Peter Green (musician)
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Peter Green (born Peter Allen Greenbaum, 29 October 1946, in Bethnal Green, London) is a British blues-rock guitarist and the founder of the band Fleetwood Mac. Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998 for his work with the group, Green's compositions have been covered by artists such as Santana, Aerosmith, Tom Petty, and Judas Priest.
A major figure and bandleader in the "second great epoch" of the British blues movement, Green inspired B. B. King to say, "He has the sweetest tone I ever heard; he was the only one who gave me the cold sweats." Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page have both lauded his guitar playing. Green's playing was marked with idiomatic string bending and vibrato and economy of style. Though he played other guitars, he is best known for deriving a unique tone from his 1959 Gibson Les Paul.
He was ranked 38th in Rolling Stone's list of the "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time". His tone on the Bluesbreakers instrumental "The Super-Natural" was rated as one of the fifty greatest of all time by Guitar Player. In June 1996 Green was voted the third-best guitarist of all time in Mojo magazine.
Green first played in a band called Bobby Denim and the Dominoes which performed pop chart covers and rock 'n' roll standards. Later he joined a rhythm and blues outfit the Muskrats, then a band called The Tridents in which he played bass. In 1966, Green played lead guitar in Peter Bardens' band "Peter B's Looners", where he met Mick Fleetwood, the Looners' drummer. It was here that he made his recording début with the single "If You Wanna Be Happy / Jodrell Blues". "If You Wanna Be Happy" was an instrumental cover of a Jimmy Soul song.
John Mayall's Bluesbreakers
After three months with Bardens' group, Green had the opportunity to fill in for Eric Clapton in John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, for three concerts. Soon after, upon Clapton's departure from the Bluesbreakers, he became a full-time member of Mayall's band.Mike Vernon, a producer at Decca recalls Peter's début 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." Then he introduced me to Peter Green.
Green made his recording début with the Bluesbreakers on the album A Hard Road which featured two of his own compositions, "The Same Way" and "The Supernatural". The latter was one of Green's first instrumentals, which would soon become a trademark. So proficient was he that his musician friends bestowed upon him the nickname "The Green God". In 1967, Green decided to form his own blues band, and left John Mayall's Bluesbreakers.
Green's new band, with ex-Bluesbreaker Mick Fleetwood on drums and Jeremy Spencer on guitar was initially called "Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac featuring Jeremy Spencer". Bob Brunning was recruited for bass; Green's first choice, Bluesbreakers' bassist John McVie was not ready to make the move. Within a month of forming in mid '67, they played the Windsor National Jazz and Blues Festival and were quickly signed to Mike Vernon's Blue Horizon label. Playing a repertoire of blues covers and blues originals, mostly written by Green but some by slide guitarist Spencer, their first single "I Believe My Time Ain't Long"/"Rambling Pony" did not chart, but their self-titled début album made a significant mark, staying on the British charts for over a year. By September John McVie had reconsidered and joined the band.
Although classic blues covers and blues-styled originals remained prominent in the band's repertoire through this period, Green rapidly blossomed as a writer, contributing many successful original compositions from 1968 onwards, and the songs the chosen for single release showed Green's style gradually moving away from the group's blues roots into new musical territory. In 1968 the Mac scored a hit with Green's "Black Magic Woman", (later covered more successfully by Santana) followed by 1969's number one in the British Singles Chart, the classic guitar instrumental "Albatross". More Green-penned hits followed, including "Oh Well", "Man of the World" (1969 both) and the ominous "The Green Manalishi"(1970). Their second studio album Mr. Wonderful continued the formula of the first album, and for their their third release, the double-LP Blues Jam at Chess, the band made the pilgrimage to the legendary Chess Records Ter-Mar Studio in Chicago where, under the joint supervision of Vernon and Marshall Chess, they recorded with some of their American blues heroes including Otis Spann, Willie Dixon, J.T. Horton and Buddy Guy.
In 1970 the group signed with Warner Bros. Records and recorded their fourth studio album Then Play On, which featured the group's newly recruited third guitarist Danny Kirwan; he featured prominently on the LP, whereas Spencer made virtually no contribution, due to his reported refusal to play on any of Green's original material, which dominated the album.
Beginning with Man of the World's sad lyric, Green's bandmates began to notice changes in his state of mind. He took large doses of acid, grew a beard, wore robes and a crucifix. Mick Fleetwood recalls Green becoming concerned about wealth: "I had conversations with Peter Green around that time and he was obsessive about us NOT making money, wanting us to give it all away. And I'd say, 'Well you can do it, I don't wanna do that, and that doesn't make me a bad person.'"
While touring Europe in late March 1970, Green binged on LSD at a party at a commune in Munich—an incident cited by Fleetwood Mac manager Clifford Davis as the crucial point in his mental decline. Communard Rainer Langhans mentions in his autobiography that he and Uschi Obermaier met Green in Munich, where they invited him to their Highfisch-Kommune. Their real intention was to persuade Green to help arrange for Jimi Hendrix and The Rolling Stones to perform as headline acts at a Woodstock styled festival, in Bavaria. Fleetwood Mac roadie Dinky Dawson remembers that Green went to the party with another roadie, Dennis Keane, and that when Keane returned to the band's hotel to explain that Green would not leave the commune, Keane, Dawson and Mick Fleetwood travelled to the commune to fetch Green. By contrast, Green had fond memories of jamming at the commune 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." After a final performance on 20 May 1970, Green left the band that he founded.
In late June 1970, Green appeared at the Bath Festival with John Mayall, Rod Mayall (organ) and Larry Taylor (bass). The same year he recorded a jam session entitled The End of the Game; it would be 9 years before his next album release. In 1971 he had a brief reunion with Fleetwood Mac helping them to complete a USA tour when Jeremy Spencer left the group. Other than two 1970 tracks with Bobby Tench's band Gass (featured on Juju) , 2 singles as Peter Green and Peter Green's "Beast of Burden", a gig at B. B. King London sessions in 1972, an uncredited appearance on Fleetwood Mac's "Penguin" LP in 1973, Green succumbed to mental illness, drug use and professional obscurity from which he only began to emerge in 1979. During this period he sold his signature 1959 Gibson Les Paul sunburst guitar to Northern Irish guitarist Gary Moore.
Illness and first re-emergence
By this time Green had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and he spent time in psychiatric hospitals undergoing electroconvulsive therapy during the mid 1970s. Many sources attest to his lethargic, trancelike state during this period. In 1977, he was arrested for threatening his accountant, Clifford Davis, with a shotgun, but the exact circumstances are the subject of much speculation, the most popular being that Green wanted Davis to stop sending money to him. After this incident he was sent to a psychiatric institution in London.
In 1979 Green began to re-emerge professionally. With the help of his brother Michael he was signed to Peter Vernon-Kell's PVK label. He made an uncredited appearance on Fleetwood Mac's double-LP Tusk, released that year.
In 1981, he contributed to "Rattlesnake Shake" and "Super Brains" on Mick Fleetwood's solo album The Visitor. He recorded various sessions with a number of other musicians notably the Katmandu album A Case for the Blues with Ray Dorset (Mungo Jerry), Vincent Crane (The Crazy World of Arthur Brown) and Len Surtees (The Nashville Teens). Despite some attempts by Gibson to start talks about producing a Peter Green signature Les Paul guitar, his instrument of choice at this time was a Gibson Howard Roberts Fusion. In recent years Green has often been seen playing this guitar at live performances.
Peter Green Splinter Group
A late 1990s comeback saw Green form the Peter Green Splinter Group, with the assistance of fellow musicians including Nigel Watson and Cozy Powell. The Splinter Group released nine albums between 1997 and 2004. It was in the latter part of this period that he began to play his ebony coloured Gibson Les Paul guitar again. Green signed and sold this guitar, which had been tweaked to sound similar to his green burst model of the same guitar and is now owned by a UK guitar enthusiast.
Early in 2004, a tour was cancelled and the recording of a new studio album stopped, when Green left the band and moved to Sweden. Shortly thereafter he joined The British Blues All Stars, for a tour scheduled for the next year. However, this tour was cancelled after the death of saxophonist Dick Heckstall-Smith. At the time, Green stated that the medication he was taking to treat his psychological problems was making it hard for him to concentrate and sapped his desire to play guitar.
In February 2009 he began playing and touring again, this time with Peter Green and Friends. In May 2009 he was the subject for the BBC Four documentary "Peter Green: Man of the World", produced by Henry Hadaway. Green and the band subsequently played a tour of Ireland, Germany and England. The band has gone on to play several dates in Australia in March 2010, including the Byron Bay Bluesfest. The band were supported by the singer/songwriter Andrew Morris on several of their UK tour dates in December 2009 and March 2010.
Green remains ambivalent about his songwriting success and more recently stated to Guitar Player magazine:
Green has been praised for his swinging shuffle grooves and soulful phrases and favoured the minor mode and its darker blues implications. His distinct tone can be heard on "The Super-Natural", an instrumental written by Green for John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers' 1967 album A Hard Road. This song demonstrates Green's control of harmonic feedback. The sound is characterized by a shivering vibrato, clean cutting tones and a series of ten second sustained notes. These tones were achieved by Green controlling feedback on a Les Paul guitar.
Early in his career he played a Harmony Meteor, a cheap hollow-body guitar, but quickly started playing a Les Paul with The Bluesbreakers and Green's guitar was often referred to as his "magic guitar". In 2000 he told Guitar Player magazine : "I never had a magic one. Mine wasn't magic...It just barely worked.". In part, his unique tone derived from a modification to the neck pickup which was reversed and rewired, a modification made after 1967. On stage with Fleetwood Mac, he used an Orange amplifier without any effects. However, there is concert footage of the band standing in front of a wall of Fender amplifiers, which appear to be Dual Showman Reverb heads with the matching two by fifteen cabinets.
In the 1990s he played a 1960s Fender Stratocaster and his Gibson Howard Roberts Fusion with a Fender Blues DeVille and a Vox AC30 amplifier. The modification on the neck pickup was the reversal of one of the magnets,which put it out of phase.
Many rock guitarists have cited Peter Green as an influence, most notably Gary Moore, Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry, Steve Hackett, and Wishbone Ash guitarist Andy Powell. Green was Black Crowes' Rich Robinson's pick in Guitar World's "30 on 30: The Greatest Guitarists Picked by the Greatest Guitarists" (2010) In the same article Robinson cites Jimmy Page, with whom the Crowes toured: "...he told us so many Peter Green stories. It was clear that Jimmy loves the mans talent." In an interview with Dan Forte from Guitar World magazine, which was reprinted in Guitar Legends in 1993, Eric Clapton acknowledged Green's skills as a guitar player when recalling a chance meeting with him in the mid 1980s:
In an interview with Guitar Player in 2000, Green acknowledged Clapton's influence, stating
Peter was born into a Jewish family, the youngest of Joe and Ann Greenbaum's four children. His brother Michael taught him his first guitar chords, and by age 11 Peter was teaching himself, going on to begin playing professionally at 15.
Enduring periods of mental illness and destitution throughout the 70's and 80's, punctuated by efforts at comeback, in 1991/92 he moved in with his eldest brother Len and his wife Gloria, and his mother in their house in Great Yarmouth, where a process of recovery began.
He married Jane Samuels in January 1978; the couple divorced in 1979. They have a daughter, Rosebud Samuels-Greenbaum (b. 1978).