John McVie

Fleetwood Mac bassist John McVie was born 53 years ago today in London. After learning the guitar as a youth, McVie hooked up with his mentor, blues musician John Mayall. McVie began splitting his time between being a tax inspector by day and a bassist at night for Mayall's seminal band, the Bluesbreakers, in which he met drummer Mick Fleetwood and guitarist Peter Green, who replaced Eric Clapton in the band.

After leaving the Bluesbreakers, rising guitar-star Green began his own band with Fleetwood, but McVie elected to stay on with Mayall for a while. In September 1967, McVie jumped ship to join Green and Fleetwood and Fleetwood Mac (named for Fleetwood and McVie) was on its way.

Fleetwood Mac began building a following in England when the band met Christine Perfect, a singer and pianist for the blues band Chicken Shack. She married McVie in August 1968 and retired from music, only to be persuaded to join Fleetwood Mac in 1970 as Peter Green began to leave. She became famous with the group as Christine McVie.

In 1971, Fleetwood Mac adopted the penguin as its icon after McVie got a tattoo of the bird on his right arm. The McVies stuck it out with their band through an enormous number of personnel changes, until they hit pay dirt in 1975 with the addition of two Americans: Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham.

Along with that California couple, Fleetwood and the McVies made history with three albums of near-perfect California pop-folk-rock: 1975's Fleetwood Mac, Rumours (1977) -- the biggest selling studio album of all time by a band -- and 1979's Tusk. In 1977, the McVies split as a couple, but both remained with the band until Christine's departure in 1990.

One of McVie's only songwriting credits is for "The Chain" (RealAudio excerpt) from Rumours. McVie's unmistakable thumping bassline, especially at the group-written track's coda, is one of the highlights of Fleetwood Mac's recording career.

While staying with Fleetwood Mac through its subsequent -- and less successful incarnations -- and battling a heavy drinking problem, McVie released the album, John McVie's "Gotta Band" with Lola Thomas, in 1992. He played bass, sang background vocals and executive-produced the album.

McVie, along with Christine, Fleetwood, Nicks and Buckingham, toured with Fleetwood Mac last year behind the group's successful The Dance CD and video "reunion" project. The five, along with other members of the blues incarnation of Fleetwood Mac, were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in January.

Future Fleetwood Mac plans are on hold, as Christine McVie rests in England and Buckingham and Nicks ready new solo albums.

Other birthdays: Tina Turner, 59; and Bert Ruiter (Focus), 52.

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