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Fleetwood Mac (1968-1974)

Fleetwood Mac 1967
John McVie, Danny Kirwan, Peter Green, Jeremy Spencer, Mick Fleetwood

In 1967, Peter Green formed British blues band Fleetwood Mac with Mick Fleetwood and John McVie. In 1968, the band added guitarist Jeremy Spencer and released the blues albums Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac and Mr. Wonderful. Later that year, the band added another guitarist, Danny Kirwan.

By 1969, Fleetwood Mac’s sound was evolving, which was evident on their third album Then Play On. The material started to move toward a rock sound, straying from the band’s traditional blues roots. Green’s mental state also started to change, from past LSD drug use, which resulted in him leaving the band. Fleetwood Mac forged on without Green, adding keyboardist Christine (Perfect) McVie, who had contributed to the band’s earlier blues albums, and recorded Kiln House in 1970.

In 1971, while on tour to support Kiln House, the band experienced another loss; this time Spencer, who allegedly wandered off before a scheduled concert in southern California. The band later discovered that Spencer had joined a religious group and decided to end further involvement in Fleetwood Mac. To cope with Spencer’s abrupt exit, Fleetwood Mac added guitarist and singer-songwriter Bob Welch, who performed on the band’s fifth and sixth albums Future Games and Bare Trees.

In 1972, another personnel change disrupted band cohesion when Mick Fleetwood fired Kirwan for his erratic behavior, which stemmed from alcohol use. Fleetwood replaced Kirwan with guitarist Bob Weston and added vocalist Dave Walker. Weston and Walker participated in the band’s seventh and eight releases The Penguin and Mystery to Me, both released in 1973, but their stay was also short-lived. Later in the year, Walker left due to creative differences, and Fleetwood fired Weston for having an affair with his wife Jenny Boyd. A series of bizarre events and lawsuits ensued, involving Fleetwood Mac’s unscrupulous former manager Clifford Davis, who claimed to own the rights to the band’s name. The shaken band continued as a foursome (Fleetwood, Welch, and the McVies), recording its ninth album Heroes Are Hard to Find.

Fleetwood Mac lineup, circa 1973
Fleetwood Mac lineup, circa 1973: Bob Weston, Christine McVie, Bob Welch, John McVie, Mick Fleetwood

Despite the group’s many personnel changes, Bob Welch was a stabilizing force within the band. He helped expand Fleetwood Mac’s audience in the U.S. with popular radio songs “Sentimental Lady” and “Hypnotized,” and shaped the band’s musical direction, when blues man Peter’s Green left the band. By the time Welch left in 1974, Fleetwood Mac had made strides on the Billboard Hot 200 album chart, with Heroes Are Hard to Find reaching number 34, the band’s highest charting album to date. Despite his contributions, Welch was excluded from Fleetwood Mac’s 1998 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Welch’s 1994 lawsuit against the band for unpaid royalties may have contributed to the snub.

But the group’s most significant achievements were still to come. On December 31, 1974, Mick Fleetwood asked guitarist Lindsey Buckingham and singer-songwriter Stevie Nicks to join Fleetwood Mac, a decision that forever changed the band.

Fleetwood Mac Discography: 1968-1974

Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac
Mr. Wonderful

Then Play On

Kiln House

Future Games

Bare Trees

Mystery to Me

Heroes Are Hard to Find