Peter Green (born Peter Allen Greenbaum, 29 October 1946, in Bethnal Green, London) is a British blues-rock guitarist and best known as the founder of the band Fleetwood Mac.
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 as well. 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 seminal song "The Super-Natural" was hailed as one of the fifty greatest of all time by Guitar Player.
In 1966, Green played lead guitar in Peter Bardens' band "Peter B's Looners". After a three month stint with them, he had the opportunity to replace Eric Clapton in John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, for three concerts. Not long after this he became a full time member of Mayall's band.
Green made his album debut with the Bluesbreakers on the album A Hard Road. It featured two compositions by Green, "The Same Way" and "The Supernatural". The latter was one of Green's first extended instrumentals, which would soon become a trademark. Green would earn the nickname "The Green God" for his interpretation of the blues. In 1967, Green decided to form his own blues band, and left John Mayall's Bluesbreakers.
Green's new band was Fleetwood Mac. Originally named Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac, the band was led by Green throughout its initial period of success in the late 1960s.
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Fleetwood Mac featured a rhythm section which comprised drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie, both of whom had played in John Mayall's Bluesbreakers. Initially they played blues-rock and blues covers and some original material. In 1968 they had success with Green's "Black Magic Woman", which was later covered to greater success by Santana. The same year the band achieved #1 British Singles Chart success with "Albatross". More chart success followed with, "Oh Well" (1969), "Man of the World" (1969) and "The Green Manalishi" (1970).
Green struggled with success and his personality changed after incidences of LSD abuse. He began wearing a robe, grew a beard and wore a crucifix on his chest. His abuse of LSD may have incited schizophrenia. While touring Europe, Green binged on LSD in Munich. Communard Rainer Langhans mentions in his autobiography, that he and Uschi Obermaier met Green in Munich, where they invited him to their High-Fish-Commune. 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.
Green left Fleetwood Mac on 20 May 1970, after performing a final show with them. He also recorded a Jam session which was recorded and released as The End of the Game, before fading into obscurity and taking on a succession of menial jobs. During this period Green sold his 1959 Gibson Les Paul sunburst guitar, which was associated with his music of that time, to Irish guitarist Gary Moore. he also recorded two tracks with Bobby Tench's band Gass, appearing on Juju (1970)
He had a brief reunion with Fleetwood Mac when Jeremy Spencer left the group, flying to USA to help them complete a tour. Green was also an uncredited guest on "Night Watch" from their album Penguin (1973). He also appears on the track "Brown Eyes" from Tusk (1979).
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. He re-emerged as a recording artist with PVK Records in the late 1970s and early 1980s. In 1984 Green suffered a relapse and effectively lived the life of a tramp-like recluse for six years until he was rescued by his brother Len and his wife, going to live with them in Great Yarmouth and regaining some of his former health and strength.
Apart from his solo work in the late 1970s and early 1980s, he contributed to "Super Brains" on Mick Fleetwood's solo album The Visitor. He recorded various sessions with a number of other musicians. 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.
A late 1990s comeback saw Green form the Peter Green Splinter Group, with others such as musicians 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. Additional British dates were then announced for early 2010.
Green remains ambivalent about his songwriting success and more recently stated to Guitar Player magazine:
“ Oh, I was never really a songwriter. I was very lucky to get those hits. I shouldn't have been distracted from my fascination with the blues... I have been known to come up with the odd bit, but I'm not all that wild about the big composer credit."
Green is 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.On this recording he plays a 1959 Les Paul Sunburst. The 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 achieved by Green define controlled feedback on a Les Paul.
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 Fusion with a Fender Blues DeVille and a Vox AC30 amplifier. Footage from live shows in Holland during 2009, show him with a Fender Stratocaster similar to the one he played on the song "Need Your Love So Bad", thirty five years before.