all the major rock festivals. Maggie won the Best Female Vocalist award in the annual Melody Maker readers poll and with her raunchy, sincere style she was hailed by many critics as the natural successor to Janis Joplin.
Tragedy struck the band when Les Harvey was electrocuted on stage by a live microphone at the Top Rank ballroom in Swansea, Wales, on 3 May 1972. He was about to announce the first number of the group’s set at the Swansea University Coming Out Ball.
Mouth-to-mouth resuscitation was given immediately, but he died a few hours later in a local hospital.
Maggie Bell (who was also Harvey’s long-term girlfriend) was also hospitalised in a state of collapse. Harvey’s replacement was former Thunderclap Newman guitarist, 19-year-old Jimmy McCulloch.
Unfortunately, their commercial failure ultimately led to the group’s demise, and Stone The Crows broke up in 1973.
McCulloch developed a drinking problem, drifting around the London scene until 1975 when he replaced Henry McCulloch (no relation) in Wings. He contributed some memorable guitar work to four Wings albums, then left the band in 1978 to play in a short-lived reconstituted Small Faces.
McCulloch was found dead in his Maida Vale (London) apartment on 27 September 1979.