Fleetwood Mac meant little in the U.S. Their singles did not burn up the chart, and in the incarnation that featured Peter Green, there was almost no underground FM radio other than in the metropolis, if that. In other words, getting into Fleetwood Mac was a secret process, via word of mouth, there was no big ad campaign, no media presence at all, but as a result of touring some people knew the band…but very few.
Whilst the Brits were embracing the blues, in America we were focused on folk. The blues legends walking in our midst didn’t impress us, weren’t exotic, the pop chart was filled with studio concoctions, like in that movie “The Idolmaker.” It’s not radically different today if you think about it. Fabian was a big star, his name was everywhere, ever hear anybody talk about him recently, even heard his music on the radio? Of course not, it was disposable.
But in the U.K., the blues records imported by sailors and embraced by the populous inspired teenagers to pick up the guitar. They were wailing while across the pond people were sleeping. The cultural consciousness in America was ruled by the Yankees, Mickey Mantle was a bigger star than any musician.
And then came the Beatles.
When the Beatles arrived in the U.S. they were fully-formed. It would be like getting version 3.0 of the software instead of the beta. They’d paid their dues on the road, they’d had radio success in the U.K. and when America saw them on Ed Sullivan…it wiped what had come before right off the map, instantly. You see there was a ready stable of acts to follow the Beatles in their invasion of the U.S. If it wasn’t British, it wasn’t cool. And Americans didn’t reign again until the San Francisco sound, which started to make a dent in ’67, three years later.
In the interim, Dylan went electric. Folk music disappeared, other than at singalongs at summer camps and houses of worship. And if you wanted to know which way the wind blew, you turned on the radio.
And at this point, most people were still buying singles. The album truly didn’t become desirable until “Sgt. Pepper,” and that was in ’67. And sure, the Yardbirds had hit with “For Your Love” and to a lesser degree “Heart Full of Soul,” but gunslingers, guitar gods, were not yet a thing. George Harrison was good enough for us. Until Jimi Hendrix. An American who had to fly across the pond to get recognized.
But the music Hendrix was making…they never played it on AM radio. It was an underground thing. But then along came Cream, and in the summer of ’68, “Sunshine of Your Love” crossed over to AM radio and the hoi polloi, your regular American, was exposed to the album rock sound, something not made for AM radio, records that were embraced by AM for fear their audience would defect. Which eventually it did, but in most burgs it took until the seventies before FM, which was no longer underground and free-form, was a thing.
Now when an act hits, listeners go back to the catalog. Back before you were expected to have a hit the first time out, when you were trying to create a body of work, when it was about the music…and the money and the chicks…in that order. Brand? Endorsements? Privates? Sponsors? They weren’t even a thing. If for no other reason than being a musician paid well enough, assuming your manager didn’t rip you off, or you didn’t blow all the money. There were no billionaires. If you were a star, you had plenty. And you didn’t want to compromise the music, no way.
So, suddenly, starting in ’67, Clapton became God. To a small cadre of listeners, members of the mainstream public didn’t come along until Cream’s final album “Goodbye.” As for Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck…well, Beck was that guy in “Blow-Up,” but that’s all most people knew of him, if they knew him at all.
But they knew Clapton so they needed more, and they went back to the source, John Mayall’s “Blues Breakers” album, with a young Eric on the cover. Older boomers were cottoning to the blues sound, they were moving away from AM, breaking their own trail, you didn’t want to be a member of the group in the sixties, being unique was a badge of honor.
So, just like with the British Invasion following the Beatles, there was one that followed Hendrix and Clapton. Eventually, in ’69, Led Zeppelin appeared, but that band didn’t really hit until the fall of ’70, with “Whole Lotta Love,” they went from unknown to everywhere, but by this time, Peter Green had already left Fleetwood Mac.
Now a few fans of the “Blues Breakers” album stayed with Mayall and purchased the next LP, “A Hard Road,” with Peter Green, but the star, the attraction to the previous LP, was Eric Clapton, and they followed E.C. and his work and some of the new bands who were less steeped in the blues, who injected more rock, which were coming to America in droves.
And in the fall of ’69, assuming you were looking, assuming you went to a record shop as opposed to a discount store stocked by a rack jobber, you saw the Fleetwood Mac LP “Then Play On” in the bins, with its attractive cover, but once again, you had to buy it to hear it, and not hearing it on the radio, most people did not.
Now it was different in the U.K. Peter Green was a known quantity. As were Mick Fleetwood and John McVie. And the country was smaller and radio was more open and the band got airplay over there, but absolutely none in the U.S. Except for “Oh Well,” which somehow made it to #55 on the “Billboard” chart, but this was pre-Soundscan, when the chart was manipulated, and in reality, anything below 40, really more like 20, wasn’t played anyway. Yes, underground FM stations were playing it, but once again, there weren’t that many of them and they had no chart…that would be offensive to the ethos of the format.
So I knew “Oh Well.” From the radio. But I was lucky enough to be in the New York radio market.
But there were Fleetwood Mac fans. Primarily from the road work the band did. You hoped radio and the road went hand in hand, but prior to “Then Play On” Fleetwood Mac was on Blue Horizon, with little budget or impact, whereas “Then Play On” was on Reprise.
But then, Fleetwood Mac became known for its bizarre story as opposed to its music. Yes, by this time there was a rock press. And word was spread that Peter Green had left Fleetwood Mac because he was mentally ill, back when this had a huge stigma, when no one admitted it. Better to O.D. than to quit because you were hobbled by the problems in your brain.
The remaining members regrouped and recorded “Kiln House,” and delivered a radio track, “Station Man,” broadening its audience. But then Jeremy Spencer left the band mid-tour to join the Children of God, back when cults were new…you couldn’t help wonder what inspired him, especially in an era were musicians were gods.
Meanwhile, Christine McVie joined the band…she was a known quantity in the U.K., but completely unknown in the U.S. Paul McCartney let his wife Linda sing and play, but that was considered a joke, but Christine came with a CV and her presence added an exotic element, as well as a new dimension to the sound.
And now, being part of the Warner family, there was album after album until… The band’s manager, Clifford Davis, put a bogus version of the act on the road to fulfill dates and the story blew up, bigger than the music ever had. Could you get your money back if you bought a ticket? Who owned the name? How could he do this? The story was in the rock press for months.
And then the band comes back, astoundingly, because this looked like the end, yet now everybody knew their name and “Heroes are Hard to Find” was their biggest LP ever in the U.S. and then guitarist Bob Welch promptly quit.
This is where the rest of the public comes in, at this down and out moment Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham are asked to join the band, and the rest is history.
A long history. With multiple guitarists and sounds. And Peter Green was at the beginning, his story was mostly unknown.
But the fan base the band had remembered him, so when Stevie and Lindsey came on board…they had to play his songs. Lindsey could play “Oh Well” – both “Pt. 1” and “Pt. 2,” they went together, the first raucous, the second slow and meaningful, kinda like “Layla” if you think about it, and “Green Manalishi” was often part of the set too.
But Lindsey didn’t write them.
Today there are ten year olds who can shred like Jimmy Page.
But they can’t write. And few can sing. As a matter of fact, even Jimmy Page can’t sing. But Peter Green could do all three! And he was there at the beginning, he was inventing the sound, plowing the way.
Progenitors. They don’t often get the acclaim they deserve. Or they get a victory lap or an award way down the line. But without them, history would be different.
Now by time the Stevie/Lindsey Fleetwood Mac became superstars, people hungered for more information, and the saga of Peter Green became more well-known. And eventually Green even re-emerged, a shadow of his former self, but he could still play.
And now he’s dead.
The truth is Fleetwood Mac could never replace Peter Green. It was impossible. You see at this level, everybody’s got a different style, a different tone, as for writing…
“Oh Well” wasn’t Peter Green’s only composition that lives on.
There’s the aforementioned “Green Manalishi.”
And “Albatross,” a track that most boomers have heard, but being an instrumental many are unaware it’s written and played by Peter Green, never mind Fleetwood Mac.
And, of course, “Black Magic Woman.” The biggest hit Santana ever had, other than those on the ersatz comeback album of 1999, but I ask you, when was the last time you heard “Smooth,” never mind “Maria Maria.” You see those two tracks are commerce, “Black Magic Woman” is art, like it says in the title, MAGIC!
Now Carlos and his band did an incredible version of “Black Magic Woman,” but the blueprint was right there in the original, which is more stripped-down, and has more soul.
And to this day, most people don’t know “Black Magic Woman” was written by Peter Green, never mind that it’s a Fleetwood Mac original.
So, what have we learned?
Not much about Peter Green the man, he’s an enigma. Oh, when he was smoothed out in his later years, he gave some interviews, but that does not mean they contained the truth, never mind the whole story. A story wherein a teenager practices and practices for his opportunity, truly becomes world class, and not only reaches the pinnacle, playing with John Mayall, but then breaks away and leaves an indelible mark on rock history.
If he’d died in a plane crash, if as a result even AM radio played “Oh Well” and “Albatross,” he’d have the name value of Ritchie Valens or the Big Bopper, who left much less of a footprint, or the rest of those who succumbed to tragedy in rock history.
But Peter Green lived on. He was hiding in plain sight, and now he’s gone.
Kind of like the delta blues legends who inspired him and his cohorts to begin with.
It’s been a long time. Over fifty years. Longer than it took for Robert Johnson to infect all these British legends. And in this case, all the recordings still exist, and they’re not disposable crap, like the stuff on “Supernatural,” they’re pure, they’re instruction manuals, they’re easily accessible to everyone online.
So, the book closes on Peter Green. But in truth, the book closed on the sound he helped create long ago. It’s not the sound the current iteration of Fleetwood Mac purveys, it’s not what youngsters are exploring today, it’s dormant. Oh, you can hear it on oldies stations, classic rock, but I haven’t heard of any youngsters doing anything other than imitating guitar gods, if that, never mind being inspired to write something new, that pushes the envelope.
And speaking of writing… Got to give Jimmy Page credit, even if some of his great compositions were “inspired,” or totally ripped-off from others. But as I said above, Page can’t sing.
And neither can Jeff Beck, the best gunslinger of them all, he can’t really even write.
And then there’s Eric Clapton. Who has been able to do all three. But Duane Allman wrote and played the legendary riff on “Layla.” And…oh, I don’t need to bring Clapton down a notch, I’ll just say that Peter Green was in his league. And years from now, when all these legends are gone, and we realize what’s been lost, we’ll study this era and only the music will remain, and Peter Green will ascend to his rightful place in the pantheon.
This is what happens when you practice, follow your muse, get inspired, lay it all down. Your streak might be very brief, but your mark will be left for ages to come.
Like Peter Green’s.
Comments from Bob’s readers. Please note, these comments are not edited for grammar or content.
Peter Green. As a guitar player, he is just about my biggest influence. I think I might have every record, bootleg, live recording, out take, etc that can be found. I started listening to Fleetwood Mac when I first started playing guitar in the 5th grade, about the time I discovered BB King. I read some articles and found out Peter was Jewish(real name Peter Greenbaum), kind of an outsider, like me, made me think maybe I could do it, too.
l think Peter was the absolute best of the British blues guys. I may sound like I’m going overboard, but his singing and guitar playing have always been and will always be a part of my life. I spend a lot of time in the studio, and I’m always trying to channel his vibe. If I’m playing a solo and get stuck, or start to overplay, I think, what would Peter Green play. He was a master of economy. Seriously…….
We all know Albatross, Oh Well and Black Magic Woman, but check out Stop Messin’ Round and Rollin Man from the Mr Wonderful album, Or better yet, his first solo and opening vocal verse from Sugar Mama. And his vocal on Rattlesnake Shake is as badass as it gets. But you have to be patient, because he’s not featured on every song on the Fleetwood Mac records. He let the other guys, Jeremy Spencer and Danny Kirwan play and sing. No disrespect, but that stuff is kind of average. You have to go deep and search out the cuts featuring Peter. Same with the live recordings. The Boston Tea Party is a good place to start. Again, not every cut is good, but the ones featuring Peter are stunning. His playing is just the deepest well. Some musicians are really good at imitating the real thing. Peter was the real thing.
He may have passed on, but his music lives.
My first ever album was Mr Wonderful . A great gatefold sleeve of a very tall Mick Fleetwood . But you didn’t mention a superb song called “ Man of the World “ I think the follow up up Albatross .. classic
Peter Green was massively important in the whole Blues movement in the UK.
As you know the band were originally called Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac. Their first album “Fleetwood Mac’ released in 1968 was an immediate UK hit reaching No 4 in the UK album chart. Tracks like their version of Elmore James ‘Shake Your Moneymaker’ and Robert Johnson’s ‘Hellhound on my Trail’ were foundation stones of the British blues/rock movement and awoke a whole generation to the giants of American blues.
Then came the hit singles ‘Black Magic Woman’ and ‘Need your Love so Bad’ followed by the totally unexpected ‘Albatross’ which sounded like something from another planet. ‘Albatross’ seemed to live at No 1 in the UK singles chart and was followed by ‘Man of The World’ and ‘Oh Well’ both of which reached No 2.
The great thing about the UK music scene over the past 60 years has been the BBC. BBC radio and TV would play all this stuff nationwide. The BBC are one of the main reasons that the UK bats so much above its weight and will continue to do so, if the BBC continues to exist.
As you say, Peter Green was a hugely inspirational and talented guitar player singer and writer. In the late sixties he was right up there with Clapton and Hendrix. His passing is a very sad day for music. I just hope people will now go back and listen to his work and appreciate just how important he was.
Incredibly for me I met Peter Green several times around about the time he had been persuaded by Peter Vernon-Kell of PVK Records to return to recording and playing. Peter was a sweet man. Yes he had been damaged by his experiences in life, but he remained a good guy with a gentle side. He spoke eloquently about his time with John Mayall (saying he was 19 when he started playing with Mayall), forming Fleetwood Mac, jamming with The Allman Brothers and Santana on stage, meeting his number one hero BB King and so many of his blues heroes in Chicago. He was proud and satisfied with the singles he had written for Fleetwood Mac, on which he said he played everything except the drums (this might not be true?) mentioning that the second part of Oh Well in his head was a serious piece of classical music. He absolutely knew how good he was compared to all the other white blues singers and guitar players of his era but he would not accept that what he did was anything except copying BB King. Clapton was “alright” Duane Allman was “ a good slide player” but he knew he was at the very least their equal. At the time I recommended drummer Dave Mattacks as someone he could work with and Dave was hired. After the experience Dave, one of the very best drummers in the UK if not the world, told me that even in the state that he sadly was his ability to play slow blues was the best he had ever witnessed. He had perfect timing.
Later on, in the mid 90s, my band toured with Fleetwood Mac. I talked with Mick and John about Peter a lot. Peters’ illness was still something that affected them both very deeply. They loved the guy to bits and their greatest wish still was that Peter somehow recovered and regained at least some of what he had -which in their opinion was genius in the true sense of the word. John was still so very very angry with the cult Peter had met outside Munich. Mick especially did so much for Peter over the years but it was all to no avail. The illness had no cure and Peter was so easily taken in by people who used him for their own purposes.
If you listen to that string of Fleetwood Mac singles (Albatross, Oh Well, Green Manelishi, Man Of The World) they were unique. They came out of nowhere. Nobody had ever done anything like it before. He was unique. A genius. And a gentle soul.
Bluesbreakers with Clapton was the holy grail and I suspect that many other guitarists who were lucky enough, and old enough, to be musically active during the 60s and thereafter would agree.
I feel compelled to interject that while the original Fleetwood Mac might never have had “hit singles”, still, every guitar player on the planet and many other rock fans wore the grooves off the vinyl playing “The Rattlesnake Shake”. Rattlesnake Shake was as iconic a rock recording as there ever was.
I am sure I sound like an old man shaking his fist on the front lawn and while I am not literally on the front lawn at this moment, in every other respect, that’s who and what I am, ….. but for my money, none of the tapioca put forth by the second coming of Fleetwood Mac embodied the good old organic gut level bluesy greasy rock and roll of the Peter Green era.
My opinion is when Duke Ellington said “it don’t mean a thing if it aint got that swing”, it didn’t go far enough and applies double when it comes to the blues. The original band brought the blues. I think connoisseurs would be hard pressed to make that claim that for the “Buckingham Nicks” era reincarnation which to my ears, was more like one long “jingle date” regardless of the magnificent revenue it generated.
Larry Brown (guitarist)
It’s too bad that (comparatively) few Americans know about Peter Green and his music. I rate him highly.
Listen (again) to Need Your Love So Bad to experience how good a singer he was. Note that on Man of the World he sings, “I just wish I’d never been born.” That’s what I call the blues.
FYI there’s a UK DVD documentary, Man of the World (2007), parts of which are on YouTube. I bought it at Tower Records in London, because it said that the region was “0.” It turns out it was not watchable on NTSC players.
Hey Bob, Thanks for taking the time to set the record straight. It means a lot to some of us. I will never forget meeting him one night in New York. At some gig, can’t remember the details, but not his or mine. We just shook hands and I told him it was an honor to meet him and that was that. I know it is cliche to say, but he was a shadow of his former self. Not that I had known him before, but you could just tell. But you could also tell that the genius was buried down in there somewhere. You could feel it somehow. Anyway, his grit, his economy, his purity, and his raw emotion shone through on all those tracks you mentioned. I wish I could have seen him play live in his heyday. May he Rest In Peace and may the kids of today take a few minutes to find him on their fancy phones and listen.
Best, George Kilby Jr
A true legend has passed.
Not just for guitarists but songwriters and singers, Peter Green had all those gifts.
A little story I can share is the honour I had of being at a studio session with him.
It was 2003 and Peter was guesting on a cover of his Albatross by a chill artist called Chris Coco.
For the dual lead guitar part, he wasn’t happy with the first take, nor the second.
The third take he played from start to finish- the magic was still there.
Same magic with the slide part( he told us he played all the parts on the original recording)
I watched the fingers play that moved a million hearts.
And he used my slide .
Which will now be passed down as a family heirloom.
We all knew we had greatness in the room that day.
Just a point of aging baby reference points…my introduction to Oh Well and FM was the Warner Brothers two-fer, the Big Ball. Those two dollar two-fers from Warner Brothers. Introduced me to everyone from Ry Cooder to Wildman Fischer! I only wish I kept Schlagers!
Fantastic piece on Peter Green. Thank you.
Imagine starting Fleetwood Mac AND influencing The Beatles (as you know, Sun King was inspired by Green’s Albatross) and still being mostly unknown.
Ain’t life a bitch?!
I saw Fleetwood Mac and Van Morrison at the Fillmore East around in February 1971.
Van opened and I was excited to see him but he spent nearly the entire set reading ( yes, reading) reviews of his 5 star albums In Rolling Stone magazine. He was cursing them out while reading and I thought it was pretty funny but I would have preferred that he sang!
Fleetwood Mac then came out and announced that their guitar player for the evening was former founder and leader Peter Green. Peter left a year before, replaced by Jeremy Spencer who had just gone AWOL after being “kidnapped” on tour by the Children of God cult on the west coast. Peter came to the rescue to help the band finish out their tour dates.
I was so glad to see his one of his last shows with the band. His playing was steller and I knew that I was watching greatness.
I used to tell friends of mine over the years who told me I was crazy and he didn’t play that show but in the recently published book Jennifer Juniper, Jenny Boyd, ex wife of Mick Fleetwood, tells the story of Peters brief return to help the band after Spencers departure.
Jay Jay French
Excellent article Bob, thanks for giving one of the absolute greatest a fitting tribute. The ‘59 Les Paul with the pick ups out of phase gave him a signature sound- in fact the greatest sound of any guitar. Gary Moore bought it- used on Parisienne Walkways and virtually everything else he did solo and with Thin Lizzy- and is now owned and (pleased to say) gigged by Kirk Hammett.
When the baton is that good it needs passing on.
Duane Allman was a huge fan of Peter Green. I saw where he passed at age 73. There was a huge jam at Filllmore East in 1970 with members of the Dead, Fleetwood Mac and Allman Brothers Band with even a photo from the stage to prove it really happened. Allmans also played with Green and Mac in New Orleans at The Warehouse. Amazing days!
Thanks for writing about Peter Green. I always felt that I was in on a secret: Peter Green was amazing – in all the ways you described. As a matter of fact not only in the same league as, but dare I say somewhat better (at the time) than E.C?
About 15 years ago when I was roughly 50, I had a chance to see him with Splinter Group playing at the Fillmore in SF. I was probably the youngest guy there! So, clearly the secret had long been out but only if you were an aging Boomer. What a treat it was that night.
Thanks, and spot on. BUT I wish you’d mentioned Peter Green’s solo album, 1970’s The End of the Game, which is one of the greatest instrumental rock albums of all time. – Mark Towns
Loved the original Fleetwood Mac. Bought all the albums when they came out and even Kiln House, but gave up after that Still listen to Then Play On, a really great album Glad Reprise kept the band on until the Buckjngham-Nicks incaranation came along and sold all those millions , but still prefer the Peter Green version of the band Did sound for them around 71 at the Capitol Theater in Portchester. Maybe you were there….
Another one you obviously get – he was a notch above. Their show at The Whisky in the early 70’s was a revelation. No disrespect to what followed, but that was an awesome, soulful band. Nearing an end of an era where you could travel from the Whisky to The Troubador to The Ash Grove ( and many others) and be inspired and transported by the musianship and the passion …
A troubled journey … a brilliant artist
I saw early Fleetwood Mac at the Boston Tea Party/Ark complex by Fenway Park in Boston. The first time Peter Green was with them, the second time he had departed but Jeremy Spence was still playing with the band.
A few years later I went to see Fleetwood Mac in Newport, RI at Cliff Manor restaurant’s small ballroom. When I arrived, I was greeted by the bogus version of the band. I returned to the promoter’s office the next day to get my $20 ticket price refunded.
Men of the World 2002
Black Magic Woman (Live)
at the End of the song you hear Peter say “First Time!” To this day, this version is on my number one play list.
Rest In Peace Peter Green
I jumped on that first Fleetwood Mac album. In the USA , it had the garbage pail cover. I actually saw them @the Fillmore East & Central Park. Might’ve been a free WNEW Fm radio show @ the Park. Not sure due to psychedelics . Haha.
Peter was excellent at the Fillmore East Here’s a link to an excellent version of “Rattlesnake Shake “ from Playboy After Dark ( Hugh Hefner tv) Enjoy https://youtu.be/0FJ17x0IoKs
A friend sent a text message this afternoon, “You probably already know” with a link to a report of Peter Green’s death. I opened it and gasped. Gasped. I don’t think I can ever recall doing that before.
Fresh out of the Service, in Feb. 1970 my older brother bought me two albums, Abbey Road and Best of Cream. I already knew the songs on Abbey Road, but knew nothing other than Sunshine and White Room from Cream. And quickly became enamored with the sound of the (mostly) British Blues, although by Disraeli Gears they were already moving far afield. I had to have more and shortly after that I bought Savoy Brown’s Raw Sienna and Super Session. Although not British, Mike Bloomfield and Albert’s Shuffle was, and still is, heaven on earth.
And my Blues journey continued with albums like Fleetwood Mac in Chicago added to my meager but growing collection. That did it! Of course there was the excellence of that kid Danny Kirwan, but it was the Peter Green show for me and I still had to have more. The accompanying Otis Spann’s Biggest Thing Since Colossus, Memphis Slim’s Blue Memphis, Duster Bennett’s first. And of course the limited Fleetwood Mac catalog. Sadly, by the time I hopped aboard and saw F.M. it was the Kiln House band and Peter Green had already departed.
I go in and out of phases where I can’t get enough of the fabulous Jeff Beck, early Kim Simmonds or Duane Allman and his progeny of gifted guitarists, Clapton of course, Carlos from the get-go, and on and on. But I always always came back, came home to Peter Green. His haunting out of phase guitar sound along with his guitar phrasing and that voice. He was living proof that the silence between the notes, as well as the sustain, were as important as the notes themselves. One need look no further than “Man of the World” and “A Fool No More” to understand.
I can’t say that I’ll miss Peter Green because of the body of studio work left behind and the recorded live shows, although not enough of either. But I’ll miss knowing that Peter Green is still alive. He was the embodiment of what the Blues are and a towering figure.
That’s beautiful Bob. The teenage aficionados of Brit blues loved Peter Green. I saw “God is Green” painted on the wall of an east end street.Post Clapton’s deification.
I also opened for the fake Fleetwood Mac in my first band Silverhead. None of the original members were in the band. We didn’t find out till the third gig of the tour when people started to throw bottles at us because they knew that this was a bullshit event.
Peter Green was an ethereal bluesman casting spells for us kids to play with.
Michael Des Barres.
Peter Green, in his prime, was the VERY best of the very best. And even in his later projects, when truly he was a mere shadow of his former self, his sensitivity, honesty and soul resonated in every note he played and every word he sang. R.I.P. Peter Greenbaum. And thank you kindly!
I was deeply saddened today to learn of the passing of Peter Green, one of the greatest, if not the greatest Blues guitarists in history. I first became aware of Peter when I became a partner in Mike Vernon’s Blue Horizon label. Peter Green had co-founded Fleetwood Mac with Mick Fleetwood, and even at this early stage one could see Peter’s unique and expansive skills as a guitarist.
The recordings by Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac were produced by Mike Vernon for Blue Horizon. Vernon was a great talent himself, who also produced early recordings by John Mayall (again featuring Peter Green), Eric Clapton and David Bowie’s first album, all for British Decca.
I first saw Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac perform at Klook’s Kleek in West Hampstead, a club around the corner from the Decca Studios. As I said in my autobiography, Peter Green had more soul, magic, and creativity than any of the other English bluesmen.
As a partner in charge of North American releases for Blue Horizon, and later as the owner of the label, I was proud to have been involved in the release of both of the early Fleetwood Mac albums – ‘Fleetwood Mac’ and ‘Mr Wonderful’ – recorded with Peter Green, and of course the compilation of singles ‘The Pious Bird of Good Omens’ which included the all-time classic ‘Albatross,’ which is still a favorite to this day.
I was so proud to have Peter Green sit at my table, when Fleetwood Mac were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. We reminisced about the early days of the band. It was a most memorable evening.
I’m so sorry to learn of Peter Green’s passing, to my ears, the greatest blues guitarist ever!!
This is my Peter Green story.
I met Peter in 1969 at the old Boston T Party club on Berkley Street in Boston. My brother Stanley and I went to almost every show at that club. We saw Led Zeppelin, BB King, Buddy Guy, Jeff Beck with Rod Stewart, Jethro Tull and almost every other Blues man and band that was touring back them. I was a 19 year old fledging guitarist and the inspiration that poured out of that club on any given night of the week was unbelievable and I feel so fortunate that we got to see so many of the greats playing live in a small 300 seat club but seeing Fleetwood Mac in 1969 on their first tour changed my life.
I had heard almost all the great guitar players of that era and most of the white guys were not as impressive to me as the originals cats like BB King, Albert King, Freddy King etc. But then came Peter Green. It was the first time I ever heard a Sunburst Les Paul and in fact I went out the very next day and bought one just like his for $500. Today they are worth $250K, I wish I hadn’t sold mine on one broke Christmas in 1981. but that’s a different story. Fleetwood Mac floored me. Their groove, their authenticity and the contrast between Jeremy Spencer’s Elmore James to Peter’s more deep meaningful songs. Well except for a few like “Rattlesnake Shake” which we all know is about wanking off. Peter did have a great sense of humor.
When Fleetwood Mac finished their set, my brother and I were walking through the club right by Peter who was on his way to his dressing room. My brother, boldly said, “hey Peter my brother has a Les Paul too”. (I actually had a 52 Gold top at that time). Peter turned to us and said, “hey why don’t you guys come to our hotel we’re having a party”. So, we followed Peter and ended up with a few other people in his room. We talked music and guitars and through that we had a connection.
Fleetwood Mac played in Boston a bunch of times and every time they came, I would hang out with Peter. One time he and I went to see BB King play and he ended up sitting in. After the show we were back stage and BB turned to me and said, “no one plays me as authentically as Peter”. I never forgot that. Another time I was standing in the audience watching Fleetwood Mac and standing next to me was Carlos Santana. Carlos was a huge fan of Peters and that might have been the moment he heard Black Magic Woman for the first time. I like to think so anyway.
After Peter quit Fleetwood Mac, I called him in London and asked him if he wanted to come over for a visit and to play music with my band, The Act. We were living in a house in the middle of the woods in South Berwick Maine. I figured it was a long shot but he said sure. I couldn’t believe he said yes. A few weeks later I picked up Peter, his suitcase, his Sunburst Les Paul and his Fender six string Bass at Boston’s Logan Airport and drove him up to Maine. My memory is vague at how long he stayed with us but it might have been a month. I do remember a few days after he came that we found out that Jimi Hendrix died, so that would put him there on September 18, 1970. I remember him looking stunned and very saddened. He told me that a few days before he was in London hanging out with Jimi.
Every day we would get up and play very long one chord jams with Peter leading the way. I think I played three notes over and over and just listened to him. I can see him now twisting his mustache as he was contemplating life. I also remember one morning he was sitting on the house steps with his Les Paul jamming with the birds. Not the Byrd’s, the real birds in the trees. We did one or two gigs with him, one being at the newer Boston T Party on Lansdown st. . I actually have two tapes of Peter playing with us, one from the house in Maine and one from that Gig at the T Party. For some reason I’ve never played them for anyone. Peter had a female friend who was going to Goddard College in Vermont and he eventually left Maine and headed up there. Where he went from there I never found out..
Peter’s guitar playing did not rely on tricks or fancy licks or runs. Every note he played was connected to his heart. He economical, soulful, authentic and he played with dynamics and pure fire. He would then turn on his super sweet and sensitive side as in his song Albatross. He was a very thoughtful, deep, sweet, funny and open person and his playing was exactly who he was as a person and that is a rare thing find in a musician. I am deeply saddened at his passing. I hope he went peacefully for he was a peaceful soul. I will miss him but am thankful that I got to know him just a little. Oh Well!
Thank you for your post regarding Peter Green.
I am the agent that brought him back to the US in 1998 after a 28 year gap as well as all the subsequent US tours after that of which there were two or three in the early 2000’s before he went underground again. It seems to be a forgotten chapter of his story and I think it needs to be brought up. Not because I was involved, but because it was Peter Fucking Green.
It was and is something that I am very proud to have been a part of. To be able to bring him back over and give people the opportunity (myself included) to see him perform as well as many people who thought that they would never see him perform again. I’ll never forget watching him at the 1998 Long Beach Blues Festival (and what a GREAT festival that was for many years!- Gary Chiachi was a great programmer!) and being in the crowd watching people cry overwhelmed with emotion just seeing him. It was very powerful.
We also put together a jam that day with John Mayall and his band that day and threw in Mick Taylor and Kim Simmonds. Keith Emerson showed up with some of his biker buddies and sat in on B-3. David Hildago and Cesar Rojas from Los Lobos (one of the great american bands) standing in line backstage with their old Fleetwood Mac vinyl for Peter to sign. He really meant something to many people and if I didn’t know it before that day, I certainly knew it from that point on.
I’ve read Mick Fleetwood saying recently that when he visited him a couple of years ago that he was not the same Peter he knew back in the day. No doubt that is true. The Peter Green I interacted with was very childlike in many ways. Absolutely no ego whatsoever. I remember one time in Boston that he thought it was funny that people wanted his autograph. at that point in time (and I believe for many years prior) he was what we would call a ward of the state (they have another name for it in the UK) and that his management had to clear everything thru the government over there. I always got the impression that they cared for his well being. His road manager Arthur Anderson certainly did and from my vantage point really looked out for him. It’s not like he had to be minded every minute by any means but there seemed to be limitations of what he could do or handle. Musically he was inconsistent but the band did a good job of supporting him and there were moments of brilliance every night. Not to mention the songs!!! I still get chills thinking about his solo on Albatross at that Long Beach gig. There was something special every time I saw him perform.
I would venture to say that if you polled the the elder statesmen of US Blues Rock guitarists now you would find him to be the number one influence before Muddy, Howlin’ Wolf, BB Albert & Freddie King, etc.
I’ll close with one of my favorite performances of him. It’s Fleetwood Mac live @ The Boston Tea Party in 1970. The song ironically is not one of his compositions (it’s a Duster Bennett song… another British blues artist that was a contemporary who tragically died in a car accident in the mid 70’s) The tune is “Jumping At Shadows” the solo kicks in at 2:37……
As far as I’m concerned every blues rock guitarist went up a notch on the totem pole over the weekend cause the guy at the top just exited the building.
Long live his music……..
And the lyrics here…….you would assume that he had wrote them…..
What can you say? There isn’t much to tell I’m going down hill and i blame myself I’ve been Jumping at Shadows Thinking about my life
Everybody points their hand at me
I know I’m just a picture
Of what I should have been I’ve been
Jumping at Shadows Just thinking
About my life
God have mercy I think I’m going insane
The Devil’s been gettin’ at me
He’s got me down again Got me
Jumping at Shadows Just thinking
About my life
The Kurland Agency
Hi bob. Geldof here. Re P. Green – completely agree. WHAT a player. What a voice, what a writer and sadly what a story…hope you and missus stay well and safe. Dublin again some day? Bob g