Fleetwood Mac cast of characters
Fleetwood Mac is a crazy cast of characters and I tried to figure them out. Following the individual members is like a tour of 20th century rock. You could play the Kevin Bacon game with Fleetwood Mac and you wouldn’t need to go more than 2-3 degrees to anyone in popular music.
Jon Mayall. Jon Mayall is not, and has never been, a member of Fleetwood Mac. What he is, is the namesake of Jon Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, a seminal 1960s and 1970s English blues band. Mayall employed a number of musicians in his bands who went on to great acclaim, including Eric Clapton, Mick Taylor (of the Rolling Stones), Jack Bruce (of Cream), and others. At one point his band consisted of a guitarist named Peter Green and a rhythm section of Mick Fleetwood on drums and John McVie on bass.
Peter Green. Mayall gave Peter Green some studio recording time and Green brought McVie and Fleetwood with him to record a few songs. One of them was an instrumental named after the drummer and bass player, “Fleetwood Mac.” Soon after, Green and Fleetwood wanted to form their own band and named the band Fleetwood Mac in part to entice McVie to join them, which he eventually did. Green took a bit too much LSD and ended up in a sanitarium. Before he left the band, Peter Green wrote a little ditty called “Black Magic Woman” (you’re probably more familiar with the Santana version).
Mick Fleetwood. Mick Fleetwood is the drummer, original member and by all accounts, the glue that has held the band together. His first wife was Jenny Boyd (whose sister, Pattie, married two famous best friends: George Harrison and Eric Clapton and inspired the songs "Something," "Wonderful Tonight" and "Layla"). Fleetwood cheated on Jenny with Stevie Nicks.
John McVie. John McVie is a bassist, apparently relatively shy. He’s one of the founders of Fleetwood Mac. On early tours with Fleetwood Mac, they had opening act called Chicken Shack that featured a singer and keyboardist named Christine Perfect, whom he married.
Christine McVie. Christine McVie was a guest musician on the second Fleetwood Mac album, and then joined the band officially. She is one of the main songwriters and vocalists for the group. After divorcing John McVie, she had a relationship with Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys, and then married Eddy Quintela, a keyboardist which whom she wrote “Little Lies.” In 2017, she released an album with Lindsey Buckingham, which featured the Fleetwood Mac rhythm section; in other words, everyone but Stevie Nicks, who was on a solo tour.
Random musicians. For a while, after Peter Green left, Fleetwood Mac continued on with various guitarists and vocalists. At some point, the band’s manager even took the band's name and toured a completely different group as Fleetwood Mac (he told them Mick Fleetwood would join them on the tour). The real band’s touring manager hid the equipment from Alt Fleetwood and the tour was shortened and abandoned. Members of "the other" Fleetwood Mac ended up playing with Alan Parsons Project, a Deep Purple offshoot and Robert Plant.
Two of the members of Alt Fleetwood Mac ended up in a band called Stretch and wrote a song about their experience about the tour SNAFU:
Lindsey Buckingham. Lindsey Buckingham is a particular kind of guitar hero. He can shred, yes, but his skills are perhaps best realized in the recording studio with crazy layering of instruments. When Mick Fleetwood heard his playing, Buckingham was invited to join Fleetwood Mac as a singer-songwriter guitarist. Buckingham had one condition: they let his girlfriend, Stevie Nicks, join, too. If you listen to Buckingham talk about Stevie Nicks, and their eventual break-up, he’s a pretty sympathetic character. If you listen to the rest of the band talk about him mucking around in the studio without their input, he seems… less sympathetic. He released an album with Christine McVie that was pretty much a Nicks-less Fleetwood Mac album in 2017. On their most recent tour, Buckingham was fired from the band and replaced by Neil Finn and Mike Campbell (it says something about his contributions that it takes two guys to replace him).
Stevie Nicks. Stevie Nicks was the bonus that Fleetwood Mac got when they recruited American musicians to the previously British band. Her distinctive vocals, songwriting and fashion sense made her an instant standout. She broke up with Buckingham and they both wrote songs about it. She has had the most successful solo career of anyone associated with Fleetwood Mac and is cited by musicians like Courtney Love as an icon and role model. In the Tom Petty documentary “Running Down a Dream” Nicks says the only band she wanted to join was Petty's Heartbreakers.
Jimmy Iovine. Stevie Nicks recorded her first solo album with Jimmy Iovine who arranged for her to record the duet “Stop Dragging My Heart Around” with Petty. Iovine has worked in the studio with John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen, Meatloaf, U2, The Pretenders and Dire Straits. He’s also the founder of Interscope records and recorded hip hop stars like Tupac Shakur, 50 Cent and Eminem. Plus, he created Beats headphones with Dr Dre.
Neil Finn. Neil Finn is the main songwriter and leader of Crowded House. His brother Tim founded Split Enz which Neil co-led for a while before they broke up.
Mike Campbell. Mike Campbell was the lead guitarist of the Heartbreakers and co-wrote many of Tom Petty’s most memorable hits. The Heartbreakers were the backing band for a Bob Dylan world tour, and for Johnny Cash’s late albums. Campbell has also played with everyone from Bad Religion to Tracy Chapman to the Dandy Warhols to Warren Zevon.
I skipped a lot, including the breakups in the 1990s. Rolling Stone has their own Fleetwood Mac member breakdown.
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Jack Cheng directs the Clemente Course in Dorchester, excavates in the Middle East, and writes in Waban, MA.