Many Paul McCartney fans don’t know that he has a brother. Peter Michael McCartney was born two years after his famous brother, in 1944. The McCartney brothers were close growing up until Paul started his career as a Beatle in the late 1950s. Then, The Beatles became Paul’s brothers, and Michael was left behind, back in Liverpool.
When Paul’s fame skyrocketed and Michael wanted to start his own career, he couldn’t keep the McCartney name. Otherwise, he’d look like he was riding on his brother’s coattails.
Paul McCartney’s and his brother Michael McCartney grew up in a musical household
The McCartney brothers were born during World War II, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t happy times in the McCartney household. Their mother, Mary, was a midwife, and their father, James, was a cotton salesman. Michael told the Wall Street Journal that their father was in a ragtime jazz group called Jim Mac’s band with their relatives. The band played dances, and if venues didn’t have a piano, James would play his cornet.
They moved around a lot as kids, but Paul eventually taught himself how to play the piano by himself. There was always music in the house, and the McCartney boys grew to love it just as much as McCartney senior.
When Paul went off and made it big with The Beatles, Michael was working as a hairdresser. But once he saw his brother’s fame, it made him hope that maybe he too could have a successful performing career. In 1962, Michael joined the Scaffold, a comedy, poetry, and music trio. He didn’t want to be a pop star. “I was happiest in my world of poetry, song and mischief in Liverpool,” he said.
Michael McCartney changed his name to Michael McGear
Most of the time, being the sibling of a famous person is hard. Some have tried to live in privacy; others have tried to be as famous as their siblings. Only in rare cases do both siblings find the same level of fame. Still, it’s interesting to see what celebrity siblings are up to. How have they dealt with having a famous relative? Has it affected their own career? For Michael, taking the McCartney name was not optional. If he stayed a McCartney, he’d have no career of his own.
Like his brother, Michael chose to go by his middle name. But he didn’t want his last name when he started his career in the 1960s. When Michael joined Scaffold, which included members Roger McGough and John Gorman, he eventually went down his brother’s path of recording music. Around this time, he chose to change his last name to McGear, to not draw attention to himself. He didn’t want it to look like he was trying to ride on the coattails of Paul’s success. “Gear” is the Liverpudlian word for “fab.”
According to Grunge, Scaffold recorded a couple of U.K. hit singles like 1967’s “Thank U Very Much.” Later, the group was reincarnated with new members and changed their name to GRIMMS. However, Michael chose to leave after their second album.
Michael McGear went back to being known as Michael McCartney
Eventually, Michael went solo, signing to Warner Bros. Records and in 1974. He released his second non-comedy musical album, McGear, and had help from his brother and his band, Wings. “Leave It” had moderate chart success, reaching No. 36 in the U.K. They also recorded a Scaffold “reunion” song, “Liverpool Lou,” which became Scaffold’s last top-ten hit.
Michael’s last single under Mike McGear was 1981’s “No Lar Di Dar (Is Lady Di),” a satirical tribute to Princess Diana. In the 1980s, Michael retired from his music career, dropped McGear, and took back the name McCartney.
Known as Michael McCartney again, Michael became a full-time photographer. He wrote on his blog that he’d been a photographer before he was a performer. Michael has published a book of photos he took of Liverpool and The Beatles back in the 1960s.
Changing his name to McGear was probably beneficial for Michael. He went unnoticed for decades, and even now, fans are probably confused when they see McGear instead of McCartney. But he’ll always be a McCartney and Paul’s brother, no matter what name he has.
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