Peter Green is the forgotten guitar legend.
“He has the sweetest tone I ever heard,” B.B. King once said of him. “He was the only one who gave me the cold sweats.”
Long before Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks turned Fleetwood Mac into a pop sensation, Green established the British band as one of rock’s premier blues-based acts.
Shame on us for overlooking him today.
Having established himself with local blues bands, Green’s big break came in 1966, when he replaced Eric Clapton in John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. The move put Green on the musical map, and introduced him to two bandmates who would play a role in his musical career — bassist John McVie and drummer Mick Fleetwood.
Green’s tenure with the Bluesbreakers lasted only until late 1967, when he decided to branch out and form his own blues-based band. Enlisting McVie and Fleetwood, he sought to incorporate all three of their names into the title of the new group.
He soon dropped his own name and settled on Fleetwood Mac.
Mac made an immediate splash. The band scored with a variety of hits, including “Oh Well” and “Black Magic Woman,” a Green song later turned into a rock classic by Carlos Santana.
The success was short-lived, however, with Green leaving the band in 1970. He returned sporadically over the years, filling in for Jeremy Spencer when he left Mac, and appearing on future releases, including the Penguin and Tusk albums.
But Green’s career was marred by mental illness. Diagnosed with schizophrenia, he lapsed into periods of obscurity and spent time in psychiatric institutions as he struggled to cope with the illness.
However, he continued to work as a solo artist, and took time to collaborate with former Mac bandmate Fleetwood on the drummer’s own solo work. More than a decade ago, Green resurfaced with Peter Green’s Splinter Group, which released several albums with moderate success. In more recent years he has played with the British Blues All Stars and, last year, with Peter Green and Friends.
He has continued to struggle with schizophrenia, but remains relatively active in music.
And his resume, both as a guitar player and songwriter, remains untarnished.
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(NOTE: This is part of my ongoing series of reports on guitar players who fly under the mainstream radar. Keep checking The Listening Room for future installments of guitar players you should know – JF)
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