Peter Allen Greenbaum
Born: Oct 29, 1946 in Bethnal Green, London, England
Styles: Blues, Blues-Rock, British Blues, Regional Blues, Electric Blues, Modern Electric Blues, Psychedelic, Contemporary Pop/ Rock, Guitar Virtuoso, British Psychedelia, Rock & Roll
Moods Instruments: Guitar, Songwriter, Vocals
His career riddled by drug abuse and paranoia, Peter Green is still regarded by some fans as the greatest white blues guitarist ever, Eric Clapton notwithstanding. As he grew up in London's working-class East End, Green's early musical influences were Hank B. Marvin of the Shadows, Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Freddie King, and traditional Jewish music.
Born Peter Greenbaum but calling himself Peter Green by age 15, he played bass before being invited in 1966 by keyboardist Peter Bardens to play lead in the Peter B's, whose drummer was a lanky chap named Mick Fleetwood. The 19-year-old Green was with Bardens just three months before joining John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, whose rapidly shifting personnel included bassist John McVie and drummer Aynsley Dunbar. A keen fan of Clapton, Green badgered Mayall to give him a chance when the Bluesbreakers guitarist split for an indefinite vacation in Greece. Green sounded great and, as Mayall recalls, was not amused when Clapton returned after a handful of gigs, and Green was out.
When Clapton left the band for good six months later to form Cream, Mayall cajoled Green back. Fans were openly hostile because Green was not God, although they appreciated Clapton's replacement in time. Producer Mike Vernon was aghast when the Bluesbreakers showed up without Clapton to record the album A Hard Road in late 1966, but was won over by Green's playing. On many tracks you'd be hard-pressed to tell it wasn't Clapton playing. With an eerie Green instrumental called "The Supernatural," he demonstrated the beginning of his trademark fluid, haunting style so reminiscent of B.B. King.
When Green left Mayall in 1967, he took McVie and Fleetwood to found Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac. Jeremy Spencer and Danny Kirwan shortly afterward gave Fleetwood Mac an unusual three-guitar front line. Green was at his peak for the albums Mr. Wonderful, English Rose, Then Play On, and a live Boston Tea Party recording. His instrumental "Albatross" was the band's first British number one single and "Black Magic Woman" was later a huge hit for Carlos Santana. But Green had been experimenting with acid and his behavior became increasingly irrational, especially after he disappeared for three days of rampant drug use in Munich. He became very religious, appearing on-stage wearing crucifixes and flowing robes. His bandmates resisted Green's suggestion to donate most of their money to charity, and he left in mid-1970 after writing a harrowing biographical tune called "The Green Manalishi."
After a bitter, rambling solo album called The End of the Game, Green saddened fans when he hung up his guitar, except for helping the Mac complete a tour when Spencer suddenly joined the Children of God in Los Angeles and quit the band. Green's chaotic odyssey of almost a decade included rumors that he was a gravedigger, a bartender in Cornwall, a hospital orderly, and a member of an Israeli commune. When an accountant sent him an unwanted royalty check, Green confronted his tormentor with a gun, although it was unloaded. Green went to jail briefly before being transferred to an asylum.
Green emerged in the late '70s and early '80s with albums In the Skies, Little Dreamer, White Sky, and Kolors, featuring at times Bardens, Robin Trower drummer Reg Isidore, and Fairport Convention drummer Dave Mattacks. He reprised the Then Play On Mac standard "Rattlesnake Shake" on Fleetwood's solo 1981 album, The Visitor. British author Martin Celmins wrote Green's biography in 1995. Psychologically troubled, on medication, and hardly playing the guitar for most of the '90s, the reclusive Green resumed sporadic recording in the second half of the decade. He surfaces unexpectedly from time to time, most prominently January 12, 1998, when Fleetwood Mac was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. In a rare, perfect moment, Green jammed with fellow inductee Santana on "Black Magic Woman."
- Mark Allan (All Music Guide)
Peter Greenbaum was born in the East End of London in 1946. He learnt guitar as a teenager. This was the era in England of the Shadows, and there is something of the reverb sound of Hank Marvin in Peter's playing, although other influences such as B B King and Otis Rush dominate.
Into the Sixties, and after playing with a few small time bands, Peter was playing with Peter B's Looners, a band featuring Peter Bardens on keyboards, and one Mick Fleetwood on drums. Peter started on bass, but soon graduated to lead guitar! This band became Shotgun Express, with the addition of singers such as Beryl Marsden and Rod Stewart.
I was a young kid at the time, but I remember travelling cross London to visit my Gran, and seeing a painted slogan on a wall. 'CLAPTON IS GOD!', it said. Well, that isn't what they taught me at my school! Clapton was God to many on the London Blues scene, however, in his role as lead guitarist with John Mayall's Bluesbreakers. Well, 'God' decided to take a holiday, and left Mayall. Peter Green was the choice of replacement. It was a hard act to follow, but Peter managed it. An album, 'A Hard Road' followed, with Peter writing a couple of songs, and developing his special lead style! The 'Green God' was born!
One recording in particular, shaped his style. Peter had written an instrumental, and the band recorded it for a single. 'The Supernatural' was many steps removed from a Hank Marvin instrumental! By 1967, Aynsley Dunbar, the drummer, had left Mayall, with Mick Fleetwood coming in. An instrumental was recorded featuring Green and Fleetwood, and also bass player with Mayall, John McVie. The track was called 'Fleetwood Mac'!
Fleetwood Mac consisted of those three, and Jeremy Spencer, a slide guitarist, given to Elmore James impersonations, and rock and roll pastiche. Early gigs featured Bob Brunning on bass, but soon, McVie was installed. In early shows, all the bases were covered, with the band being billed as 'Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac featuring Jeremy Spencer'! Peter brought his reputation as a fine player with him, and their first album, 'Fleetwood Mac' followed, staying in the British charts for over a year. An early single, 'Black Magic Woman' originally flopped, but a subsequent single, an instrumental called 'Albatross' found it's way to number one. A moody, beautiful piece, it indicated that Fleetwood Mac were maybe moving beyond the confines of the blues.
Blues on album did follow, though, culminating in 'Blues Jam at Chess', a double album in 1969, that featured the band playing with bluesmen such as Willie Dixon. They had also backed bluesmen such as Otis Spann and Eddie Boyd. The band had expanded, with another singer/guitarist, Danny Kirwan. As his role in the band increased, so Jeremy Spencer's decreased.
More singles came, 'Man of the World', with emotional vocals from Peter Green, who over dubbed many instruments on the track. 'Oh Well' a single in two parts, with Peter playing Cello, Spanish guitar and Recorder on part two. The album 'Then Play On' came out. This was an eclectic mix of sad Peter Green songs, whimsical Danny Kirwan songs, and some rabid jamming. A wonderful LP, but Peter's last with Mac.
Peter had not been immune to 60's 'culture' was beginning to have problems. He could not come to terms with the concept of his wealth, and wanted Fleetwood Mac to donate what they earned to charity. The others refused. He was also searching musically, towards a more improvised sound. One last single was recorded, 'The Green Manalishi', a song about money as the manifestation of the Devil. In 1970, Peter left the band, although he did Help them out when Jeremy Spencer disappeared midway through an American tour.
In the next few years, Peter was active musically. he released a jamming album, 'The End of the game', recorded in one night. It is patchy, but suffused with wonderful moments! He gigged around London, guested on several records with artist's as diverse as Memphis Slim, Bobby Tench's Gass and B B King, amongst others. He also recorded a brace of singles for Reprise. There was a possibility of him joining 'Stone the Crows', but by 1974, he had virtually disappeared, surfacing a couple of years later.
By this time, mental health problems had closed in on him, but by the late 70's, there was a slight return.
Peter Vernon Kell got Peter to record 'In The Skies'. This was an uneven but welcome return to a great guitarist. More albums followed, and some tentative live dates. Later albums would be lacklustre, and Peter was once more having problems. By 1984, he was again absent from the music scene, and I for one thought that we had seen the last of him. Years of illness, and drastic treatment followed, and Peter's life during this time was far from normal, but that was not the end of the story.
By 1995, interest in Peter was picking up again. Of course, there were many of us who never lost interest. Martin Celmins brought out a biography of Peter, and there was the Gary Moore 'tribute' album out. By 1996, Peter was reunited with old friend Nigel Watson, and the Splinter Group was born, with Peter having to relearn how to play from the start. Early dates were nervy affairs by all accounts, but now Peter is singing and playing better than at any time since the Fleetwood Mac days. The band has had some personnel changes, but compliments him wonderfully. Four Splinter group albums are available, with the music described recently by Peter as being "blues based". If Peter plays near you, do yourself a favour, and see that rarest of things, a musician who still 'feels' his music!