Mick Fleetwood

Today is the 56th birthday of Fleetwood Mac drummer Mick Fleetwood, who

was born in London. Fleetwood began drumming with a band called the Cheynes and played with the Shotgun Express, featuring Rod Stewart, before joining John Mayall's Bluesbreakers.

In 1966, Fleetwood and fellow Bluesbreakers John McVie

(bass) and Peter Green (guitar) cut a few songs apart from Mayall,

including "Fleetwood Mac," named after the rhythm section. After Green

and Fleetwood were fired, they formed Fleetwood Mac in 1967, initially

without McVie, who opted to stay with the Bluesbreakers until a few

months later.

Fleetwood Mac carried on Mayall's blues tradition

and spotlighted Green's guitar expertise. Their 1968 eponymous debut

album began a series of British hits for the Mac, including the 1969

chart-topping instrumental single, "Albatross." The similarly

Green-penned "Man Of The World" hit #2 that same year. The band's final

album with Green, 1969's Then Play On, was another U.K. smash and

a minor U.S. hit. Critics were in the band's court, and the single "Oh

Well" made #2 in Britain.

But Green was losing his grip on reality and quit in 1970, unable to handle the pressures of stardom. Guitarist Jeremy Spencer took the creative lead for 1970's Kiln House, which was the band's last hit for quite a while. McVie's wife, British singer Christine Perfect, joined Fleetwood Mac in 1970 and her sweet vocals and hook-laden songwriting invigorated the Fleetwood/McVie rhythm section on albums such as 1972's Bare Trees, which fared

surprisingly better in the U.S.

But guitarists came and went, diffusing

the group's focus. Singer/guitarist Bob Welch was with the Mac from

1971-74 and contributed minor U.S. radio hits such as "Hypnotized." The

band moved to California in 1974, where Welch grew frustrated with their

lack of success and departed.

Welch replacements Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, discovered by

Fleetwood, turned the band's fortunes around and were largely

responsible for the worldwide mega-success of 1975's eponymous album and

1977's historic Rumours. After Fleetwood Mac toured behind their double-LP Tusk in 1979 and 1980, Fleetwood trekked to Africa to record his solo album The Visitor (1981) with tribal drummers. The cost of making the album, now long out of print, contributed to Fleetwood eventually filing for bankruptcy. Fleetwood Mac helped out his finances by reconvening for 1982's Mirage and 1987's Tango In The Night. But Buckingham, the group's creative center, grew restless, leaving the other members to go on with different incarnations and varying degrees of success.

When Nicks left in 1990, many assumed that Fleetwood would pack it up, but he continued with a lineup fronted by ex-Traffic rocker Dave Mason that was a critical and popular failure. It delighted him when Nicks, Buckingham and the McVies agreed to reunite for the successful 1997 album and

TV special, The Dance.

Fleetwood, who said he and John McVie

felt like "pigs in shit," took advantage of the renewed success by

coordinating a 1998 album, Legacy: A Tribute to Fleetwood Mac's

'Rumours', featuring popular artists performing the songs from

Fleetwood Mac's 1977 classic. He will reportedly drum for Buckingham's

solo tour later this year.

Describing Fleetwood's unending involvement with the group that he created three decades ago, Christine McVie once said, "Mick's the big daddy (of the band)."

Other birthdays: Arthur Brown, 56; Jeff Beck, 54; Bruce Johnston (the Beach Boys), 54; Colin Blunstone (Zombies), 53; Patrick Moraz (Yes/The Moody Blues), 50; Astro (UB40), 41; Andy McClusky (Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark), 39; Dennis Danell (Social Distortion), 37; and Curt Smith (ex-Tears For Fears), 37.