July 25, 2020

Guitar Giant Green Is Gone

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The Original Fleetwood Mac Lineup The Original Fleetwood Mac Lineup

To many, especially younger fans, Fleetwood Mac started when they moved to the US with a new line-up. If that is your starting point, you missed out on one of the most exciting Blues Rock bands ever assembled. They certainly were the best that the early British blues scene had to offer.

The founder of the band, Peter Green, died on Saturday July 25, 2020. If you never had a chance to see Peter play guitar, you missed out on an experience of a lifetime. He did things to a guitar that were unequaled by many.

Among those who greatly admired him were B B King who said of Green “he has the sweetest tone I ever heard. He was the only one who gave me the cold sweats”. Frank Zappa said in the 60’s that the original Fleetwood Mac with Peter green in the lead was the only music he really liked coming out of England.

I consider myself to be very fortunate that I did have a chance to see Peter and original Fleetwood Mac play at the old Electric Factory in Philadelphia. They were nothing short of dazzling even though they made no effort to play to the audience. Stage presence just wasn’t their thing.

Peter Green seemed to be unaware that there were even people watching. He just kept on playing that captivating guitar. The other guitar player, Jeremy Spencer, had a bad case of stage fright and spent most of the performance behind, and not in front of, his amp. He never faces the crowd. It didn’t matter, they were totally captivating.

Peter started playing guitar at age ten and by the time he was a teen was playing well enough to be a professional. His ability was first noticed by one of the best talent scouts in England, John Mayall. Peter was asked to join John’s band. No small task since Peter was replacing Eric Clapton. Green was up to the task.

The Blues breakers over the years became the launching pad for so many other greats. Among those who played for Mayall’s Blues Breakers were drummer Mick Fleetwood and bass player John McVie. It wasn’t too long before Peter asked them to join him in forming a band. At the time Peter’s guitar work was so well respected that everyone assumed the band would be called The Peter Green Band. It wasn’t.

Despite the fact that Peter Green was the biggest draw in the band, he didn’t want his name up front. Make no mistake about, he was the driving force. Despite his wishes, the band soon became known as Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac.

Peter would give different answers when questioned why he didn’t want the band named after him. He would often say things like he didn’t know how long he would be sticking with the band so why name it after him. Mick Fleetwood is certain that the real reason was that he just wanted to share the spotlight because he was just that modest.

Fleetwood Mac was the only British Blues band that didn’t sound like a bunch of Brits who liked American Blues trying to imitate the music they heard and loved. Fleetwood Mac sounded more authentic. So much so that they were asked to join a bunch of Blues giants like Willie Dixon, Buddy Guy, Honeyboy Edwards and Otis Spann to make an album called BLUES JAM IN CHICAGO that was co- produced by legendary UK Blues producer Mike Veron and the legendary head of Chess Records, Marshall Chess.

Peter was more than an interpreter of American Blues. He wrote some songs that were hits in England, but not received as well in this country. If you want to hear some examples of his writing and playing, just listen to “Albatross”, “Oh Well” and “Black Magic Woman”. American guitar great Santana took the latter and had a big hit record with the song. Many people who listened or bought that record thought it was an original Santana song. But Santana could pay no greater tribute to how much he like Peter’s guitar work than to record his song.

So what happened? Fleetwood Mac went on to be one of the most popular bands in music history. Peter Green went on to be the poster child for what happens to you when you do mind altering drugs. The drugs only served to make his mind case of schizophrenia worse. He left Fleetwood Mac in 1971 and never returned.

Instead he ended up in a mental hospital and out of music for years. While he did make an attempt to come back in the 1990’s, it was a feeble attempt. Gone was the spark and drive that led to him being voted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1998. He is best remembered for his early exciting playing days.

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