Fleetwood Mac made it big as a pop band in the 1970s – after they were joined by the American duo Buckingham and Nicks – but they started out as an English blues rock band. Their early success came when fronted by founding member Peter Green, who died peacefully in his sleep – aged 73 – on July 25th.
Stevie Nicks wrote that her biggest regret was never getting the chance to share the stage with Green. “I always hoped in my heart of hearts that that would happen,” she wrote. “When I first listened to all the Fleetwood Mac records, I was very taken with his guitar playing. It was one of the reasons I was excited to join the band. His legacy will live on forever in the history books of Rock n Roll.”
“He had it all- great guitar player, great songwriter, great singer”, wrote Gov’t Mule guitarist Warren Haynes (Allman Brothers Band, The Dead), adding that “as he expanded his horizons with each project he was somehow able to maintain that Blues foundation while breaking and building upon new ground. In many ways the psychedelic, funky, jazzy, rock music that he did post-Fleetwood Mac could be viewed as an early pre-cursor to the jam band movement of today.”
Acts like Santana (“Black Magic Woman”), Aerosmith (“Stop Messin’ Round”, “Rattlesnake Shake”, “Oh Well”) and Judas Priest (“The Green Manalishi”) has covered his songs, not to mention Gary Moore who made an entire album in tribute to Peter Green in 1995, “Blues for Greeny”.
Peter Allen Greenbaum was born into a Jewish family in Bethnal Green, London, on October 29th, 1946. He began playing bass guitar professionally by the age of 15, performing pop chart covers and rock ‘n’ roll standards in a band called Bobby Denim and the Dominoes. Inspired by Hank Marvin of The Shadows, he went on to join the rhythm and blues outfit The Muskrats and a band called The Tridents.
By Christmas 1965, Green was playing lead guitar in The Peter B’s, led by future Camel keyboard player Peter Bardens (ex-Them, The Cheynes) and also featuring drummer Mick Fleetwood. In 1966, Green made his recording debut with their instrumental single “If You Wanna Be Happy” b/w “Jodrell Blues”. The latter was written by Bardens while the A-side was a cover of a 1963 #1 hit by American singer Jimmy Soul, based on the calypso “Ugly Woman” by Roaring Lion from 1933.
Peter B’s would evolve into Peter B’s Looners and eventually morph into Shotgun Express, a soul band featuring a young Rod Stewart. Shotgun Express was formed in May 1966 when Peter B’s Looners – Bardens, Green, Fleetwood and bass player Dave Ambrose (who went on to become an A&R man, signing the Sex Pistols and Duran Duran) – were joined by Rod Stewart (ex-Steampacket, with Long John Baldry, Julie Driscoll, and Brian Auger) and Beryl Marsden, the leading female singer on the Liverpool club scene. Green left the band in late 1966 to join John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, later joined there by Mick Fleetwood. The group released their first single, “I Could Feel The Whole World Turn Round” in October 1966, by which point Peter Green was already in the process of recording his first and only album with John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers.
Shotgun Express would split up in early 1967 after Rod Stewart left to join the Jeff Beck Group. Marsden joined The She Trinity while Ambrose joined Brian Auger. Peter Green’s replacement, Phil Sawyer (ex-Les Fleur de Lys and The Cheynes, featuring a 15-year-old Mick Fleetwood on drums) joined the Spencer Davis Group after Steve Winwood had left them to form Traffic in 1967.
While it sadly appears that nothing was recorded while Peter Green was a member of Shotgun Express, there does exist one song where both Peter Green and Rod Stewart can be heard. While credited to the Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation when eventually included on the 1973 compilation album “History Of British Blues (Volume One)”, the Buddy Guy cover “Stone Crazy” was actually recorded in mid-1967 by the all-star line-up of Peter Green (guitar), Rod Stewart (vocals), Aynsley Dunbar (drums) and Jack Bruce on bass and piano.
George “Buddy” Guy was born in 1936 and fell under the influence of Muddy Waters after moving to Chicago in 1957. Chess Records initially used Buddy Guy mainly as a session guitarist to back Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson, Koko Taylor, Junior Wells and others. His first solo album was released in 1967 but “Stone Crazy” had first been released as a B-side in 1962. Buddy Guy would later perform with Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac at Chess Records Studio in 1969. Guy also appeared onstage at the 1969 “Supershow” in England, along with Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin, Jack Bruce, Stephen Stills, Buddy Miles, Glenn Campbell, Roland Kirk and Jon Hiseman.
As chronicled in a previous Stargazed article about Cream drummer Ginger Baker, Eric Clapton (ex-The Yardbirds, 1963-65, then replaced by Jeff Beck) joined The Bluesbreakers in April 1965, shortly after the release of “John Mayall Plays John Mayall” (March 26, 1965), a debut album recorded live in December of 1964. In August of 1965, Clapton left for Greece with his art school friends in the Glands. Peter Green was now asked to take Clapton’s spot while bass player John McVie was dismissed and replaced by Clapton’s future Cream bandmate Jack Bruce (ex-Graham Bond Organisation, feat. Ginger Baker). In November of 1965, Green was asked to leave as Clapton returned from his travels. McVie was next allowed back, as Bruce left to join Manfred Mann. In the end, John McVie and drummer Hughie Flint played on both “John Mayall Plays John Mayall” and their first studio album, “Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton” (July 1966), a.k.a. “The Beano Album”.
June of 1966 saw the announcement that Cream had been formed, something that Clapton had failed to mention to Mayall. Clapton made his final gig with the Bluesbreakers on July 17th, five days before the Beano album was released. Green only performed three concerts and made no recordings during his first stint with the Bluesbreakers (after which he played with Peter B’s Looners and Shotgun Express), but Mayall now succeeded in persuading him to re-join.
Some 40 tracks were recorded during the following year. In England in November of 1966, the American band leader Paul Butterfield (of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band) recorded several songs with John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers. Four songs were released in January 1967 on a 45-rpm EP, “John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers with Paul Butterfield”.
The album “A Hard Road” (February 1967) featured Mayall, Green, McVie and drummer Aynsley Dunbar. Having previously played with Merseybeat group the Mojos (1964-66), Dunbar had auditioned for the Jimi Hendrix Experience but lost out to Mitch Mitchell. Dunbar would be replaced by Green’s former bandmate Mick Fleetwood in the spring of 1967, when Dunbar went on to join the Jeff Beck Group. He then founded the Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation, co-writing “Warning”, famously covered by Black Sabbath. Dunbar later played with everyone from Frank Zappa and Journey to Jefferson Starship, David Bowie, Lou Reed and Whitesnake.
Decca Records producer Mike Vernon recalled Green’s debut with the Bluesbreakers: “As the band walked in the studio I noticed an amplifier which I never saw before, so I said to John Mayall, “Where’s Eric Clapton?” Mayall answered, “He’s not with us anymore, he left us a few weeks ago.” I was in a shock of state [sic] but Mayall said, “Don’t worry, we got someone better.” I said, “Wait a minute, hang on a second, this is ridiculous. You’ve got someone better? Than Eric Clapton?” John said, “He might not be better now, but you wait, in a couple of years he’s going to be the best.”
Anyway, Peter Green sings lead vocals on “You Don’t Love Me” and “The Same Way” off “A Hard Road”. Green was credited as composer of the latter and the instrumental “The Supernatural”. Adapted from Bo Diddley’s 1959 song “She’s Fine She’s Mine”, “You Don’t Love Me” had first been recorded by American musician Willie Cobbs in 1960.
Re-issues of “A Hard Road” from 2003 (double CD) and 2006 (single CD) have compiled all of the studio contributions that Peter Green made to John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. Green was credited as composer of the bonus tracks “Evil Woman Blues”, “Out of Reach” (first released as a B-side to “Sitting In The Rain” in 1967), “Curly”, “Rubber Duck” (w/ Dunbar), “Greeny” and “Missing You”.
The latter four have also been included on an expanded re-issue of the 1967 album “Crusade”. The original album features the then-18-year-old guitarist, Mick Taylor (later in The Rolling Stones, 1969–1974), but Peter Green also plays on the bonus tracks “Please Don’t Tell”, “Your Funeral and My Trial”, “Double Trouble” (Otis Rush) and “It Hurts Me Too”, a song first recorded in 1940 by American blues musician Tampa Red and famously covered by The Grateful Dead.
Several of the mentioned tracks were first included on the 1971 compilation “Thru The Years”. Peter Green could be heard on eight tracks: “Mama, Talk to Your Daughter”, “Alabama Blues” (both by J.B. Lenoir), “Out of Reach”, “Greeny”, “Curly”, “Missing You” (all four composed by Green), “Please Don’t Tell” (by Mayall) and “Your Funeral and My Trial” by Sonny Boy Williamson II.
The line-up from “A Hard Road” also served as a backing band for “Eddie Boyd and His Blues Band featuring Peter Green”, a 1967 album for Decca. “Dust My Broom” and “Save Her, Doctor”, also featured guitarist Tony McPhee, founder of The Groundhogs.
Eddie Boyd also released a 1967 single on the Blue Horizon label, “It’s So Miserable To Be Alone” b/w “Empty Arms”. Peter Green played on the single along with John McVie and Aynsley Dunbar.
Eddie Boyd (1914-1994) was an American blues pianist, singer and songwriter, best known for his 1952 number one R&B chart hit “Five Long Years”. Boyd was a half-brother of Memphis Slim and a cousin of Muddy Waters, having performing with Waters, Johnny Shines and John Lee ‘Sonny Boy’ Williamson in Chicago. Boyd toured Europe with Buddy Guy’s band in 1965 as part of the American Folk Blues Festival. Unhappy with racial discrimination in the U.S., Boyd had then moved to Belgium and recorded the album “Praise the Blues” (1967) with the Dutch band Cuby and the Blizzards.
Eddie Boyd’s next album, “7936 South Rhodes” was released on the Blue Horizon label in 1968. Fully co-credited to “Peter Green’s Fleetwod Mac”, it featured Green, McVie and Fleetwood playing on it.
While uncredited, Peter Green, Fleetwood and McVie also played on Boyd’s 1968 single “The Big Boat” b/w “Sent For You Yesterday And Here You Come Today”. According to Leslie Fancourt’s book “Blue Horizon Records 1965 – 1972”, the recording date was January 25, 1968.
Mayall gave Green some free time in the recording studio as a 20th birthday present in 1966. Green used it to record some songs with Fleetwood and McVie, including an instrumental named after them, “Fleetwood Mac”. It was first included on a demo acetate, “The Peter Green EP”, which also featured “No Place to Go”, “First Train Home” and “Looking for Somebody”. The song “Fleetwood Mac” was eventually released on the 1971 compilation album “The Original Fleetwood Mac”, along with other previously unissued recordings from 1967-68. That album also included six other tracks credited to Peter Green: “Drifting”, “Leaving Town Blues”, “Watch Out”, “A Fool No More”, “First Train Home” and “Rambling Pony #2”, the latter with Bob Brunning on bass.
There was also a Jeremy Spencer composition, “Allow Me One More Show”, and covers of “Mean Old Fireman” (Arthur Crudup), “Can’t Afford to Do It” (Homesick James, a cousin of Elmore James), “Love That Woman” (Lafayette Leake) and “Worried Dream” by B.B. King.
Speaking of which, Riley B. King (1925-2015, a.k.a. “Blues Boy” or “B.B.”) once commented that Peter Green had “the sweetest tone I ever heard; he was the only one who gave me the cold sweats.”
While the original album only included tracks recorded with Green and Spencer on guitars, a 2004 re-issue added several songs featuring their composer Danny Kirwan.
Soon after recording “Fleetwood Mac”, Green suggested to Fleetwood that they’d form a band with that name. They wanted McVie on bass but he initially opted to keep his steady income with Mayall.
Mick Fleetwood was only a Bluesbreaker for a few weeks but two live albums featuring this lineup, “Live in 1967” Volumes I and II were eventually released on Forty Below Records in 2015 and 2016.
As mentioned, Peter Green eventually left Mayall in July of 1967 and brought Fleetwood with him for his own project, Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac. The band would eventually include all three of Mayall’s Bluesbreakers at the time of his departure, but McVie stayed on with Mayall for “Crusade” (September 1967, recorded July 12th), an album with Keef Hartley on drums.
Hartley had replaced Ringo Starr in Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, after Ringo joined The Beatles. Hartley had also recorded with The Artwoods, a band featuring Jon Lord (later of Deep Purple) and Arthur Wood, the brother of Ronnie Wood of later The Faces and Rolling Stones fame. Hartley himself would soon found his own band, the Keef Hartley Band, and perform at the Woodstock Festival in 1969. They would eventually lose their bass player Gary Thain to their touring partners Uriah Heep. Mayall’s first choice to replace Peter Green was 18-year-old David O’List of The Attack. He declined, however, and went on to form The Nice with organist Keith Emerson, later to find major success with ELP. Mayall soon settled with Mick Taylor, appearing on “Crusade”, “Bare Wires” and “Blues from Laurel Canyon” (both 1968) before joining Rolling Stones in June of 1969.
There does exist recordings with Peter Green together with both Keef Hartley and Mick Taylor, however. The track “First Time Alone” off “Blues from Laurel Canyon” was recorded in August of 1968 by the following line-up: Peter Green and Mick Taylor on guitars, bassist Steve Thompson (later to join Stone The Crows) and drummer Colin Allen (ex-Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band), who’d later join Dutch prog rock band Focus for their “Hamburger Concerto” album.
Recorded in December of 1967, the single “Jenny” b/w “Picture On The Wall” featured Mayall, Green and Keef Hartley. These two tracks were eventually included on the 1969 compilation album “Looking Back”, along with “Sitting in the Rain” (a single A-side from 1967) and Green’s very first recordings with Mayall from September 1966, a single with Johnny “Guitar” Watson’s “Looking Back” b/w “So Many Roads” (Paul Marshall, Paul Williams).
Also included on “Looking Back” were two tracks recorded during the same day as the song “Fleetwood Mac”, the previously mentioned single tracks “Double Trouble” b/w “It Hurts Me Too”.
In the meantime, Green and Fleetwood had teamed up with slide guitarist Jeremy Spencer and bassist Bob Brunning, having briefly used Ric Grech and Dave Ambrose. This version of Fleetwood Mac made its debut at the Windsor Jazz and Blues Festival on August 13th, 1967. Brunning played only a few gigs with Fleetwood Mac as John McVie agreed to join the band as permanent bassist within a few weeks. Brunning only contributed bass guitar to one track on Fleetwood Mac’s debut album, the Green composition “Long Grey Mare”.
Bob Brunning would go on to work with Savoy Brown, briefly, and form The Brunning/Hall Sunflower Blues Band with blues pianist Bob Hall. The second album by The Brunning Sunflower Band, “Trackside Blues”, would feature Peter Green playing lead guitar uncredited. Recorded in October 1969, Peter Green supposedly plays on the tracks “Ride With Your Daddy Tonight”, “Simple Simon”, “It Takes Time”, “If You Let Me Know You”, “Ah Soul!/Uranus” (Take 1) and “Uranus” (Take 2).
Jeremy Spencer would remain with Fleetwood Mac until an abrupt departure in February 1971, when he joined a religious cult called the “Children of God”. By that point, Peter Green himself had already left the band, having performed his last show on May 20th, 1970. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
Spencer, strongly influenced by the American blues musician Elmore James (whose 1961 classic “Shake Your Moneymaker” was covered on Fleetwood Mac’s debut album), came to Peter Green’s attention when he was playing with the Levi Set, a blues trio. On the 1968 debut album, Spencer gave a solo performance on vocal and piano of Robert Johnson’s “Hellhound on My Trail”. The first stable line-up of Fleetwood Mac recorded two albums with many traditional blues songs, with Spencer contributing variations on the Elmore James theme. Green would grow frustrated that Spencer did not seem willing to contribute to his own songs, however, whereas Green was always willing to play on Spencer’s recordings. Since Spencer’s musical contributions were too narrowly focused, a third guitarist was brought it after 1968’s “Mr. Wonderful”, 18-year-old Danny Kirwan.
Fleetwood Mac’s first release was a non-album single in 1967, “I Believe My Time Ain’t Long” b/w “Rambling Pony”. Credited to Spencer and Green respectively, both songs were later included on the 1969 compilation album “The Pious Bird of Good Omen”. The compilation included their first four non-album UK singles and their B-sides, two re-used studio album tracks and two tracks off Eddie Boyd’s “7936 South Rhodes”.
The title of that compilation was lifted from an 1817 marginal note to Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s epic 1798 poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, a poem which Iron Maiden’s Steve Harris later used as a basis for the epic “Powerslave” track. The phrase refers to the albatross killed in the poem, as a wink to the included instrumental hit “Albatross”.
Anyway, Fleetwood Mac’s self-titled debut album was released by the Blue Horizon label in February of 1968. The album reached no. 4 in the UK, despite having no hit singles on it. The album contained a mixture of blues covers and originals penned by Green and Spencer (three compositions), who also shared the vocal duties. The cover songs included “No Place to Go” (a 1954 single by Chester “Howlin Wolf” Burnett) and “Got to Move”, a song first released by Elmore James (1918-1963) in 1960. Peter Green himself wrote five of the album tracks: “Merry Go Round”, “Long Grey Mare”, “I Loved Another Woman”, “The World Keep On Turning” and “Looking for Somebody”.
“I got a feeling, blues gonna be my only way”, sang Green.
Soon after, the band released two successful singles: Green’s “Black Magic Woman” (b/w “The Sun Is Shining”, a cover of an Elmore James recording from 1960, a variation on his “The Sky Is Crying”) and “Need Your Love So Bad”. Later a bigger hit with Santana, as sung by future Journey founder Gregg Rolie, Green acknowledged that “Black Magic Woman” was influenced by “All Your Love”, an Otis Rush song from 1958 which Clapton had recorded with John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers.
“Need Your Love So Bad” was an excellent cover of a song first recorded by Little Willie John in 1955. It was written by Mertis John Jr., Little Willie John’s older brother. The B-side was “Stop Messin’ Round”, written by Peter Green and co-credited to manager C.G. Adams. Green, McVie, and Fleetwood were joined by pianist Christine Perfect (soon to be Mrs. McVie and later a full-time group member) and saxophone players Steve Gregory and Johnny Almond. A different take of the song was later used as the opening track on Fleetwood Mac’s second studio album, “Mr. Wonderful”.
Aerosmith lead guitarist Joe Perry would later often cover “Stop Messin’ Round” in concert, eventually recording a studio version for Aerosmith’s 2004 blues tribute album, “Honkin’ on Bobo”.
As mentioned, Christine Perfect contributed as a session musician to “Mr. Wonderful” (recorded April 1968, released in August). According to producer Mike Vernon, she played piano on all of Peter Green’s songs, whereas Jeremy Spencer played piano on his own. She’d marry John McVie during 1968 and later join Fleetwood Mac as a full-time member, following Peter Green’s departure. Christine McVie would make her first gig as an official member of Fleetwood Mac on August 1st 1970, having made her first live appearance with them in May 1969, just as she was leaving Chicken Shack.
At the time of “Mr. Wonderful”, Chicken Shack och Fleetwood Mac were label mates at Blue Horizon. Christine Perfect had met Stan Webb and Andy Silvester in a pub while she was studying at art college. She joined their band Sounds Of Blue (formed in 1964 and also featuring Chris Wood, later to join Traffic), and sometimes also sang with Spencer Davis. In 1967, McVie again teamed up with Silvester and Webb in a new blues band, Chicken Shack, which had formed as a trio in 1965 and named themselves after jazz organist Jimmy Smith’s 1960 album “Back at the Chicken Shack”. She played on the first two Chicken Shack albums, “40 Blue Fingers, Freshly Packed and Ready to Serve” (1968) and “O.K. Ken?” (1969), after which she was initially replaced by future UFO musician Paul Raymond, whose life has also been chronicled in a previous article here at Stargazed Magazine.
“Mr. Wonderful” featured three compositions by Jeremy Spencer and three cover songs: “Dust My Broom” (by Robert Johnson in 1936, recorded by Elmore James in 1951),”Coming Home” (Elmore James, 1957) and “Doctor Brown”, which was co-written by Chicago blues saxophonist J. T. Brown and R&B singer Buster Brown, who had released it as a single in 1960. Green wrote six of the album tracks, all co-credited to their manager for legal/copyright reasons: “Stop Messin’ Round”, “Rollin’ Man”, “Love That Burns”, “If You Be My Baby”, “Trying So Hard to Forget” and “Lazy Poker Blues”, the latter covered by Status Quo on their 1970 album “Ma Kelly’s Greasy Spoon”.
“Mr. Wonderful” was the last studio album that Fleetwood Mac recorded for the Blue Horizon label. Live and compilation albums would follow, however. “English Rose” (released in the US on Epic in January 1969) and “The Pious Bird of Good Omen” (August, 1969) contained previously released material. Both studio albums, the latter compilation album and the live albums “Blues Jam in Chicago” Volumes One and Two (1969, 1970) were all later included with bonus material as part of the 1999 six-CD boxset “The Complete Blue Horizon Sessions”.
Speaking of Blue Horizon, not only did Peter Green, Fleetwood and McVie act as backing musicians for their Eddie Boyd album “7936 South Rhodes” in 1968. Green, Fleetwood and McVie also appeared on Gordon Smith’s “Long Overdue” debut album (recorded in July-August 1968, with Green playing harmonica on Mississippi Fred McDowell’s “Diving Duck Blues”) and for three tracks on “Smiling Like I’m Happy”, the debut album by Duster Bennett, namely “Shady Little Baby”, “My Lucky Day” and “My Love Is Your Love”.
It was Peter Green who introduced Bennet to Mike Vernon, and also gave him the 1952 Les Paul Goldtop guitar that can be heard on the album, recorded in July and September of 1968. Lifted off “Smiling Like I’m Happy”, Bennett’s song “Jumping at Shadows” was subsequently covered by Fleetwood Mac. The 1969 Blue Horizon single “Bright Lights, Big City” b/w “Talk To Me” by Duster Bennett & His House Band supposedly features Peter Green playing bass uncredited.
“Out In The Blue”, a CD from 1995 credited to Duster Bennett featuring Peter Green, also includes five songs that the two recorded in 1968: “Trying So Hard To Forget”, “Kind Hearted Woman”, “Coming, I’m Coming”, “I’m Thinking About A Woman” and “Two Harps”. In 2006, the release of his “Complete Blues Horizon Sessions” collected the first three albums plus early singles. Gordon Smith also has a “Complete Blues Horizon Sessions” CD, including said debut album.
Composed by Peter Green, the guitar-based non-album instrumental “Albatross” was released as a single in November 1968, becoming Fleetwood Mac’s only number-one hit in the UK Singles Chart. This was the first release to feature Danny Kirwan as second guitarist, while Jeremy Spencer as usual opted not to play on Green’s material. The B-side was “Jigsaw Puzzle Blues”, credited to Danny Kirwan but actually an old clarinet piece written and recorded in 1933 by the Joe Venuti Blue Five. It has also been noted that “Albatross” somewhat resembles Santo & Johnny’s “Sleep Walk” (1959), Chuck Berry’s “Deep Feeling” (1957) and “Floyd’s Guitar Blues” (1939) by Andy Kirk and his 12 Clouds of Joy. According to a Green’s biography, an early inspiration for “Albatross” was instead said to have been “a group of notes from an Eric Clapton solo, played slower.”
Daniel David Langran, better known as Danny Kirwan, had grown up listening to jazz musicians such as Django Reinhardt. Influenced by Hank Marvin of the Shadows, Jimi Hendrix, and Eric Clapton, Kirwan was 17 when he came to the attention of Green. Fleetwood Mac’s producer Mike Vernon had gone to watch a rehearsal with Kirwan’s first band, the blues three-piece Boilerhouse. Thinking he sounded like American blues guitarist Lowell Fulson (1921-1999), Vernon soon informed Peter Green of his discovery.
Kirwan’s band began playing support slots for Fleetwood Mac, giving Kirwan and Green opportunities to jam. Green briefly took a managerial interest in Boilerhouse but failed to find a suitable rhythm section for Kirwan. Fleetwood instead suggested that he could join Fleetwood Mac, inviting Kirwan to join the band in August of 1968. Green described Kirwan as “a clever boy who got ideas for his guitar playing by listening to all that old-fashioned Roaring Twenties big-band stuff.” Kirwan was known to be “emotionally fragile” and “was so into it that he cried as he played.”
On tour in the US in January 1969, the three-guitar line-up of the band (Green, Spencer, Kirwan, McVie, Fleetwood) spent one day at the soon-to-close Chess Records Studio, recording the Chicago blues legends Otis Spann (piano, vocals), Willie Dixon (upright bass), Buddy Guy (guitar), Big Walter “Shakey” Horton (harmonica, vocals), J.T. Brown (tenor saxophone, vocals), “Honeyboy” Edwards (guitar, vocals), and S.P. Leary (drums). These recordings from the 4th of January would first be released in December of 1969 as a double album, “Blues Jam at Chess”. Later re-issued as “Fleetwood Mac in Chicago” and as two separate volumes of “Blues Jam in Chicago”, all of this and additional material was eventually included in “The Complete Blue Horizon Sessions”. “Watch Out” and the instrumental “Red Hot Jam” were credited to Peter Green, who also sang on Little Walter’s 1954 single “Last Night”, “Ooh Baby”, “Sugar Mama” (both originally released as singles by Howlin’ Wolf, 1964-65) and “Homework” (Dave Clark, Al Perkins), originally released by Otis Rush in 1962.
Hitting it off during the day at Chess, Peter Green, Danny Kirwan and John McVie were then asked to record a full studio album with drummer S.P. Leary and singing pianist Otis Spann. Produced by Mike Vernon and recorded five days later (January 9th, 1969) at Tempo Sound Studio in New York City, the Otis Spann album “The Biggest Thing Since Colossus” was released by Blue Horizon later that same year. All of the tracks were written by Otis Spann except for two covers songs, Rosco Gordon’s “No More Doggin'” (1952) and Jimmy Witherspoon’s 1947 hit “Ain’t Nobody’s Business”.
Supposedly recorded during the same session, Otis Spann’s 1972 single “Blues For Hippies” (b/w “Bloody Murder”) also features Peter Green.
Once back in England, the band signed with Immediate Records for one single, “Man of the World” (April 1969). Arguably one of Peter Green’s most heart-wrenching compositions, it became another hit. For the B-side, Jeremy Spencer (who did not play on the A-side) fronted Fleetwood Mac as “Earl Vince and the Valiants” and recorded his “Somebody’s Gonna Get Their Head Kicked In Tonite”.
“I guess I’ve got everything I need, I wouldn’t ask for more
And there’s no one I’d rather be… but I just wish that I’d never been born
And I need a good woman to make me feel like a good man should
I don’t say I’m a good man. Oh, but I would be if I could
I could tell you about my life and keep you amused I’m sure
About all the times I’ve cried and how I don’t want to be sad anymore”
Immediate Records was in bad shape, however, so the band shopped around for another deal. Mick Fleetwood and George Harrison were brothers-in-law and The Beatles wanted the band on Apple Records. Clifford Davis, their manager, instead decided to go with Warner Bros./Reprise Records. “Then Play On”, Peter Green’s last studio album with Fleetwood Mac, was released on Reprise in September of 1969. A masterpiece, the recordings featured Green and Kirwan prominently. Jeremy Spencer did not feature on the album apart from “a couple of piano things”, said Mick Fleetwood.
Spencer, meanwhile, recorded a self-titled solo album (released in January 1970) of 1950s-style rock and roll songs, backed by the rest of the band except Green. Green did appear on one track on “Jeremy Spencer”, playing banjo on “String-a-long” (Jimmy Duncan, Robert Doyle), a song which had charted in 1960 for Fabian and in 1963 for Ricky Nelson.
The title of the final masterpiece by Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac was taken from the opening line of William Shakespeare’s play “Twelfth Night” (ca 1601): “If music be the food of love, play on”. The cover art was “Domesticated Mural Painting” (1917) by the English artist Maxwell Armfield (1881-1972). Editing and overdubbing techniques were used extensively, with Green having introduced improvisation and jamming to the band’s live performances. Three of the album tracks were compiled by Green from several hours of studio jam sessions: “Searching for Madge” (credited to John McVie) and “Fighting for Madge” (credited to Mick Fleetwood) and “Underway”. “It was our way of being in The Grateful Dead”, commented Mick Fleetwood.
The original UK release featured seven tracks written by Danny Kirwan and five Peter Green compositions: the US single “Rattlesnake Shake”, “Closing My Eyes”, “Show-Biz Blues”, “Underway” and “Before the Beginning”. Green sang and played guitar, harmonica, six string bass and percussion. Christine McVie (piano) and Big Walter Horton (harmonica) appeared uncredited on the album. When the double-sided single “Oh Well (Parts 1 & 2)” became a hit, the US LP was re-released in a revised running order to include “Oh Well”, dropping Kirwan’s “When You Say” and “My Dream”.
Later re-issues on CD has had other variation to the track listing but Rhino Records finally issued a Deluxe Edition in 2013, restoring its original UK track order and adding four bonus tracks: “Oh Well – Pt. 1”, “Oh Well – Pt. 2”, “The Green Manalishi (With the Two-Pronged Crown)” and “World in Harmony”, all composed by Green except the latter Kirwan co-write.
“Oh Well” (September 1969) was composed in two parts, “Part 1” being a fast electric blues song with vocals and “Part 2” being an entirely different instrumental piece with a classical influence and Green playing cello. The original 1969 single featured the first minute of “Part 2” as a fade-out coda to the A-side. In concert, only the first part was played. Instead of including “Oh Well” in the UK track listing of “Then Play On”, the label decided to designate it as the band’s next single. This came as a surprise to Green, who expected Kirwan’s “When You Say” to fulfill that role. Hesitant to release “Oh Well Part 1” as a single, Green lobbied to make “Part 2” the A-side instead, but to no avail.
John Paul Jones supposedly drew inspiration from “Oh Well, Part 1” when composing the riff to Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog”. The song was later played live by Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page & The Black Crowes on their 2000 collaboration album “Live at the Greek”. “Oh Well” has also been covered by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Aerosmith, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, and many others.
Three concert with Fleetwood Mac were recorded at the Boston Tea Party venue in February of 1970. The tapes remained unreleased until 7 songs were released in 1985 as “Live in Boston”. In 1998, Snapper Music released a three-volume CD set titled “Live in Boston: Remastered” (re-issued as “Live at the Boston Tea Party”), which collected virtually all of the available tracks from these concerts. Eric Clapton (who had then made the Blind Faith album and was about to make both his solo debut and “Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs” with Derek and the Dominos) and Joe Walsh (then a member of James Gang, later in the Eagles) can be heard playing guitar on “Encore Jam”.
Green’s last release with Fleetwood Mac was the single “The Green Manalishi (With the Two-Prong Crown)”, later covered by Judas Priest, Corrosion of Conformity, Arthur Brown, Melvins, and others. The track was recorded at Warner-Reprise’s studios in Hollywood on the band’s third US tour in April 1970, a few weeks before Green decided to quit after completing their European tour. Green’s last show as a member of Fleetwood Mac was on May 20th 1970, five days after the release of “The Green Manalishi (With the Two Prong Crown)” b/w “World in Harmony”. The latter was the only track bearing a Kirwan/Green writing credit. Their plan to collaborate further never materialised.
“Green Manalishi” was released as Green’s mental stability deteriorated, wishing the band would give all their money to charity. While there are several theories about the meaning of the title “Green Manalishi”, Green has always maintained that the song is about money, as represented by the devil. Green wrote the song after experiencing a drug-induced dream in which he was visited by a green barking dog, representing money. “It scared me because I knew the dog had been dead a long time. It was a stray and I was looking after it. But I was dead and had to fight to get back into my body, which I eventually did. When I woke up, the room was really black and I found myself writing the song.”
Jeremy Spencer would record one further album with Fleetwood Mac, 1970’s “Kiln House”. According to one account by Mick Fleetwood, Spencer had difficulty recovering from a mescaline trip that he had experienced very early on the following US tour, leading him to suddenly quit to join a religious cult. Be that as it may, Fleetwood Mac then reached out to Peter Green to fulfill the remaining six weeks of contracted gigs. Green agreed to do it “in a spirit of friendship”, on condition that each show would consist mostly of improvisation and free-form jamming. The band’s jamming was received enthusiastically by the American audiences, Mick Fleetwood recalled.
Green then left again. Danny Kirwan would remain with Fleetwood Mac – now also featuring Christine McVie and Californian guitarist Bob Welch – for “Future Games” (1971) and “Bare Trees” (1972) before being fired. Three albums followed, some featuring new members Bob Weston and Dave Walker, before Fleetwood Mac were finally joined by Lindsey Buckingham and his girlfriend Stevie Nicks, on New Year’s Eve 1974. Peter Green, meanwhile, had become musically inactive.
Beginning with “Man of the World”‘s melancholy lyric, Green’s bandmates had begun to notice changes in his state of mind. He was taking large doses of LSD, grew a beard and began to wear robes and a crucifix.
In a 2009 BBC documentary about Peter Green, Clifford Davis blamed the mental deterioration of Green and Kirwan on the same incident in March 1970: a reaction to LSD taken at a hippie commune in Munich. This was hardly the first or only time that the band used psychedelic drugs, however, and Green himself stated that he had fond memories of jamming at the Highfisch-Kommune when speaking in 2009: “I had a good play there, it was great, someone recorded it, they gave me a tape. There were people playing along, a few of us just fooling around and it was… yeah it was great.” He told Jeremy Spencer at the time “That’s the most spiritual music I’ve ever recorded in my life.”
Green was invited to Highfisch-Kommune by the super model Ursula “Uschi” Obermaier, who lived there with her boyfriend Rainer Langhans. Obermaier had briefly been a member Amon Düül, playing maracas and living in their commune. After meeting Langhans, they had moved to the Berlin-based Kommune 1, becoming the German answer to John Lennon and Yoko Ono. After the end of Kommune 1 in 1969, Langhans and Obermaier moved to the Highfisch-Kommune. Obermaier is also said to have had affairs with Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, and Jimi Hendrix.
Mick Fleetwood stated in his autobiography that the band took LSD together when they arrived in New York in December 1968. Opening for the Grateful Dead at the Fillmore East, they were offered “the best, most pure LSD available.”. “We all wanted to try it … We all had a go.”, said Fleetwood, “sitting in a circle on the floor, holding hands” and later took more LSD trips together as “a bonding experience.” Mescaline also featured, Green saying his tortured song “The Green Manalishi” was the result of a mescaline nightmare. Fleetwood also remembered Kirwan and Spencer taking mescaline when the band arrived in San Francisco in February 1971, with Spencer leaving soon thereafter.
After leaving Fleetwood Mac, Peter Green went straight into recording his first solo album, “The End of the Game”. Released by Reprise in December 1970, it was the result of jam sessions recorded in May-June of the same year. A radical departure from his work with Fleetwood Mac, the instrumental album consisted of edited pieces of a long studio jam, experimental and free-form. Green was joined on the recordings by drummer Godfrey Maclean, keyboardists Zoot Money and Nick Buck, and bassist Alex Dmochowski of The Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation. While uncredited, Santana’s drummer Michael Shrieve was supposedly also invited for one late-night session.
Dmochowski would later join Dunbar in working for Frank Zappa, playing bass as “Erroneous” on the Zappa albums “Apostrophe(‘)”, “Waka/Jawaka” and “The Grand Wazoo” (1972-74). Nick Buck would next play (along with Dmochowski and Peter Green himself) on Country Joe McDonald’s 1971 album “Hold On, It’s Coming” before playing with Hot Tuna, the Jefferson Airplane spin-off band. Zoot Money had previously had his own Big Roll Band (featuring future The Police guitarist Andy Summers) and Dantalian’s Chariot in addition to playing with Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated and Eric Burdon & the New Animals. George Bruno “Zoot” Money would go on to work with Grimms, Ellis, Centipede, Kevin Ayers and Kevin Coyne. Finally, Godfrey Maclean was a founding member of The Gass, formed in 1965 with Errol McLean and Robert Tench, a.k.a. Bobby Gass.
Gass released their first and only proper studio album in 1970, “Juju”. Later re-issued as simply as “Gass”, Peter Green played guitar on the tracks “Juju” and “Black Velvet”. Gass disbanded in 1971 when Bobby Tench joined The Jeff Beck Group. As mentioned in the Stargazed article on Ginger Baker, Tench played with him and Fela Ransome-Kuti before going on to play with Hummingbird, Streetwalkers, Widowmaker (with former Mott the Hoople and Spooky Tooth guitarist Luther Grosvenor) and Boxer, the band formed by Mike Patto and Ollie Halsall after their band Patto split up. Tench eventually joined Van Morrison’s band in time for 1978’s “Wavelength”, an album also featuring Peter Green’s former bandmate Peter Bardens.
After playing with Peter Green in Shotgun Express, Peter Bardens released one single with the trio The Village, featuring bassist Bruce Thomas. Released in 1970 but recorded in October 1969, Peter Bardens’ first solo album, “The Answer” (later re-issued as “Vintage ’69”) featured both Bruce Thomas and Peter Green. Thomas had previously played with The Roadrunners, a band featuring Paul Rodgers (pre-Free/Bad Company) and future Whitesnake guitarist Micky Moody. Thomas would later join Elvis Costello’s backing band The Attractions between 1977 and 1987.
In addition to Green, “The Answer” also featured “Andy Gee”, the German guitarist Andreas Gröber who (along with John Cann) would go on to help Thin Lizzy out for one tour in 1974, as previously mentioned in the Stargazed article on Paul Chapman. Andy Gee would continue to work with bassist Reg Isidore (in the band Scandal) and Steve Ellis (in his band Ellis), both of whom appeared on “The Answer”. Peter Bardens himself would go on to release a self-titled solo album (a.k.a. “Write My Name in the Dust”, 1971) before founding the great prog rock band Camel.
Formed in 1971, when Bardens teamed up with Andrew Latimer’s trio The Brew, Bardens went on to record six studio albums with Camel before leaving to join his former Them bandmate Van Morrison. Bardens eventually resumed his solo career in 1979, the same year as the release of “In The Skies”, Peter Green’s second solo album, which again featured Bardens.
Among many excellent tracks, “The Answer” featured the epic “Homage To The God Of Light”. This song was also performed in concert by Camel, as captured on “Greasy Truckers Live At Dingwalls Dance Hall”, a 1973 double album also featuring performances by Henry Cow and Gong.
Around the time of recording “The End Of The Game”, Peter Green (along with his solo album collaborators Nick Buck and Alex Dmochowski) also contributed to “Hold on It’s Coming” (1971), the fourth solo album by Country Joe McDonald. McDonald was the former lead singer of psychedelic rock band Country Joe and the Fish, formed in 1965 in Berkeley, California. Peter Green played guitar on the tracks “Air Algiers”, “Only Love Is Worth This Pain” and “Mr. Big Pig”.
The summer of 1970 also saw Peter Green recording two songs for the second Toe Fat album, playing on “There’ll Be Changes” and “A New Way” alongside the Glascock brothers. Toe Fat was essentially the same band that had released records as The Gods (1968-69) and Head Machine (1969), except for the addition of vocalist Cliff Bennett, a former pop star with the Rebel Rousers.
Following the first Toe Fat album, Ken Hensley and Lee Kerslake had both left the band. Hensley decided to join Spice, a band featuring Paul Newton (who’d briefly replaced John Glascock as bass player in The Gods in 1967, as had Greg Lake before joining King Crimson and ELP), Mick Box and David Byron. Kerslake also soon joined what became Uriah Heep, but not before recording an album with National Head Band in 1971. Kerslake joined just before Gary Thain (ex-Keef Hartley Band) became a more replacement (1972-75) for Paul Newton (1969-71) after Mark Clarke (1971-72).
Speaking of great bass players, John Glascock (The Gods, Head Machine, Toe Fat) next joined Chicken Shack (1971-72) for their masterpiece “Imagination Lady”. After losing Christine McVie to Fleetwood Mac, Chicken Shack replaced her with future UFO man Paul Raymond for two albums before making “Imagination Lady” as a trio. John Glascock next joined Carmen (1973-75) before being asked to join Jethro Tull in 1976, having met Ian Anderson when Carmen opened several dates for Jethro Tull’s “War Child” tour. In 1979, aged only 28, Glascock sadly died.
It may also be worth noting that the brothers John and Brian Glascock were schoolmates with Mick Taylor. They had been playing together with him since 1962 when John Mayall in 1967 asked Mick Taylor to leave The Gods and replace Peter Green in the Bluesbreakers.
Not only did Peter Green finish recording his first solo album, he also recorded a full album with Memphis Slim in June of 1970. Supposedly a half-brother of Eddie Boyd (who, as mentioned, Green had previously recorded two albums with), Memphis Slim (John Len “Peter” Chatman, 1915-1988) was born in Memphis, Tennessee, but settled in Chicago in 1939 and began teaming up with Big Bill Broonzy. Having worked with Willie Dixon, Sonny Boy Williamson, Jazz Gillum and others, Memphis Slim moved to Paris in 1962, remaining in Europe for the rest of his life.
1971 saw the release of the album “Blue Memphis”, recorded with Peter Green on guitar and Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones on organ, among others. Chris Spedding, Duster Bennett and Stephen Thompson also contributed to one track each. The album was recorded by Martin Birch, who also recently passed away and had an article about his life in music published here at Stargazed Magazine. While now mostly remembered for his work with Deep Purple and Iron Maiden, Birch had also worked as an engineer on Fleetwood Mac’s “Then Play On” and Peter Green’s solo debut.
Peter Green also appeared at the Bath Festival of Blues and Progressive Music on June 27th, 1970, again playing with John Mayall and Aynsley Dunbar but also bassist Ric Grech (Family, Blind Faith, Traffic, Ginger Baker’s Air Force) and John’s brother Rod Mayall on organ.
As if all this was not enough for one year, Peter Green also contributed to three songs for Dave Kelly’s second solo album. Green joined Bob Brunning and Bob Hall of The Brunning Sunflower Band, in September of 1970, for the recording of “Gotta Keep Running”, “You Got It” and “Green Winter”.
A disciple Mississippi Fred McDowell, Kelly had been a member of John Dummer Blues Band and recorded his solo debut in 1969. Along with his sister, Jo-Ann Kelly, he also formed the band Tramp which recorded two albums with Bob Brunning, Bob Hall, Mick Fleetwood and Danny Kirwan.
Green went on to release two singles, the instrumental “Heavy Heart” b/w “No Way Out” (1971) and “Beasts Of Burden” b/w “Uganda Woman” (1972), for which he was joined by Nigel Watson on vocals for the B-side. Recorded in January 1971 with Snowy White as second guitarist, all four single tracks were eventually included as bonus track on re-issues of “The End of the Game”. Watson was the brother-in-law of Fleetwood Mac’s manager Clifford Davis and Green brought Watson along as conga player when he filled in with Fleetwood Mac on tour in 1971. Watson and Green would start working together again in 1996, eventually forming the Peter Green Splinter Group.
Clifford Davis was born “Clifford George Adams” but changed his surname in 1969 to avoid confusion with the vocal group The Cliff Adams Singers. He had worked for The Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein before becoming the manager for Fleetwood Mac in 1967. Davis eventually also embarked on a brief career as a recording artist, backed by Peter Green on all instruments.
Clifford Davis’ first single (recorded September 1969) contained two covers of songs that Peter Green had first written and recorded with Fleetwood Mac, “Before The Beginning” b/w “Man Of The World”. A second single was recorded in May 1970, the self-composed “Come On Down And Follow Me” b/w “Homework”, the same Otis Rush cover which was sung by Peter Green at the Chess sessions.
Having also managed Curved Air, his tenure as Fleetwood Mac’s band manager came to an end during 1974. Fleetwood Mac had fallen apart after an aborted tour in late 1973, leaving Davis with touring commitments to fulfil in the US. He then recruited other musicians, including ex-members of Curved Air, to tour the US as a fake replacement “Fleetwood Mac”. Not appreciated, naturally.
In June of 1971, Peter Green did a session for the album “B.B. King in London”. Among others, the album also featured Alexis Korner, Klaus Voormann, Steve Winwood, Gary Wright, Dr. John, Jim Price, Bobby Keys, Steve Marriott, Duster Bennett, Bill Perkins, Jim Keltner, and Ringo Starr. John Lennon had announced that he would perform but ended up having no involvement.
Peter Green only played on the opening track, “Caldonia”, a jump blues song first recorded in 1945 by Louis Jordan and his Tympany Five. Written by Jordan, “Caldonia” was credited to Jordan’s wife of the time, Fleecie Moore, to enable him to work with an additional music publisher.
In 1972 there were rumours saying Peter Green would fill in for a performance with Stone The Crows, whose founding guitarist Les Harvey (brother of Alex Harvey, the man with a Sensational Band) had been electrocuted onstage in front of a live audience in May 1972. Green opted out, however, and Steve Howe from Yes stood in.
Richard Kerr was primarily a songwriter, scoring his first hit with Don Partridge’s “Blue Eyes”. He’d written “Brandy” with and for Scott English in 1971, later a worldwide hit for Barry Manilow as “Mandy” in 1974. He also wrote Manilow’s 1976 hit “Looks Like We Made It”. Anyway, Richard Kerr released his first solo album in 1973, “From Now Until Then”. Produced by Martin Birch (who’d worked with Fleetwood Mac and Green solo), the recordings featured Terry Cox of The Pentangle on drums and Peter Green on the track “Be My Friend”.
Green also made an uncredited appearance on Fleetwood Mac’s 1973 album “Penguin”, their only release with vocalist Dave Walker, formerly of Savoy Brown and later briefly (November 1977-January 1978) in Black Sabbath. Peter Green can be heard playing guitar at the end of the song “Night Watch”, written and sung by Bob Welch. At this time, however, Green’s mental illness and drug use had become entrenched and he faded into professional obscurity.
Green was eventually diagnosed with schizophrenia and spent time in psychiatric hospitals undergoing electroconvulsive therapy during the mid-1970s. Many sources attest to his lethargic, trancelike state during this period. Green took on a number of menial jobs around this time, working as a hospital portier and a cemetary gardener. In 1977, Green was even arrested for threatening his accountant with a shotgun. Luckily, despite being put on prescription drugs when his family failed to grasp his LSD-fueled world view, Green eventually managed to become an active recording artist again.
Peter Green made a final uncredited Fleetwood Mac appearance on their double album “Tusk”. Written by Christine McVie, the recording of the song “Brown Eyes” took place in early summer of 1979 and featured Green and Lindsey Buckingham on guitars, Christine McVie on keys and vocals, John McVie on bass and Mick Fleetwood on drums.
1979 had also seen the release of Peter Green’s second solo album, “In The Skies”. With the help of his brother Michael, Peter Green got signed to Peter Vernon-Kell’s PVK label for a string of solo albums. Recorded back in the autumn of 1977, Green was credited as composer of all tracks off “In The Skies”, some co-credited to his wife at the time (Jane Samuels, a Canadian who gave birth to his daughter Rosebud before getting a divorce in 1979) and/or the other musicians on the album. These included former collaborators Snowy White, Peter Bardens, Reg Isidore and Godfrey Maclean.
Since appearing on Green’s first two solo singles, Terence Charles “Snowy” White had been asked to join Pink Floyd as second guitarist on their “Animals” tour in 1977. Having seen White play with Pink Floyd, Scott Gorham approached him in 1979 about joining Thin Lizzy. He went on to make the “Chinatown” and “Renegade” albums before leaving Thin Lizzy in August of 1982.
“In The Skies” included a new version of “A Fool No More”, previously issued on “The Original Fleetwood Mac”.
Recorded around the same time as Fleetwood Mac’s “Brown Eyes”, Peter Green’s “Little Dreamer” was released in April 1980. By this time, his brother Michael Greenbaum, a.k.a. Mike Green, was credited with writing almost all of the material for him. Peter Green himself was only co-credited for composing the title track. The album also included one cover song, “Born Under a Bad Sign”. First recorded for Albert King’s 1967 album debut for Stax Records, this immortal blues classic has lyrics by R&B singer William Bell and music by Stax bandleader Booker T. Jones of Booker T. & the M.G.’s.
The only co-musician remaining from the “In The Skies” sessions was bass player Kuma Harada, performing on “One Woman Love”. Bass player on another track was John ‘Rhino’ Edwards, who’d join Status Quo in 1986 after stints in Dexys Midnight Runners and the Climax Blues Band. Worth noting is that Dave Mattacks of Fairport Convention (1969-1997) plays drums on the album. A noted session musician, Mattacks has also performed with The Albion Country Band, Nick Drake, Steeleye Span, John Martyn, Brian Eno, 801, Richard Thompson, Jethro Tull, Jimmy Page, Elton John, XTC, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Cat Stevens, and others.
Recorded around a year later, “Whatcha Gonna Do?” (1981) was Green’s 4th solo album. Recorded with many of the same musicians as on “Little Dreamer” (Dave Mattacks on drums, bassist Paul Westwood and Roy Shipston on keys), this one featured only songs written by Green’s brother Mike.
Also recorded for PVK Records around the time of “Whatcha Gonna Do?” (autumn of 1980) was Brian Knight’s “A Dark Horse”. Knight had been a part of the British blues scene in the early 1960s, turning down an opportinity to become vocalist in Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated to form a band with Brian Jones. Brian Knight and Geoff Bradford were both present for the first rehearsal after Mick Jagger, Dick Taylor (bass player, soon replaced by Bill Wyman) and Keith Richards left Blues Incorporated to join Brian Jones and Ian Stewart. However, Knight opted not to join the band which became The Rolling Stones, having objected to play songs by Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley.
In addition to Peter Green, “A Dark Horse” was recorded with Geoff Bradford (guitar), Ian Stewart (piano), drummer Charlie Watts (who eventually left Blues Incorporated and joined the Stones in 1963) and Dick Heckstall-Smith, the saxophone player who’d played with Blues Incorporated, The Graham Bond Organisation and John Mayall before founding jazz-rock band Colosseum.
In late 1980, Peter Green recorded guitar for two tracks off “The Disappearing Boy” by Duffo, the Australian singer Geoff “Jeff” Stephen Duff. Green played on the tracks “Lost In My Room” and “The Idiot”. The former also featured guitar by Ronnie Johnson, one of Green’s co-musicians at the time.
Soon after, Peter Green made contributions to his old band mate Mick Fleetwood’s 1981 solo album debut “The Visitor”. Credited as Peter Greenbaum, Green sang lead vocals and played lead guitar on a re-make of “Rattlesnake Shake”, his own composition off 1969’s “Then Play On”. Green also played “theme guitar” on “Super Brains” while The Beatles’ George Harrison appeared on a re-make of the 1979 “Tusk” track “Walk a Thin Line”, written by Lindsey Buckingham.
“White Sky” was recorded in May of 1981 and released in June 1982 on Green’s new label, Creole Records. Again, all of the material was credited to Mike Green, who even got to sing lead vocals on the track “White Sky (Love That Evil Woman)”. These recordings re-united Peter Green with guitarist Ronnie Johnson (who’d played on “Little Dreamer”), Larry Steel (who also played bass on the Memphis Slim album) and drummer Reg Isidore, who’d played on “In The Skies” and Peter Barden’s “The Answer”. Webster Johnson (keyboards) only appeared on these sessions but percussionist Jeff Whittaker would also take part in Katmandu, Green’s next studio project.
While Peter Green – by this time using his birth name, Peter Greenbaum – made no further studio recordings as a solo artist, the following years saw him touring with a backing band called Kolors.
An album called “Kolors” was released in 1983, containing outtakes from the sessions for “Little Dreamer”, “Whatcha Gonna Do?” and “White Sky”. Further outtakes from this period were eventually released on the 1988 compilation album “Legend”. Again, most of the material was composed by Mike Green. Peter himself was only credited for “Funky Jam” and co-credited for “Bandit”.
As 1983 turned into 1984, Peter Green got together with some friends to record what became the 1985 album “A Case of the Blues”. The short-lived band Katmandu featured the “White Sky” percussionist Jeff Whittaker, drummer Greg Terry-Short and Len Surtees on bass guitar. In addition to Green, the more famous musicians in the band were Mungo Jerry’s frontman Ray Dorset and keyboard player Vincent Crane. Having started out in The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, Crane had led his own Atomic Rooster since 1969. Earlier in 1983, Vincent Crane had recorded the final Atomic Rooster album, “Headline News”, with Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour and Gillan’s Bernie Tormé on guitars. Also suffering of mental illness, Crane sadly died of a deliberate overdose in 1989. Either way, “A Case of the Blues” featured one song credited to Green, “Strangers Blues”.
Green’s last recordings from the 1980s can be heard on the 1986 album “A Touch Of Sunburn” by The Enemy Within, a group led by singer/songwriter Lawrie “The Raven” Gaines. Also featuring guitarist Mick Green (no relation) of The Pirates, the album was later re-issued as “Two Greens Make A Blues”. Peter Green can be heard on two excellent tracks, “Chinese White Boy” and “Post Modern Blues”.
Enduring periods of mental illness and destitution throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Green had moved in with his mother and his older brother Len’s family. Sadly, his medications left him increasingly unable to make music until waning himself from prescription tranquilizers.
Peter Green finally re-emerged in 1996, first appearing on the song “That’s The Way God Planned It” by the SAS Band, or Spike’s All Stars. Formed in 1994 by Spike Edney, touring musician for Queen since 1984, the original band featured Cozy Powell on drums and Neil Murray on bass. They don’t play on “That’s The Way God Planned It” (Queen’s Roger Taylor and John Deacon does) but they’d soon join Green and Edney in the Splinter Group. The song was included on the 1997 album “SAS Band”, with vocal performances by Kiki Dee , Chris Thompson, Roger Chapman, and others.
The musicians who’d make the first Splinter Group album first recorded a cover of “Midnight” for the 1996 album “TWANG! A Tribute to Hank Marvin and the Shadows”. Written by guitarists Hank Marvin and Bruce Welch, “Midnight” was first released as a B-side by The Shadows in 1961.
Peter Green and his old friend Nigel Watson also recorded a version of Robert Johnson’s 1937 classic “Travelling Riverside Blues” for the 1997 compilation “Knights of the Blues Table”.
Recorded live on tour in December of 1996, the self-titled debut album by the Peter Green Splinter Group” was released in 1997. Essentially the comeback album for Green, having been out of the music business for around 10 years, the album consisted entirely of covers of old blues songs. As mentioned, Green was initially joined by Nigel Watson (guitar, vocals) and Spike Edney (keyboards) but also the legendary rhythm section of drummer Cozy Powell (ex-Rainbow, The Jeff Beck Group, MSG, Bedlam, etc.) and bassist Neil Murray (ex-Colosseum II, Gilgamesh, National Health, Bruford, Gary Moore, etc.), who’d previously played together in Cozy Powell’s Hammer, Whitesnake, Phenomena, Forcefield, Black Sabbath and The Brian May Band.
Continuing to play mostly old blues standards and songs written by Nigel Watson – Green’s partner from the first solo singles of the early 1970s – the Peter Green Splinter Group would released eight albums before disbanding in 2004. Edney and Powell departed soon after the debut, the latter going on to record with Yngwie Malmsteen and Colin Blunstone of The Zombies before perishing in a 1998 car crash. Neil Murray stayed on with the Splinter Group for two more albums.
After replacing Edney and Powell with Roger Cotton and Larry Tolfre, the Splinter Group went on to record “The Robert Johnson Songbook”, featuring 16 songs composed by the legendary blues artist. Released in 1998, the album won a WC Handy Award in 1999 for “Best Comeback Album”.
Robert Leroy Johnson (1911-1938) from Mississippi was only 27 at the time of his death, with his entire recorded output – 29 songs – put to tape during two sessions in 1936 and 1937. His work only reached a wider audience when the compilation “King of the Delta Blues Singers” was released by Columbia Records in 1961, becoming a huge influence on Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton (who’d make a similar cover album in 2004, “Me and Mr. Johnson”), Keith Richards, Robert Plant and Peter Green.
The final track on the Songbook album, “Sweet Home Chicago” features Bad Company’s Paul Rodgers on vocals, having himself had a return to form (after lesser albums with The Firm and The Law) with “Muddy Water Blues: A Tribute to Muddy Waters” in 1993. Rodgers first made it big with the excellent blues rock band Free, formed in 1968, but he’d previously played with Micky Moody (of later Whitesnake fame) and Bruce Thomas in a band called The Roadrunners. As mentioned, Bruce Thomas and Peter Green played together on Peter Bardens’ “The Answer”.
15 years old at the time, Free’s bass player Andy Fraser had been a member of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers for six weeks, following the departure of John McVie and before adding Tony Reeves for 1968’s “Bare Wires”. Simon Kirke, the drummer, had spent six months in Paul Kossoff’s band Black Cat Bones before the pair left for Free. Kossoff joined the Chicago-style blues band in 1966, often supporting Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac in addition to backing and recording with blues piano player Champion Jack Dupree. Kossoff and Kirke left before the recording of “Barbed Wire Sandwich”, the Black Cat Bones’ only album release, for which they were joined by future Foghat guitarist/vocalist Rod Price. The founding brothers Derek and Stuart Brooks were next joined by vocalist Pete French (later in Atomic Rooster and Cactus) and guitarist Mike Halls from the Brunning Sunflower Blues Band, thus becoming the hard rock band Leaf Hound. It’s all connected, man!
Speaking of tribute albums with cover songs, Peter Green had one made for himself a few years earlier. Gary Moore’s “Blues For Greeny” (1995) was recorded with the same guitar used to record the original tracks. Gary Moore (1952-2011) first heard Green play at a performance with John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, of which he said: “It was an amazing experience just to hear a guitarist walk on stage and plug into this amplifier, which I thought was a pile of shit, and get this incredible sound. He was absolutely fantastic, everything about him was so graceful.” Moore eventually met Green in January 1970, when his band Skid Row toured with Fleetwood Mac. The two became friends and Green eventually sold his 1959 Gibson Les Paul to Moore for around £100. The guitar, nicknamed “Greeny”, is known for its unusual tone, the result of a reversed neck pickup. Moore used the guitar for most of his career until he sold it in 2006 for somewhere between $750,000 and $1.2 million. The guitar was purchased by Metallica’s Kirk Hammett in 2014 for reportedly “less than $2 million”.
The double CD “Soho Session” (1999) was recorded live at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club on the same night (April 5th, 1998) that Cozy Powell – their previous drummer – was killed in a road accident. Featuring songs from Green’s days with Fleetwood Mac (“Black Magic Woman”, “Rattlesnake Shake”, “Albatross”, “The Green Manalishi”) and the Bluesbreakers (“The Supernatural”), this was the last Splinter Group album to feature Neil Murray.
Pete Stroud replaced Murray on bass guitar and the Splinter Group line-up thus remained the same (Green, Watson, Cotton, Tolfree, Stroud) for their last five albums. The studio album “Destiny Road” (1999) was their first to feature new original material, with four compositions by Roger Cotton, three by Nigel Watson and two by Pete Stroud. It also featured re-recordings of two compositions by Peter Green, the Fleetwood Mac classic “Man of the World” and “Tribal Dance” off “In The Skies”.
They also recorded “Madison Blues” by Elmore James and “There’s a River”, a song off a 1982 solo album by the former frontman of the Spencer Davis Group, Traffic and Blind Faith. Steve Winwood wrote “There’s a River” with Will Jennings, a man who also collaborated with Richard Kerr (whose debut album Peter Green played on) and wrote songs for B.B. King before striking commercial gold with Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven”, Whitney Houston’s “Didn’t We Almost Have It All” and Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On”. Jennings also wrote the lyrics to “Up Where We Belong”, a song written for Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes by Jack Nitzsche and Buffy Sainte-Marie.
As mentioned, Robert Johnson recorded 29 distinct songs in 1936-37 but the album “The Robert Johnson Songbook” only featured 16 songs. The remaining 13 were thus recorded for “Hot Foot Powder” in the year 2000. The Splinter Group were now joined by a number of notable blues musicians: Buddy Guy (guitar on “Cross Road Blues”), Hubert Sumlin (guitar on “Dead Shrimp Blues”), Otis Rush (guitar on “I’m a Steady Rollin’ Man” and “Little Queen of Spades”), Dr. John (piano on “From Four Until Late” and “They’re Red Hot”), David Honeyboy Edwards and Joe Louis Walker, the latter two playing guitar on “Traveling Riverside Blues”.
“Buddy” Guy and “Honeyboy” Edwards had also played with Peter Green during Fleetwood Mac’s legendary jams at Chess Records in 1969.
Peter Green played guitar on “Cruel Contradictions”, a song off “Blues and Beyond” (2001) by Dick Heckstall-Smith and friends. Green had previously played with saxophone player Dick Heckstall-Smith on Brian Knight’s “A Dark Horse” back in 1980.
Dick Heckstall-Smith (1934-2004) played on the 1962 debut by Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated before founding The Graham Bond Organisation (1963-1967), the breakaway unit also featuring guitarist John McLaughlin (later with Miles Davis and The Mahavishnu Orchestra), Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker. As the latter two left to form Cream with Eric Clapton in 1966, Bond and Heckstall-Smith reformed the Organisation with Jon Hiseman on drums. The latter two joined John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers in 1967, joining future Rolling Stones guitarist Mick Taylor and bassist Tony Reeves. Together they released one album, 1968’s “Bare Wires”. Prior to replacing Andy Fraser (who left for Free, having briefly replaced John McVie), Tony Reeves had played in bands with Jon Hiseman and Dave Greenslade. Much like Green, Fleetwood and McVie had done the previous year, Hiseman, Reeves and Heckstall-Smith soon left Mayall to form a band of their own, Colosseum (1968-1971), with keyboardist Dave Greenslade. Prior to their initial split, Dave “Clem” Clempson, Mark Clarke (prior to briefly joining Uriah Heep) and Chris Farlowe had also joined Colosseum.
Dick Heckstall-Smith released his first solo album in 1972, having also joined Jon Hiseman on the Jack Bruce solo debut “Songs for a Tailor” in 1969. Meanwhile, Tony Reeves and Dave Greenslade formed Greenslade, Clem Clempson replaced Peter Frampton in Humble Pie (and later formed the short-lived band Rough Diamond with Uriah Heep’s David Byron) and Jon Hiseman formed Tempest with bassist Mark Clarke, being joined Allan Holdsworth (ex-Nucleus) and Patto’s Ollie Halsall on guitars. Hiseman eventually formed Colosseum II with Gary Moore and Don Airey in 1975.
Either way, “Blues and Beyond” also featured Jon Hiseman, Clem Clempson, Jack Bruce, John Mayall and Mick Taylor, all of whom played with Dick Heckstall-Smith in the 1960s. The album also featured Paul Jones (ex-Manfred Mann), Gary Husband (who has worked with Allan Holdsworth and Jack Bruce) and co-producer Pete Brown, Jack Bruce’s co-writer for Cream.
Also released in 2001 was “Time Traders”, the first album by the Peter Green Splinter Group to feature only material composed by the band members. Nigel Watson composed three of the tracks while Roger Cotton and Peter Stroud were credited for four each. There was also a re-recording of “Uganda Woman”, the Watson composition which was released as a Peter Green single B-side back in 1972. The album also included one Peter Green composition, a new version of the instrumental “Underway”. First released on Fleetwood Mac’s 1969 album, “Then Play On”, this version features Snowy White, the guitarist who played on Green’s 1979 album “In the Skies”.
While “Time Traders” most resembled “Destiny Road”, 2001 also saw a release more in the style of the first album by the Peter Green Splinter Group. Originally only available at concerts or via the band’s official website, “Blues Don’t Change” was another collection of songs originally recorded by mostly various blues legends. This included two songs first recorded by Jimmy Reed (1925-1976), “Take Out Some Insurance” (1959) and “Honest I Do” from 1957.
The opening track, “I Believe My Time Ain’t Long”, was the very first single released by Fleetwood Mac back in 1967. Variously credited to Elmore James or Jeremy Spencer, it’s actually a variation on the Robert Johnson song “Dust My Broom”. Other songs included Muddy Waters’ “Honey Bee” (1951), Willie Dixon’s “Little Red Rooster” (recorded by Howlin’ Wolf in 1961), “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out” (Jimmy Cox, 1923) and “Crawlin’ King Snake”, as popularized by John Lee Hooker. The Splinter Group also recorded a version of Leon Russell’s “Help Me Through the Day”, which was first released by Freddie King in 1973 but also famously covered by Whitesnake on 1979’s “Lovehunter” album. “Blues Don’t Change” also included the title track (Mack Rice, John Gary Williams) and “When It All Comes Down”, written by Will Jennings and Joe Sample. Will Jennings also co-wrote “There’s a River” for Steve Winwood, as covered on “Destiny Road”.
In 2002, Chris Coco – the electronica artist Christopher Mellor – included a version of the instrumental Fleetwood Mac classic “Albatross” on his debut album “Next Wave”. Peter Green was featured on guitar and several versions of the song were released on various single releases.
Released in the same year, Peter Green could also be heard playing guitar on Peter Gabriel’s “Sky Blue”. The song was included on “Up”, the first non-soundtrack studio album from the former Genesis frontman in ten years. “Up” was also Gabriel’s last album of new original material to date.
The final album by the Peter Green Splinter Group, “Reaching the Cold 100” was released in February of 2003. Much like “Time Traders”, this one included all original material by the other band members. Roger Cotton wrote four songs, Pete Stroud contributed three compositions and Nigel Watson was co-credited with Owen Parker for six tracks. Parker had previously contributed backing vocals on the “Time Traders” track “Uganda Woman”.
Following a legal dispute with Nigel Watson, Peter Green moved to Sweden for three years, living with a girlfriend in Karlstad. This woman then moved with Green to England, playing bass and co-writing music. Sadly, Peter Green was not allowed to move back to Sweden with her after this.
In 2009, he toured Europe with Mike Dodd (rhythm guitar, vocals), Geraint Watkins (keyboards), Andrew Flude (drums), Martin Winning (tenor sax) and bass player Matt Radford. Billed as “Peter Green and Friends”, the tour was abruptly cancelled in 2010.
There were sadly no further recordings released prior to Peter Green’s death.
Mick Fleetwood organized a big tribute concert to Peter Green in London on February 25th, 2020. Among those paying tribute were John Mayall, Jonny Lang, David Gilmour of Pink Floyd, Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, Pete Townshend of The Who, Bill Wyman of the Rolling Stones, Noel Gallagher of Oasis, Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, Christine McVie and Jeremy Spencer.
Metallica’s Kirk Hammett – the current owner of Peter Green’s old Les Paul – was also present, but Peter Green himself wasn’t. Apparently, he was at home drinking tea with former Whitesnake guitarist Bernie Marsden. Marsden himself released a tribute album to Peter Green called “Green and Blues” in 1995, the same year as Gary Moore did the same.
Peter Green, a man deserving all praise, respect and admiration. Rest in peace!
Selected discography featuring Peter Green:
1967: John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers with Paul Butterfield (EP)
1967: John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers – A Hard Road
1967: Eddie Boyd and His Blues Band featuring Peter Green
1968: Eddie Boyd with Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac – 7936 South Rhodes
1968: Fleetwood Mac – Fleetwood Mac
1968: Fleetwood Mac – Mr. Wonderful
1969: Fleetwood Mac – Then Play On
1969: Fleetwood Mac – The Pious Bird of Good Omen (recorded 1967-1968)
1969: Fleetwood Mac – Fleetwood Mac in Chicago/Blues Jam in Chicago, Vols. 1–2
1969: Otis Spann – The Biggest Thing Since Colossus
1969: The Brunning Sunflower Band – Trackside Blues
1969: John Mayall – Looking Back (recorded 1966-1967)
1969: Clifford Davis – Before The Beginning/Man Of The World (7″)
1970: Clifford Davis – Come On Down And Follow Me/Homework (7″)
1970: Peter Bardens – The Answer
1970: Peter Green – The End of the Game
1971: Memphis Slim – Blue Memphis
1971: Fleetwood Mac – The Original Fleetwood Mac (recorded 1967-1968)
1971: John Mayall – Thru the Years (recorded 1967)
1971: Peter Green – Heavy Heart/No Way Out (7″)
1971: Peter Green & Nigel Watson – Beasts Of Burden/Uganda Woman (7″)
1979: Peter Green – In the Skies
1980: Peter Green – Little Dreamer
1981: Peter Green – Whatcha Gonna Do?
1981: Brian Knight – A Dark Horse
1982: Peter Green – White Sky
1983: Peter Green – Kolors (recorded 1979-1981)
1985: Katmandu – A Case for the Blues
1997: Peter Green Splinter Group – Peter Green Splinter Group
1998: Fleetwood Mac – Live in Boston (recorded 1970)
1998: Peter Green Splinter Group – The Robert Johnson Songbook
1999: Peter Green Splinter Group – Soho Session
1999: Peter Green Splinter Group – Destiny Road
2000: Peter Green Splinter Group – Hot Foot Powder
2001: Peter Green Splinter Group – Time Traders
2001: Peter Green Splinter Group – Blues Don’t Change
2003: Peter Green Splinter Group – Reaching the Cold 100
2015: John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers – Live In 1967
2016: John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers – Live In 1967: Volume Two