BY: TODD BEEBE
The 1960’s were a time of great exposure for the blues. Young English musicians had discovered its powers and were introducing their audiences, most of whom were unaware of the blues music at the time. One band that has since been associated with blues (mostly their commercial success in the 1970’s) is Fleetwood Mac. The Mac originally started as a full on blues band with Mick Fleetwood on drums, Bob Brunning on bass, Jeremy Spencer on slide guitar and the great
Peter Green as guitarist/front man. Originally billed as “Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac”, the band later added second guitarist Danny Kirwan and blazed a trail of blues/rock that hasn’t been matched to this day. The band masterfully fired on all cylinders in their prime, and there’s no doubt their founder led the way from the start.
Peter Allen Greenbaum was born in Bethnal Green, London on October 29, 1946. His first influences were early Rock n Roll, particularly Elvis’ guitarist Scotty Moore, and Hank Marvin of The Shadows. He has often said that Marvin’s great melodies inspired him to write his own classic instrumentals such as “Albatross.” Green played in several bands in his formative years, mostly playing the standard pop songs of the day. In 1966 he joined Peter B’s Looners with Peter Barden. This is also where he met drummer Mick Fleetwood. The band had modest success with their release of “If You Wanna Be Happy.”
He proved he was no poor man’s Clapton…
Peter had a craving to play the blues, and started searching for something besides “The Looners.” John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers were creating a huge buzz, especially guitarist Eric Clapton. Green attended countless Mayall shows, watching Clapton and observing how the band worked. Mick Fleetwood was now drumming with the Bluesbreakers and Peter informed Mayall that he was looking for a gig playing in a band just like his. Mayall kept Green in mind, and when Clapton was unable to make a few shows, he called on him to fill in. Most guitarists would have feared having the job, especially with everyone chanting, “Clapton is God” during this time. Green was young and confident though, and stepped up to plate with no hesitation. Clapton soon left the Bluesbreakers for good, and Peter was in full time. Mayall has since commented how audiences were a little weary of the group continuing after Clapton’s departure, but they soon changed their minds when they heard Peter play. He proved he was no poor man’s Clapton, and showed a maturity and style way beyond his 19 years and completely all his own. The band released “A Hard Road” in 1967 to rave reviews. Peter’s amazing playing and tone are featured all over the album, and showed the world there was a new man in town!
Green started feeling confined in the Bluesbreakers and looked to put his own group together. Perfectly showing his knack for leaving his ego behind, he decided to name his group not after himself, but after his favorite rhythm section. Combining “Fleetwood” with part of Mayall bassist John Mcvie’s last name, “Fleetwood Mac” was born. McVie was originally hesitant to leave his steady gig with Mayall and so the original Mac bassist was Bob Brunning. Eventually McVie came on board though, and along with slide guitarist Jeremy Spencer, Fleetwood Mac began to make some
…B.B. King has stated, “He has the sweetest tone I ever heard, he was the only one who gave me the cold sweats.”
noise. Their debut at the 1967 Windsor Jazz & Blues Festival (with Brunning still on Bass) got audiences talking and anxiously anticipating the group’s debut release. The self-titled album proved that Mac was a force to be reckoned with. “Mr. Wonderful” soon followed the debut, which had everyone talking about the now dubbed “Green God”. Peter’s ability to play the blues with the grace of a master was undeniable, and even B.B. King has stated, “He has the sweetest tone I ever heard, he was the only one who gave me the cold sweats.”
1969 saw the band at the top of it’s game. Green began experimenting with the blues and pushing the envelope with his compositions. Peter started to stretch out and jam onstage, and added third guitarist Danny Kirwan. The group traveled to Chicago and recorded the double album “Blues Jam in Chicago” with among others, Willie Dixon, Otis Spann and Buddy Guy. The recordings are a shining example of a young, late 60’s English group mixing with their heroes in the Windy City. Amazing stuff! Green was now constantly writing and his compositions “Black Magic Woman” (later done by Santana) and “Albatross” were bringing Fleetwood Mac to the masses. Late ’69 also saw the release of “Then Play On.” The album showcased jamming alongside blues and straight up rock songs like “Oh Well.” It seemed like Fleetwood Mac was unstoppable. So when Green announced his departure from the band in 1970, many were shocked.
Peter Green has written some of the most creative, heart felt music ever
Fleetwood Mac would go on to have huge commercial success in the ’70’s, and most would forget that the band started with it’s heart in the blues. Peter Green’s story from here on out has often been hyped up, exaggerated and many times shrouded in mystery. He has vanished and reappeared from the public’s eye and has released numerous recordings in different settings over the years, many of them exceptional. One thing is definite though: Peter Green has written some of the most creative, heart felt music ever, and his playing is still a textbook example on mixing great tone and restraint with fire and soul. Thanks for the music Peter Green.