Fleetwood Mac's Peter Green

On this day in 1946, Peter Greenbaum, better known as Peter Green, was born in London. With drummer Mick Fleetwood, singer/guitarist Jeremy Spencer and bassist John McVie, Green formed Fleetwood Mac as a blues band in 1967. Green wrote some of their biggest early hits but departed a few years later, after suffering from mental problems.

McVie, Fleetwood and Green -- who became famous for his blazing guitar work -- were all members of John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, a seminal blues-band that launched the careers of many great rock guitarists, including Eric Clapton (whom Green replaced in the band) and Mick Taylor (who played for a time with the Rolling Stones).

During some spare studio time, Green, Fleetwood and bassist John McVie cut the tracks "Fleetwood Mac" (named after the rhythm section), "Double Trouble" and "It Hurts Me Too."

After Mayall fired Green and Fleetwood, the pair started Fleetwood Mac in July 1967; McVie, fired by Mayall shortly thereafter, joined the band in September. Fleetwood Mac released their first single, "I Believe My Time Ain't Long" (billed as Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac), in November. The group also became the house band for the Blues Horizon record label, for which it backed Otis Spann and a number of other artists.

The group's eponymous debut LP (1968) was a top seller in Britain for more than a year. Fleetwood Mac had hits with the Green-penned "Black Magic Woman" (with which Santana later scored a U.S. smash) and "Need Your Love So Bad." They also toured the U.S. in 1968.

The following year, the moody instrumental "Albatross," written by Green, topped the U.K. chart and the LP English Rose broke through the bottom of the U.S. album chart. Fleetwood Mac then issued another Green original, "Man of the World," which made it to #2 in the U.K. At the end of 1969, the band debuted on Reprise Records with Then Play On, featuring the British smash "Oh Well." The LP also did fairly well in the States, hitting #109.

During this period, Green renounced his Judaism and embraced Christianity, appearing onstage in a long, white robe intended to convey a messianic image. The next year, Green told the press he would give away all his earnings; he quit the band during a European tour. Mental problems were beginning to get the better of him, and he wrote about them in his last Fleetwood Mac single, "The Green Manalishi."

McVie's wife, Christine, joined Fleetwood Mac as keyboardist after the departure of Green, who spent the ensuing years in and out of mental homes and was sometimes homeless. While the mid-'70s lineup of Fleetwood Mac was achieving global superstardom, Green was working as a gravedigger and a hospital porter. He did, however, contribute guitar to "Brown Eyes," from the band's Tusk (1979), and he issued an instrumental LP, In The Skies, in 1979.

When the Rumours-era Fleetwood Mac were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame earlier this year, Green was the only former member also to be honored. He took advantage of this attention by later issuing his first album in almost 20 years, The Robert Johnson Songbook. The LP included new versions of songs by the late Delta-blues master, such as "Love In Vain" (made famous by The Rolling Stones), and featured former Bad Company singer Paul Rodgers on vocals. Green supported the album with a tour by his Splinter Group that included stops in major U.S. cities.

Earlier this year, Fleetwood said this about Green's recovery from his '70s-era suffering: "[It's been a] slow journey. He's healing himself. In my opinion, he was butchered by [the mental institutions] and treatments."

Other birthdays: Denny Laine (Moody Blues, Wings), 54; Kevin DuBrow (Quiet Riot), 43; Randy Jackson (Jacksons), 37; Einar Örn Benediktsson (Sugarcubes), 36; Pete Timmins (Cowboy Junkies), 33; and S. A. Martinez (311), 28.