Most people think they know Fleetwood Mac thanks to the massive commercial success of Rumours and the band's classic mid-'70s lineup. In fact, the history of Fleetwood Mac goes much deeper than Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham. What started in England as a blues band on the heels of John Mayall's Bluesbreakers became a genre-bending success that changed lineups possibly more than any other band in history. Prior to the Buckingham-Nicks era, eight Fleetwood Mac members had come and gone - while the band's namesakes, Mick Fleetwood and John McVie, remained intact.
Fleetwood Mac guitarists, in particular, have transitioned frequently, with a number of notable strummers playing before and after Buckingham. Even Traffic's Dave Mason was briefly a member in a rather dark period for the band in the mid-'90s. Substance dependency, members being fired from Fleetwood Mac, and even cults have caused their legendary friction. The Fleetwood Mac lineup history continues to change, as Buckingham was kicked out in 2018 for reasons that have been heavily disputed by both sides. In his absence, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers guitarist Mike Campbell joined the band, as has critically beloved songwriter and legendary Crowded House frontman Neil Finn.
Though Fleetwood Mac's members are constantly changing, the success of the band is unrelenting, and they continue to thrive to this day.
Fleetwood Mac started as a project led by guitarist Peter Green, who was then known as Eric Clapton's replacement in John Mayall's Bluesbreakers. Green wanted to leave that band and start his own, enticing Bluesbreakers drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie to join him.
"Peter could have been the stereotypical superstar guitar player and control freak," Fleetwood later said of Green and his attitude towards the band in those early days. "But that wasn’t his style. He named the band after the bass player and drummer, for Christ’s sake. He was also always willing to give as much space and creative freedom to other members."
Guitarist Danny Kirwan joined the group in 1968, sharing guitar duties with Green and Spencer. Kirwan spent several years in the band, contributing not only as a guitarist but also as a songwriter. It was Kirwan, in fact, who truly helped start the band on the path away from traditional blues music and towards a more accessible pop sound.
Peter Green Departs Under Poor Circumstances
Peter Green's time in the band he founded was full of incredible music, but also some rather unhealthy experiences. Green's behavior grew more erratic and alarming as the years went on and the band's fame increased, and by 1970, it had reached a breaking point.
While in Germany, Green met a group of people who took him away from his bandmates and offered him more substances than the ones he was already taking. That was the final straw.
"Certainly John McVie would fully blame an event in Germany where Peter took some more [substances] and never really came back from that," Fleetwood later recalled. "John is, to this day, absolutely furious with these people. We called them the German Jet Set. They captured Peter completely, and pulled him away."
Green was later diagnosed with schizophrenia.
Following Green's departure, the band was at a crossroads. By this point, they'd become friends with blues pianist Christine Perfect - songwriter in the band Chicken Shack. Perfect had played on two Fleetwood Mac albums, 1968's Mr. Wonderful and 1969's Then Play On, while still in Chicken Shack. She became so friendly with the band that she'd also started a relationship with John McVie. The two were ultimately married, and the new Christine McVie was asked to officially join the band following Green's ousting.
When McVie entered the band officially, it planted the seeds for a new era of Fleetwood Mac that would ultimately lean heavily on McVie's melodic and romantic blues-pop songs.