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There goes another Fleetwood Mac guitarist…

Blog | By Nigel Summerley | Apr 26, 2018

The news that Fleetwood Mac have lost their guitarist seems akin to reports that the Pope is a Catholic, and bears defecate in the woods.

In the years from 1967 to the present, the Mac have lost more guitarists than Spinal Tap have lost drummers (you may remember that the latter all met an untimely end, occasionally exploding on stage).

I think that Fleetwood Mac have had nine lead guitar players – at least.

Peter Green, as oldie blues fans will know, founded the band after moving on from successfully filling Eric Clapton’s shoes in John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. Green was a genius of a player but, sadly, went from wanting to give away all the band’s earnings (not a popular idea with Mick Fleetwood and John McVie) to a descent into mental instability. He quit in 1970.

Jeremy Spencer, also in the original line-up, went out for a pre-gig walk in Los Angeles in 1971 and never came back, having joined the religious organisation known as the Children of God. Both Spencer and Green later re-emerged to have long and low-key solo careers, still strongly wedded to the blues.

Green’s wunderkind protege, Danny Kirwan, brought in to create a three-lead-guitar line-up, was fired by the band in 1972. He, too, suffered mental health problems and ended up homeless through the 1980s and 1990s. He never returned to playing music.

Bob Welch had had problems playing alongside Kirwan, and he took over sole lead guitar duties for a while, only to quit in 1974. Bob Weston played guitar alongside Welch for a short time, but he was sacked in 1973 – something to do with an alleged affair with another band member’s partner (another recurrent theme in the history of the band).

Lindsey Buckingham joined Fleetwood Mac in 1975 – and once more in 1992 – and was part of what younger folk see as the ‘classic’ Fleetwood Mac line-up.

Billy Burnette and Rick Vito, a pair of guitar-playing pals, were drafted in to replace Buckingham, until the band fell into abeyance for a while. And even the legendary Dave Mason (of Traffic fame) joined – and left – the band in the mid-1990s.

Now on the eve of their latest series of gigs, the Mac have dispensed with the services of Lindsey Buckingham and brought in Mike Campbell (ex-Tom Petty) and Neil Finn (ex-Crowded House) – they were never a band to have one lead guitarist when they could have two or three. It will be interesting to see if both Campbell and Finn are there at the end of the tour.

I was fortunate enough to see Fleetwood Mac in a small club in the Sixties with Peter Green and Jeremy Spencer and Danny Kirwan all front of stage, and all at the height of their powers. That, I would say, was THE classic line-up.