The day Fleetwood Mac played their first show

Fleetwood Mac may rank among the most successful acts in rock history, but that Aug. 13, 1967, they were just another group trying to make a name for themselves.

This is not to say that the band was completely new. Leader Peter Green had emerged in John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, who left the group about a month earlier to go his own way.

Drummer Mick Fleetwood was another Bluesbreakers alum who agreed to follow Green after enjoying the first sessions with the new group. Green had also hoped to recruit a bass player John McVie for his band – naming the group Fleetwood Mac was part of his pitch – but McVie was initially reluctant to take the plunge. As such, Bob Brunning would serve as the band’s original bassist, with slide guitarist Jeremy Spencer rounding out the lineup.

“[Spencer] was something to behold, a little guy, rather quiet off stage, who became a whirlwind of raw power when he joined in,’ Fleetwood recalled in his autobiography Play on. “Our fledgling band developed a handful of instrumentals anchored by Jeremy’s slide playing and Peter’s soloing in the Chicago electric blues style that he loved and threw down effortlessly.”

After just a few weeks of rehearsals, Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac (as it was then called) played their first show at the Windsor Jazz and Blues Festival. John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers were also on the line up, as it was Cream, Jeff Beck, Small faces and Donovan. Pink Floyd had also been planned for, but was also canceled at the last minute Syd Barrett was unable to perform.

Fleetwood Mac’s debut set was included seven songs, including an eponymous instrumental and three Elmore James covers. In a review of the festival, Melody maker noted that the group “made an impressive debut.”

McVie, who was performing with the Bluesbreakers, watched the set from the side of the stage. “We knew he was there,” Fleetwood recalled. “Actually, it felt to me like we were auditioning for him.”

By the way, McVie wasn’t the only future member in attendance that day. “In a tent playing on another stage was a band called Chicken Shack, with a singer and pianist called Christine Perfect,” Fleetwood explained. “Christine would go on to join our band in 1970 after she married John McVie.”

By the end of 1967, Brunning was out and McVie was in. Green’s name was removed from the band’s title—he “never wanted his name front and center like that,” Fleetwood later noted—and Fleetwood Mac’s journey was truly underway.

Listen to audio from Fleetwood Mac’s first performance

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