Home » How Lindsey Buckingham took Fleetwood Mac to the top

How Lindsey Buckingham took Fleetwood Mac to the top

1979-lindsey-buckinghamBy Ted Drozdowski
Saturday, April 6, 2013

In the annals of Fleetwood Mac’s guitar history, Peter Green gets nearly all the black — in part because of his key role in making the Gibson Les Paul Sunburst an integral part of rock and blues history. But the Mac also featured another great Les Paul player who took lead of the band and helped the group reach its zenith of popularity: Lindsey Buckingham.

Buckingham cut six albums with Fleetwood Mac, including 1977’s Rumours, which, like Steely Dan’s Aja from the same year, remains a template for arranging, engineering, production and pure sonic mastery.

The group’s previous album, 1975’s Fleetwood Mac, was no slouch either. It was Buckingham’s debut with Mac and yielded the charters and radio hits “Rhiannon,” “Over My Head,” “Say You Love Me,” “Landslide” and the Buckingham-penned “Monday Morning.” During its first year of release it sold 4.5-million copies, and that number has doubled over the decades.

Buckingham acquired a white 1975 Les Paul 20th Anniversary reissue model as he joined the band, and it became his main electric guitar on stage. Based on the Les Paul Custom more than the original Les Paul Gold Top, Buckingham’s instrument had humbuckers and was gifted with superb clarity and punch, responding briskly to every nuance of his self-made finger-and-nail picking style.

The guitar often appears in classic Fleetwood Mac live videos from the mid-’70s — its tone lightly colored by the spare array of effects Buckingham carried during that era: a fuzz unit he made from a tape deck preamp and a Roland Space Echo driving a loud, clean amp with the reverb audibly cranked.

The first guitar Buckingham played as a kid in Palo Alto, California, was a Mickey Mouse model, which he squeaked by on until his parents forked over $35 for a Harmony acoustic. He is entirely self-taught, which makes his seemingly effortless mastery and remarkable versatility all the more impressive.

Buckingham cut his first album in 1973 with his then-girlfriend Stevie Nicks. Buckingham Nicks had a stellar cast of players, including drummer Jim Keltner and another Gibson six-string legend, Waddy Wachtel, a 1968 Les Paul ’Burst exponent. The album included the first version of “Crystal,” which would also appear on Fleetwood Mac. But it stiffed.

Broke but still swinging, the couple began cutting demos for their next disc, including, according to West Coast rock lore, the future Fleetwood Mac hits “Rhiannon” and “I’m So Afraid.” In 1974 Mick Fleetwood ended that demoing process when he tapped Buckingham for his band after the guitar chair opened. The picker insisted that he and Nicks were musically inseparable — and thus the second historic line-up of Fleetwood Mac formed.

Immediately Buckingham and Nicks became the group’s main songwriters — not so surprising, since the crux of the band was its titular rhythm section — and their work started devouring the pop charts. Live, Nicks’ fetching stage persona and Buckingham’s Les Paul pyrotechnics became the group’s twin focal points. “I’m So Afraid,” featuring Buckingham’s lead vocal, became a musical cornerstone in concert thanks to his indelible melody and piercing solos.

After Rumours knocked Fleetwood Mac into the commercial stratosphere, the lives of its members spun into a period of disarray that saw the break-up of Buckingham and Nicks and various combinations of intra-band bed hopping chronicled in Mick Fleetwood’s 1990 autobiography. The group never quite found their footing again. Buckingham took the reigns of 1979’s double-album Tusk, which is imbalanced and wildly self-indulgent, featuring a college marching band and a number of tunes where Buckingham played every instrument.

Although 1982’s Mirage produced several singles including “Hold Me,” “Love in Store” and “Gypsy,” that — and the resulting two-million copies sold — wasn’t enough to keep the group together. Nicks and Buckingham were well into solo careers by then and continued to go their own ways, eventually with diminishing returns.

Buckingham has released five studio albums and one live disc to date, and he continues to enjoy a sterling reputation as a guitarist’s guitarist. But his most visible successes have been Fleetwood Mac reunions.

The original Buckingham-Nicks-Fleetwood-John McVie-Christine McVie line-up came together in the studio one last time for 1987’s Tango in the Night, a complex but strongly pop oriented album that restored their chart standing with four top 20 singles, including Buckingham’s “Big Love.” It also propelled the band’s first reunion tour, which sold out sheds and stadiums across the world.

Fleetwood Mac briefly reunited again to play Bill Clinton’s presidential inauguration party but didn’t tour again until the mid-’90s. The Dance, a 1997 live CD, was Christine McVie’s swan song with the group. Since then the remaining members have banded together to tour and record occasionally. Say You Will, their first studio album without Christine McVie, was released in 2003, and the next year saw the DVD/CD package Live in Boston.

In a way, Live in Boston brought the band, at least in name, full circle. In 1970 the first classic line-up of the group, featuring Peter Green, Danny Kirwan and Jeremy Spencer on guitars — all delivering sterling performances of the Green tunes “Black Magic Woman,” “Rattlesnake Shake” and “Oh Well” — cut a live disc at the legendary Boston Tea Party nightclub that’s available on CD under the same name. A truncated version of that set was originally released on LP by the Rounder label in the ’80s as Jumping At Shadows. Both are superb examples of the first incarnation of Fleetwood Mac in peak form.


LIVE IN CONCERT (2023-2024)

Billy Joel and Stevie NicksStevie Nicks

FEB 10, 2024
Mark G Etess Arena
Atlantic City, NJ

FEB 14, 2024
UBS Arena
Belmont Park, NY

FEB 17, 2024
CFG Bank Arena
Baltimore, MD

FEB 21, 2024
Bon Secours Wellness Arena
Greenville, SC

FEB 24, 2024
Hard Rock Live
Hollywood, FL

FEB 28, 2024
Smoothie King Center
New Orleans, LA

MAR 3, 2024
CHI Health Center
Omaha, NE

MAR 6, 2024
Simmons Bank Arena
North Little Rock, AR

MAR 9, 2024
AT&T Stadium
Arlington, TX
Billy Joel

MAY 3, 2024 – MAY 5, 2024
Lovin’ Life Fest
Charlotte, NC

MAY 7, 2024
Enterprise Center
St Louis, MO

MAY 10, 2024
WinStar World Casino & Resort
Thackerville, OK

MAY 14, 2024
Bridgestone Arena
Nashville, TN

MAY 18, 2024
Frost Bank Center
San Antonio, TX

MAY 21, 2024
Yaamava’ Resort & Casino – Yaamava’ Theater
Highland, CA

MAY 24, 2024
BottleRock Napa Valley
Napa, CA

MAY 27, 2024
Delta Center
Salt Lake City, UT

MAY 30, 2024
Ball Arena
Denver, CO

Gainbridge Fieldhouse
Indianapolis, IN

JUN 9 
Mohegan Sun Casino
Uncasville, CT

JUN 12
MVP Arena
Albany, NY

JUN 15 
Hersheypark Stadium
Hershey, PA

JUN 18
Van Andel Arena
Grand Rapids, MI

JUN 21, 2024
Soldier Field
Chicago, IL

Two Icons One Night presented by Live Nation
^ Non-Live Nation show

Previous 2023 dates

March 10, 2023 – BILLY JOEL
Los Angeles, CA
SoFi Stadium

March 15, 2023
Seattle, WA
Climate Pledge Arena

March 18, 2023
Las Vegas, NV
T-Mobile Arena

May 12, 2023
Raleigh, NC
PNC Arena

May 16, 2023
Knoxville, TN
Thompson-Boling Arena

May 19, 2023 – BILLY JOEL
Nashville, TN
Nissan Stadium

May 22, 2023
Atlanta, GA
State Farm Arena

May 25, 2023
Orlando, FL
Amway Center

June 16, 2023 – BILLY JOEL
Philadelphia, PA
Lincoln Financial Field

June 20, 2023
Toronto, ON (Canada)
Scotiabank Arena

June 23, 2023
Chicago, IL
United Center

June 27, 2023
Louisville, KY
KFC Yum! Center

August 5, 2023 – BILLY JOEL
Columbus, OH
Ohio Stadium

August 8, 2023
Milwaukee, WI
Fiserv Forum

August 12, 2023
Houston, TX
Toyota Center

August 15, 2023
Austin, TX
Moody Center

August 19, 2023 – BILLY JOEL
Kansas City, MO
Arrowhead Stadium

September 23, 2023 – BILLY JOEL
Foxborough, MA
Gillette Stadium

September 27, 2023
Pittsburgh, PA
PPG Paints Arena

October 1, 2023
New York, NY
Madison Square Garden

October 4, 2023
Buffalo, NY
KeyBank Center

October 7, 2023 – BILLY JOEL
Baltimore, MD 
M&T Bank Stadium

October 28, 2023
Memphis, TN
FedEx Forum

November 1, 2023
Savannah, GA
Enmarket Arena

November 4, 2023
Allentown, PA
PPL Center

November 7, 2023
Detroit, MI
Little Caesars Arena

November 10, 2023 – BILLY JOEL
Minneapolis, MN
U.S. Bank Stadium

November 29, 2023
San Diego, CA
Viejas Arena

December 2, 2023
Inglewood, CA
The Kia Forum

December 5, 2023
Palm Desert, CA
Acisure Arena

December  8, 2023 – BILLY JOEL
Phoenix, AZ
Chase Field

December 12, 2023
Sacramento, CA
Golden 1 Center

December 15, 2023
San Francisco, CA
Chase Center

2022 Tour

Stevie Nicks

Jazz Aspen Snowmass
Snowmass, CO
Labor Day 2022

Ravinia Festival
Highland Park, IL
September 8, 2022
September 10, 2022

Pine Knob Music Theatre
Clarkston, MI
September 13, 2022
w/ Vanessa Carlton

Sea Hear Now Festival
Asbury, NJ
September 17, 2022

Xfinity Center
Mansfield, MA
September 19, 2022
w/ Vanessa Carlton

Maine Savings Amphitheatre
Bangor, ME
September 22, 2022
w/ Vanessa Carlton

Sound on Sound Festival
Bridgeport, CT
September 24-25, 2022

Ohana Festival
Dana Point, CA
September 30, 2022

Hollywood Bowl
Los Angeles, CA
October 3, 2022
w/ Vanessa Carlton

Ak-Chin Pavilion

Phoenix, AZ
October 6, 2022
w/ Vanessa Carlton

Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion

The Woodlands, TX
October 9, 2022
w/ Vanessa Carlton

Ameris Bank Amphitheatre
Alpharetta, GA
October 12, 2022
w/ Vanessa Carlton

Ascend Amphitheater
Nashville, TN
October 16, 2022
w/ Vanessa Carlton

Credit One Stadium
Charleston, SC
October 19, 2022
w/ Vanessa Carlton

PNC Music Pavilion
Charlotte, NC
October 22, 2022
w/ Vanessa Carlton

MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre
Tampa, FL
October 25, 2022
w/ Vanessa Carlton

iTHINK Financial Amphitheatre
West Palm Beach, FL
October 28, 2022
w/ Vanessa Carlton

Orion Amphitheatre
Huntsville, AL
October 31, 2022


Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
The Woodlands, TX
November 2, 2022
w/ Vanessa Carlton

Ak-Chin Pavilion
Phoenix, AZ
November 5, 2022
w/ Vanessa Carlton