Band: Fleetwood Mac
Bob Welch died aged sixty-six on 7th June 2012 through suicide at his Nashville home. He was survived by his wife Wendy, who found him with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his chest and a nine-page suicide note and love letter written to her.
Bob Welch was born in Los Angeles, California, U.S.A. His father was movie producer and screenwriter Robert L. Welch, who worked at Paramount Pictures and also worked as a TV producer. Bob's mother, Templeton Fox, had been a singer and actress who worked with Orson Welles' Mercury Theatre in Chicago, Illinois and appeared on TV and in movies.
As a boy, Bob Welch learned clarinet, switching to guitar in his early teens. He had received his first guitar at the age of eight. The young Bob Welch developed an interest in jazz, rhythm and blues, and rock music. After graduating from high school, Bob Welch declined attending Georgetown University, where he had been accepted, to move to Paris and told People in a 1979 interview that, in Paris, he mostly smoked hash with bearded guys five years older. He spent time "sitting in the Deux Magots café" rather than attending to his intended studies and eventually returned to Southern California, where he studied French at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Dropping out of UCLA before graduation, Bob Welch joined the Los Angeles-based vocal group The Seven Souls as a guitarist in 1964.
The Seven Souls' 1967 release "I'm No Stranger / I Still Love You". The Seven Souls broke up in 1969.
Bob Welch moved back to Paris and started a trio, Head West, which was not a success. He later told People that the two years in Paris between 1969 and 1971 were spent living on rice and beans and sleeping on a floor.
Bob Welch struggled with a variety of marginal bands until 1971, when he was invited to join Fleetwood Mac, a British blues band that had lost two of its three front-line members, Peter Green and Jeremy Spencer, within a few months, and which was moving away from the blues genre. Along with fellow newcomer Christine McVie, a keyboardist/singer-songwriter (formerly of the British blues band Chicken Shack, and newly married to Fleetwood Mac founding bassist John McVie), Bob Welch helped to steer Fleetwood Mac in a more melodic direction, particularly after lead guitarist/singer-songwriter Danny Kirwan was fired from Fleetwood Mac in 1972 after an argument with Bob Welch.
In the summer of 1971, the remaining members of Fleetwood Mac held auditions at their retreat in England, Kiln House, while seeking a guitarist to replace Spencer. Judy Wong, a friend of Fleetwood Mac who served at times as their secretary, recommended her high school friend Bob Welch to Fleetwood Mac. Bob, who has sometimes been described as Judy Wong's high school boyfriend, was living in Paris at the time.
Fleetwood Mac had a few meetings with Bob Welch and decided to hire him without actually playing with him or listening to any of his recordings. Bob Welch was given the role of rhythm guitar, backing up lead guitarist Kirwan. It was felt that having an American in Fleetwood Mac might extend Fleetwood Mac's appeal in the States. Bob Welch eventually went to live in Fleetwood Mac's communal home, a mansion called Benifold, which was located in Hampshire. Using mobile equipment borrowed from The Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac recorded material for three albums at Benifold: Bare Trees, Penguin and Mystery to Me. Fleetwood Mac's first album to feature Bob Welch and McVie, Future Games, was recorded, however, at Advision Studios in London and Bare Trees was mostly recorded at De Lane Lea Studios in Wembley, Middlesex..
In September 1971, Fleetwood Mac released Future Games, with the title song written by Bob Welch. This album was different from anything Fleetwood Mac had done up to that point. In 1972, six months after the release of Future Games, Fleetwood Mac released Bare Trees, which featured Bob Welch's song "Sentimental Lady". The song went on to become a much bigger hit for him five years later when he re-recorded it for his solo album French Kiss. Christine McVie also sang on the remake and was a producer of the song.
Fleetwood Mac did well in the studio, but their tours were more problematic. Kirwan developed an alcohol dependency and became alienated from Bob Welch and the McVies. Bob Welch held contradictory attitudes towards Kirwan in the 18 months they were bandmates in Fleetwood Mac: On the one hand, their personal relationship was difficult as Bob Welch felt that Kirwan was playing mind games with Fleetwood Mac; and on the other hand, Bob Welch had enormous respect for Kirwan's musicianship. In 1999, Bob Welch stated: "He was a talented, gifted musician, almost equal to Peter Green in his beautiful guitar playing and faultless string bends." In a later interview, Bob Welch said: "Danny wasn't a very lighthearted person, to say the least. He probably shouldn't have been drinking as much as he did, even at his young age. He was always very intense about his work, as I was, but he didn't seem to ever be able to distance himself from it... and laugh about it. Danny was the definition of 'deadly serious'."
The end for Kirwan came in August 1972, during an American tour, when he stormed off stage in a violent rage after arguing with Bob Welch. Before a concert on that year's US tour, Kirwan and Bob Welch fought over tuning and Kirwan flew into a rage, smashing his guitar and refusing to go onstage. He reportedly smashed his head bloody on a wall in back of the stage, then moved into the sound booth to watch the show, where Fleetwood Mac struggled without him as Bob Welch tried to cover his guitar parts. After the fiasco of a show, he criticized Fleetwood Mac.
Fleetwood subsequently fired Kirwan, partly on the recommendation of Bob Welch. The artistic direction of Fleetwood Mac essentially was left in the hands of Bob Welch and Christine McVie.
Over the next three albums Fleetwood Mac released, they constantly changed line-ups around the core of Mick Fleetwood, the McVies and Bob Welch.
The album 'Mystery to Me contained the Bob Welch song "Hypnotized", which got a lot of airplay on the radio in the United States. However, due to an aborted tour, Mystery to Me only reached number 67 in the States, as that market was becoming increasingly important to Fleetwood Mac, which was shipping albums in the respectable range of 250,000 units at the time.
Internal stresses caused by line-up changes, touring and the failing marriage of Christine and John McVie, and an affair between Weston and Fleetwood's wife, Jenny Boyd, proved debilitating to Fleetwood Mac. Fleetwood was devastated by his wife's revelation of the affair, and Weston was sacked from Fleetwood Mac. Fleetwood's personal problems led to the cancellation of a planned tour in the United States.
Fleetwood Mac's manager, Clifford Davis, decided not to cancel the tour and claimed that he owned the name Fleetwood Mac. According to Bob Welch, Davis sent letters to all the remaining Fleetwood Mac band members saying he was putting a new "star-quality, headlining act" together and offering them jobs in this new band. Bob Welch said that he believed that Davis' gambit was ignored by them all. Without telling any of Fleetwood Mac members, Davis then set up a tour with a new group of musicians, booking them into venues in the United States under the name "Fleetwood Mac" even though none of the new musicians had ever played with any previous incarnation of Fleetwood Mac.
Davis announced that Bob Welch and John McVie had quit Fleetwood Mac, and put the "fake Mac" band out on to tour the United States. None of the "fake Mac" members was ever officially in the real band, but it was announced that Fleetwood and Christine McVie would be joining Fleetwood Mac at a later date. The members of Fleetwood Mac obtained an injunction preventing the "fake Mac" from touring under their name, while Davis obtained an injunction preventing the "real Mac" from touring. The lawsuits resulting from the tour, which was aborted, put the real Fleetwood Mac out of commission for almost a year.
During this period, Bob Welch stayed in Los Angeles and connected with entertainment attorneys. Bob Welch believed Fleetwood Mac was being neglected by Warner Bros., the parent of their label, Reprise Records and decided that if Fleetwood Mac wanted to get better treatment from Warner Bros., they would have to change their base of operation to Los Angeles. The rest of Fleetwood Mac agreed. Rock promoter Bill Graham wrote a letter to Warner Bros. to convince them that the "real" Fleetwood Mac were in fact Fleetwood, Bob Welch and the McVies. While this did not end the legal battle, Fleetwood Mac was able to record as Fleetwood Mac again.
Instead of getting another manager, Fleetwood Mac decided to manage themselves. After the courts ruled that the "Fleetwood Mac" name belonged to Fleetwood and John McVie, the two band members set up their own band management company, Seedy Management.
In 1974, for the first time, Fleetwood Mac had only one guitarist, Bob Welch, who took over lead guitarist duties. The quartet of Bob Welch, Fleetwood, and the McVies represented the ninth line-up in Fleetwood Mac's seven-year history. Warner Bros. made a new record deal with Fleetwood Mac, which recorded and released the album Heroes Are Hard to Find on Reprise in September 1974. The album became Fleetwood Mac's first to crack the Top 40 in the United States, reaching number34 on the Billboard album chart.
The Heroes Are Hard to Find tour proved to be the last for Bob Welch. The constant touring had taken its toll on him. His marriage was failing and he felt that he had hit the end of his creative road with Fleetwood Mac. In a 1999 online question and answer session on the Fleetwood Mac fan site The Penguin, Bob Welch also said he felt estranged from John and Christine McVie while he felt close to Fleetwood, with whom he asserted he was running Fleetwood Mac in 1974.
Bob Welch resigned from Fleetwood Mac in December 1974 and was replaced by Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks.
Mick Fleetwood continued to manage Bob Bob Welch's career into the 1980s. In 1994, Bob Welch sued Fleetwood, John and Christine McVie, band attorney and attorney Michael Shapiro and Warner Bros. Records for breach of contract related to underpayment of royalties. In 1978, Bob Welch and the three band members signed a contract with Warner Bros. agreeing to an equal share of all royalties from their Fleetwood Mac albums. Bob Welch alleged that the three subsequently had struck various deals with Warner Bros. that gave them higher royalty rates. Bob Welch alleged that Fleetwood and the McVies had failed to inform him of the new, higher royalty rate, thus depriving him of his fair share of royalties. The breach of contract lawsuit was settled in 1996.
When Fleetwood Mac was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998, original band members Peter Green, Jeremy Spencer, Danny Kirwan, Mick Fleetwood, and John McVie were named to the Hall, as were Christine McVie, Lindsey Buckingham, and Stevie Nicks. Bob Welch, who anchored Fleetwood Mac for several years and five albums, was not. "My era was the bridge era," Bob Welch told the Cleveland newspaper the Plain Dealer in 1998, after he was snubbed by the Hall of Fame, that it was a transition but it was an important period in the history of Fleetwood Mac and that Mick Fleetwood dedicated a whole chapter of a biography to his era of Fleetwood Mac and credited him with saving Fleetwood Mac and now they wanted to write him out of the history of the group.
At the time, Bob Welch believed that he had been blackballed by the Hall because of the breach of contract lawsuit against Fleetwood and John and Christine McVie. At the time of his snubbing by the Hall, he believed that the falling out with three band members led them to pressuring the selection committee into excluding him from the Hall.
By 2003, Bob Welch believed that he had been snubbed by the Hall as the directors in New York, music industry insiders, did not like his style of music. However, he did believe that the lawsuit was a factor in his being blackballed, as it prevented him from getting in touch with Mick Fleetwood, whom he was not talking to at the time of the induction, who may have otherwise have used his influence to get Bob Welch included with other members of Fleetwood Mac.
In 1975, Bob Welch formed the short-lived hard rock power trio Paris with ex-Jethro Tull bassist Glenn Cornick and former Nazz drummer Thom Mooney at the behest of his brother-in-law, producer/engineer Jimmy Robinson. Paris released two commercially unsuccessful albums.
In a 1979 interview with People, Bob Welch said that the two Paris albums were "ill-conceived." Because of the misfire of Paris, his finances had deteriorated until he had only $8,000 left. Mick Fleetwood and members of Fleetwood Mac would soon help him reinvigorate his career as a solo act.
In September 1977, Bob Welch released his first solo album, French Kiss , a mainstream pop collection featuring contributions from Fleetwood, Buckingham and Christine McVie. This album, ultimately certified platinum by RIAA, marked Bob Welch's commercial apogee, peaking at number twelve on the Billboard album chart in 1978. It yielded three hit singles: a revamped version of "Sentimental Lady" produced by Buckingham and McVie, the rocker "Ebony Eyes" and "Hot Love, Cold World".
Bob Welch followed up French Kiss with 1979's Three Hearts, an album that replicated the rock/disco fusion of French Kiss. It peaked at number 20, earned a RIAA gold certification and spawned the hit "Precious Love", while the follow-up single "Church" also charted. From 1980 to 1981, Bob hosted Hollywood Heartbeat, an early music video program.
Bob Welch released solo albums into the early 1980s (including The Other One, Man Overboard, Bob Welch, and Eye Contact. During this period, he partied with nouveau hard rock band Guns N' Roses who rehearsed in his garage and developed a cocaine and heroin addiction for less than a year before being hospitalized in the spring of 1985. The day he got out of detox, he was introduced to Wendy Armistead and Tony Sales. Bob Welch and Armistead were married in December 1985, and remained together as husband and wife and business partners until his death. They relocated to Phoenix, Arizona to maintain Bob Welch's sobriety in 1986. Bob Welch abstained from illegal drugs (including marijuana) for the rest of his life. Thereafter, he turned away from performing and recording and focused his attention on songwriting for others. In Phoenix, the Welches put together a short-lived group called Avenue M, who went on tour and recorded one song for a greatest hits compilation. They later moved to Nashville, Tennessee.
In 1999, Bob Welch released an experimental jazz/loop-based album, Bob Welch Looks at Bop. He followed this up in 2003, with His Fleetwood Mac Years and Beyond, which contained new recordings of songs he originally recorded with Fleetwood Mac, as well as some solo hits. In 2006, he released His Fleetwood Mac Years and Beyond 2, which mixed a half-dozen new compositions, along with a similar number of his Mac/solo remakes. He released more CDs with Fuel Records in 2008, 2010, and 2011.
<<go to top>>