LEGENDARY Belfast Blues musician Rab McCullough (72) has died in hospital after suffering a cardiac arrest on Monday. 

His family were at his bedside as the much-loved Baraka lead guitarist passed away.

Rab had been placed in an induced coma after suffering a cardiac arrest while swimming at the Andersonstown Leisure Centre on Monday. 
 

FINALE: Rab McCullough playing the Greatest Hits concert in 2019
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FINALE: Rab McCullough playing the Greatest Hits concert in 2019

 

With a career spanning more than 50 years, Rab had a record deal with Warner Brothers and shared stages with rock world luminaries such as AC/DC, Rory Gallagher and Van Morrison.

Some of the highlights of his career included opening for Jimi Hendrix, playing with the Rolling Stones and gigging Amy Winehouse’s band.

In an interview with the Culture NI website, he recalled setting up Baraka in the mid-seventies: ‘In west Belfast it was predominantly pop music, so I saw there was a niche and formed Baraka, a heavy rock band, in 1976, doing Jimi Hendrix , Alllman Brothers and Cream stuff. I started a gig in the Clubhouse Bar, on a Wednesday, and six people came. But within six weeks you couldn’t have got in. You’re talking 500 people, standing up, jammed tight. We’d be getting £80 a man, which was good money then.’
 
Rab also held the record for the longest running residency in the North of Ireland, playing the Empire Music Hall for more than 20 years.

Friend, fellow-musician and blues promoter Seamie O'Neill was heartbroken at the news of Rab's death. The Andersonstown man had few equals when it came to the blues guitar. "There are legends," he said. "Then there are people who think they are legends. Then there is Rab McCullough."

Rab was also well-known as a member of staff at the Andersonstown Leisure Centre, where he worked for many years, and had an unrivalled reputation as a physio.

He is survived by his wife Marian, sons Robert Jr and James, his daughter Louise and wider family circle.

The gifted guitarist was a pillar of the West Belfast community and was the star turn at the West Belfast's Greatest Hits extravaganza in the Devenish in 2019. 

Interned in Long Kesh in the seventies, he kept his fellow-prisoners entertained with his singing talent and among his guitar lesson pupils, as he proudly recalled, was a young Bobby Sands. 

Ar dheis láimh Dé go raibh a anam uasal.