Former Fleetwood Mac guitarist Bob Welch apparently committed suicide on Thursday (June 7th) at age 66 by shooting himself in the chest at his Antioch, Tennessee home according to police. Billboard.com reported that Welch, who was best known for his 1977 solo album, French Kiss and it's two hits, "Sentimental Lady" and "Ebony Eyes," was found by his wife, Wendy, shortly after 12 Noon, local time and had left behind a suicide note. Welch had recently been suffering from several undisclosed health issues.
Mick Fleetwood, who had stayed close with Welch over the years, told Reuters, that his suicide was "incredibly out of character," adding, "He was a very, very profoundly intelligent human being and always in good humor, which is why this is so unbelievably shocking. He was a huge part of our history which sometimes gets forgotten. . . mostly his legacy would be his songwriting abilities that he brought to Fleetwood Mac, which will survive all of us. If you look into our musical history, you'll see a huge period that was completely ensconced in Bob's work."
Stevie Nicks told The Associated Press: "The death of Bob Welch is devastating. I had many great times with him after Lindsey (Buckingham) and I joined Fleetwood Mac. 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."
Welsh was born into a Hollywood family, with his father a successful film producer in the 1940's and '50s. He briefly attended college at Georgetown University before studying in Paris, France, and eventually enrolling at UCLA. Welch played a pivotal role in breaking Fleetwood Mac in America, acting as the bridge between their blues-heavy earlier incarnation with co-founders Peter Green and Jeremy Spencer and their blockbuster success led by his replacements Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks.
During his stint in Fleetwood Mac -- which included future stars Christine McVie, John McVie, and Mick Fleetwood, among others -- Welch served as the driving force of the band's middle period, from 1971 to 1974, contributing key tracks to 1971's Future Games, 1972's Bare Trees -- which included the original version of "Sentimental Lady" -- their two 1973 releases Penguin and Mystery To Me, and 1974's Heroes Are Hard To Find. Welch's split with the band amicable and he continued to sit in with Fleetwood Mac during jam sessions and opened for them on the road. He went on to form the short-lived rock trio, Paris, upon quitting Fleetwood Mac, but dissolved the band after two albums.
An all but forgotten footnote to the early Buckingham/Nicks lineup was that in addition to two early Fleetwood Mac cuts -- "Oh Well" and "Station Man" -- Welch's staple track and radio hit for the band -- "Hypnotized" -- stayed in the band's setlist for a good year after his departure.
Both his former bandmates Christine McVie and Mick Fleetwood along with his replacement, Lindsey Buckingham, appeared on his 1977 remake of the band's "Sentimental Lady" which peaked at Number Eight. The French Kiss album spurred another Top 20 hit, "Ebony Eyes," which Stevie Nicks often performed with Welch in concert. Welch slowly faded from the music scene, becoming unrecognizable to his former '70s self, wearing a wig to hide his always-thinning hair. He battled heroin briefly in the early-'80s and quietly continued to record and perform while based out of the Nashville area.
Despite the importance of his work, when Fleetwood Mac was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998, his predecessors and successors were welcomed in -- but he was snubbed. At the time he told Cleveland's The Plain Dealer: "My era was the bridge era. It was a transition. But it was an important period in the history of the band. Mick Fleetwood dedicated a whole chapter of his biography to my era of the band and credited me with 'saving Fleetwood Mac.' Now they want to write me out of the history of the group. It hurts. . . It basically comes down to the fact that they don't like me anymore. I guess they can do what they want. I could understand it if I had been a sideman for a year. But I was an integral part of that band. . . I put more of myself into that band than anything else I've ever done.""
Mick Fleetwood recently told us that unlike most band's fans, Fleetwood Mac's legion of followers learned to embrace all the band's various lineup changes throughout the years: ["If you're aware of our history, it's pretty much unique in terms of the people who have come through the ranks of this band. But the band somehow, even with very large musical changes, has been accepted, and, y'know, there's been slight ups and downs, but we've never gone away, and somewhat unbelievably, have held an audience during that journey."] SOUNDCUE (:20 OC: . . . during that journey)
On January 3rd, Bob Weston, one-time lead guitarist for Fleetwood Mac during Welch's tenure, was found dead at his London home at age 64. Weston's autopsy showed "a gastric intestinal hemorrhage, cirrhosis of the liver and throat problems." Weston replaced guitarist Danny Kirwan in 1972, and was featured on the band's two 1973 albums, Penguin and Mystery To Me.