Remembering Bob Welch: Fleetwood Mac's Secret Weapon

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This past Thursday, former Fleetwood Mac guitarist Bob Welch committed suicide in his home outside Nashville at age 66. It was a tragic loss that stunned the Fleetwood Mac family, both past and present.

Mac's Stevie Nicks called Welch's death "devastating" in London's The Daily Telegraph: "I had many great times with him after Lindsey and I joined Fleetwood Mac," she said. "He was an amazing guitar player -- he was funny, sweet, and he was smart. I am so very sorry for his family and for the family of Fleetwood Mac. So, so sad."

Welch was perhaps the unsung hero of one of the greatest rock bands of all time, as well as one of the most pivotal figures in the band's 45 years of existence. Without him, Fleetwood Mac would be extremely different: They would still be a British blues band and Mick Fleetwood and John McVie have never come to the U.S. and met two Californians, guitarist Lindsey Buckingham and his then-girlfriend, vocalist Nicks, that would essentially usher in the band's most successful era.

Stylistically speaking, Welch was no doubt, the one who laid the blueprint for Fleetwood Mac as we know it today. During his time in the band, Fleetwood Mac took on a more AOR-friendly format that proved successful: "Hypnotized," from 1973's Mystery To Me, garnered FM radio play. The album itself went gold in 1976.

Though Welch quit Fleetwood Mac in 1974, he stayed in contact with members of the band including Buckingham, his replacement, and Nicks. He would frequently bring in his former bandmates -- Buckingham, Nicks, Fleetwood, keyboardist/vocalist Christine McVie -- to record with him on his solo albums.

However, his relationship with the rest of Fleetwood Mac soured when Welch filed suit against the band, their former attorney and Warner Bros Records for unpaid royalties. Though a settlement had been reached in 1996, Welch was also hurt about his omission from the band's 1998 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. (Other ex-members such as Peter Green, Danny Kirwan and Jeremy Spencer, as well then-current members Nicks, Buckingham, Fleetwood and both John and Christine McVie were all included.)

If anything, Welch's legacy that he left with Fleetwood Mac was that he paved the way for the Fleetwood Mac's runaway late-'70s success by holding the then-struggling band from England together. But above all, he was a great guitar player in his own right, and for that, Mr. Ebony Eyes will be greatly missed.

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