John Graham McVie (born on 26 November 1945) is a British bass guitarist best known as a member of the rock group Fleetwood Mac. His surname, combined with that of Mick Fleetwood, was the inspiration for the band's name. He joined Fleetwood Mac shortly after its formation by guitarist Peter Green in 1967, replacing temporary bassist Bob Brunning.
In 1968 he married blues pianist and singer Christine Perfect, who became a member of Fleetwood Mac two years later. John and Christine McVie divorced, however, in 1977, about the time the band recorded the album Rumours, a major artistic and commercial success, and which borrowed its title from the turmoils in McVie's and other band members' marriages and relationships.
John Graham McVie was born in Ealing, West London, to Reg and Dorothy McVie and attended Walpole Grammar School. At age 14, McVie began playing the guitar in local bands covering songs by The Shadows. However, he soon realised that all of his friends were learning to play lead guitar, so he decided to play the bass guitar instead. Initially, he just removed the top two (E and B) strings from his guitar to play the bass parts. When his parents became aware of his musical abilities, his father bought him a pink Fender bass guitar. Incidentally, this model was the same that The Shadows' bass player, and McVie's major early musical influence, Jet Harris, had played.
Walpole Grammar, like many other schools around London at the time, was a melting pot for blues, rock and jazz musicians. John was in 3J class, together with Roger Warwick, a baritone sax player who was to emerge in the London rock-jazz scene. Their teacher, Mr Howell (a pianist), although not really appreciating this "funny" music, was intelligent and open-minded enough to give pupils space and time to use school facilities to practice and listen to the new wave.
Soon after leaving school at 17, John started training to be a tax inspector, which also coincided with the start of his musical career.
John McVie’s first job as a bass player was in a band called the "Krewsaders", formed by boys living in the same street as McVie in Ealing, West London. The "Krewsaders" played mainly at weddings and parties, covering songs from the The Shadows.
Around the time of McVie’s tenure as a tax inspector, John Mayall began forming a Chicago-style Blues band, John Mayall's Bluesbreakers. Initially Mayall wanted to recruit bass player Cliff Barton of the Cyril Davies All Stars for the rhythm section of his new band. Barton declined, however, but gave him John McVie's phone number, urging Mayall to give the talented young bass player a chance in the Bluesbreakers.. Mayall contacted McVie, and asked him to audition for his band. Soon thereafter, McVie got offered to play bass in the Bluesbreakers. McVie accepted while still holding down his daytime job for a further nine months before becoming a musician full time. Under Mayall's tutelage, McVie, not having had any formal training in music, learned to play the blues mainly by listening to B. B. King and Willie Dixon records given to him by Mayall.
In 1966, a young Peter Green was asked to join Mayall's Bluesbreakers as the band's new lead guitar player, after Eric Clapton, the third guitarist with the band (after Bernie Watson and then Roger Dean), had left. Some time later, after the recording of A Hard Road, drummer Aynsley Dunbar was replaced by Mick Fleetwood. Green, McVie, and Fleetwood quickly forged a strong personal relationship, and when John Mayall gave Green some free studio time for his birthday, Green asked McVie and Fleetwood to join him for a recording session. Produced by Mike Vernon, they recorded three tracks together, "Curly", "Rubber Duck", and an instrumental called "Fleetwood Mac". Later the same year, after having been replaced by Mick Taylor in the Bluesbreakers, Peter Green opted to form his own band, which he called "Fleetwood Mac" after his preferred rhythm section (Fleetwood and McVie). Mick Fleetwood immediately joined Green's new band, having been dismissed earlier from the Bluesbreakers for drunkenness. However, McVie initially was reluctant to join Fleetwood Mac, not wanting to leave the security and well-paid job in the Bluesbreakers, forcing Green to temporarily hire a bassist named Bob Brunning. A few weeks later McVie changed his mind, however, as he felt that The Bluesbreakers musical direction were shifting too much towards jazz, and he joined Fleetwood Mac on bass in December 1967.
With McVie now in Fleetwood Mac, the band recorded its first album, the eponymous Fleetwood Mac in the following months. The album was released in February 1968, and became an immediate national hit, establishing Fleetwood Mac as a major part in the English Blues movement. Fleetwood Mac started playing live gigs in blues clubs and pubs throughout England, and became a household name in the national blues circuit. In the next three years, the band scored a string of hits in the UK and also enjoyed success in continental Europe.
While on tour, Fleetwood Mac would often share venues with fellow blues band Chicken Shack. It was on one such occasion that McVie met his future wife, the lead singer and piano player of Chicken Shack, Christine Perfect. Following a brief romance of only two weeks, McVie and Perfect got married with Peter Green as best man. With the couple being unable to spend much time together because of the constant touring with their bands, Christine (now McVie) quit Chicken Shack to become a housewife to spend more time with John. However, following the departure of Peter Green from Fleetwood Mac in 1970, McVie successfully persuaded Christine to join him in Fleetwood Mac.
In the years to follow, Fleetwood Mac went through several different line-ups, which occasionally became the source of friction and unease within the band. In addition, frequent touring as well as John McVie’s heavy drinking began to put some strain on his marriage to Christine. In 1974, the McVies, along with the other members of Fleetwood Mac, moved to Los Angeles, where they lived briefly with John Mayall. In 1975, Fleetwood Mac achieved enormous worldwide success after recruiting American singer-songwriter duo Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham. However, on the heels of the band's success followed serious marital problems for the McVies, and in 1976, during the recording of Rumours, John and Christine McVie’s marriage unravelled and the couple divorced the same year. As a way to put behind the hurt and final dissolution, several of Christine's songs on this album were about John McVie, particularly "Don't Stop". John McVie remarried in 1978 to Julie Ann Reubens, but still continued to drink heavily.
In 1981 McVie agreed to go on the road with the Bluesbreakers again for the so called "Reunion Tour" with John Mayall, Mick Taylor and Colin Allen. During 1982 the band toured America, Asia and Australia. (John McVie did not take part in the European Tour in 1983 and was replaced by Steve Thompson).
An alcohol-induced seizure in 1987 finally prompted him to kick the habit, and he has been sober ever since. In 1989, McVie’s wife Julie Ann gave birth to their first child, a daughter, Molly McVie. In his spare time, McVie is a sailing enthusiast, and he nearly got lost at least once on a Pacific voyage. A naturally reclusive man, his involvement with Fleetwood Mac has been constant but notably low-key, despite the fact that the band takes the 'Mac' part of its name from him. He received co-writer credits for a very small number of tracks throughout the band's existence, including "Station Man" and "The Chain".
Compared with many bass players of the British music scene of the Sixties, such as John Entwistle, Jack Bruce, and Paul McCartney, John McVie’s contribution to rock music in general, and Fleetwood Mac in particular, has often been somewhat overlooked. His bass playing is characterized by a warm, full tone, slightly offset with Mick Fleetwood’s beat, and brief melodic runs. His contributions provide a solid rhythmic-harmonic basis for all of Fleetwood Mac’s songs many of which, such as "Don’t Stop" and "Rhiannon", went on to become notable international hits. McVie's bass playing has left an indelible mark on Fleetwood Mac's artistic legacy.
NOTE: John McVie, although rich and famous from the years of success with such a popular "top-charting" band such as Fleetwood Mac, is quite underated and in need of a very close listen. His bass lines carry, and flow rhythmically with any song he attends - the magic that ensues is no accident and easily picked-out when heard - time and time again McVie illustrates the important figure in the annals of rock, blues, and R&B he has always been [and always will be] ~Guitar Gallows