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Thrill Of Meeting British Blues Guitarist Peter Green Who Died Today

Published on: 25 Jul, 2020
Updated on: 26 Jul, 2020

Co-founder of Fleetwood Mac, guitarist Peter Green has died aged 73, it was announced today (July 25). We are re-publishing Dragon reporter’s David Reading’s recollection of a brief encounter with his guitar heroes at a Guildford gig 50 years ago. An earlier version of this article was published September 24, 2017.

By David Reading

A friend of mine was talking about memorable moments in his life and he asked me whether I’d ever met anyone famous.

There was quite a list actually because I have been a journalist for 37 years.

Guitarist Peter Green. Picture from Pinterest.

Prince Philip was probably the most famous of the lot, but my biggest thrill was meeting Peter Green exactly 50 years ago.

My friend, who’s a lot younger than me, didn’t know who I was talking about until I mentioned the hit single Albatross by Fleetwood Mac. But for me that track was a sideshow in his career. In the late 1960s Peter Green could play the blues guitar better than any Englishman alive – and that includes Eric Clapton.

The encounter took place at the Wooden Bridge pub on the outskirts of Guildford, where Green was playing with his new band, Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac.

The Wooden bridge in the 1960s. Picture from a website devoted to the band Ten Years After.

The pub’s Sunday night gigs drew people from miles around. We would each pay something like five shillings (25p) to hear big names such as the Jeff Beck Group, Ten Years After and the Herd. The evenings could be quite raucous. On one occasion someone let off a tear gas canister in the bar next door, resulting in the place being emptied in five seconds flat!

Peter Green took the stage at the Wooden Bridge shortly after he’d quit John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. He wore one of those collarless shirts that my granddad used to wear and I seem to remember him playing a neat little Gibson Les Paul Standard guitar.

A lot of British blues guitarists thought you had to play at breakneck speed to be any good, but Peter Green could do more with three or four notes than other guitarists could do with 20.

During the break he came off the stage to talk to members of the audience and I plucked up the courage to have a few words with him.

He wasn’t modest about his immense talent and I recall one particularly memorable comment: “There’s only three people in this country who are playing blues as it should be played,” he said. “That’s Eric, Jimi and me.” He was referring to Clapton and Hendrix.

This was the Sergeant Pepper era. Pop music was now a dazzling, creative force, having broken away from the standard Bobby Vee-style pop tunes of the early 1960s.

In parallel, blues was causing an explosion of its own and Peter Green spoke with passion and knowledge about his heroes: black musicians like BB King, Freddie King and Buddy Guy. He talked about how important it was to play sparsely rather than overpower a gig with too many notes, casting special praise on a young Guildford guitarist called Nigel Enever, who was playing that night with the support band, the Whiskey Ring.

Nigel Enever (right) playing with a later band called The Switch. Picture: Nigel Enever collection.

Commenting on Enever’s guitar solo in the Jimmy Witherspoon classic Evening, Green said: “I thought at one point you were going to over-play it, but you judged it just right. It was perfect.”

The gig was stunning, with old blues standards mixed with Green’s own compositions. His style was inspired by BB King but he had an extra cockiness that a lot of British blues had during that period. There was emotion in his playing and also a lot of pain in his compositions, almost as if he foresaw that later on his life would turn into a living hell.

The following year he did a few Sunday night gigs at the Gin Mill, which was set in a tiny room at the end of a Godalming side street.

The club was a showcase for British blues, starring such memorable names as Savoy Brown, Free, Jethro Tull, Chicken Shack and the incomparable Duster Bennett.

But it was Peter Green who stood out.

A few years later his career collapsed in a horror of drug use and mental illness. Since then he has made a kind of comeback – receiving the hero worship that he deserves – but he has never quite recaptured the magic that I witnessed all those years ago.P

Guildford Dragon NEWS writer David Rose also had a memorable chance meeting with Peter Green as he recounts here…

In 1996 Peter Green and his band Splinter Group played at the GuilFest festive in Stoke Park. He was making a comeback at the time and his gigs were much anticipated.

I had played a set with my band the Diggers (we described ourselves as an urban folk group) on what I think was the second stage during the afternoon.

During the early evening I made my way to the main stage where Peter Green and his band had just started their set. I could hear his distinctive and original guitar sound as I got nearer to the stage.

Having a love for blues music as well, I certainly enjoyed his set.

As I had a wristband that gave me access backstage at the festival, after Peter had finished playing I wandered to the back of the marquee and suddenly saw his sitting all alone in a kind of little canvas booth.

I said hello, and as I was the chief sub-editor at the Surrey Advertiser at the time I said who I was and could I ask him a few questions for a story for the newspaper. He happily agreed!

I can’t remember exactly what we talked about, although I must have a cutting of the report I wrote somewhere.

But I’ll always remember my brief chance to meet the great man, whose passing will be mourned by so many music fans.

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test 3 Responses to Thrill Of Meeting British Blues Guitarist Peter Green Who Died Today

  1. James McColl Reply

    September 28, 2017 at 7:13 pm

    I had the privilege of seeing Fleetwood Mac in their original line-up in 1969 at the Weston-Super-Mare Winter Gardens. A fantastic show and their “new” song was “Man of the World”!

    Peter Green was a wonderful guitarist; getting close to the magnificent Carlos Santana. I will never forget their renditions of “Albatross” and “Rattlesnake Shake”.

  2. Michael Melbourne Reply

    July 26, 2020 at 9:58 am

    I too remember seeing Fleetwood Mac play “Albatross” on a Friday evening at the Surrey University around 1969/70.

    Those were the days.

  3. Colin Reardon Reply

    July 27, 2020 at 4:09 pm

    I took my son to see Peter Green at the Civic Hall about 20 years ago. A doddery guy with a strange hat came on the stage. My son looked at me incredulously and said, “What have you brought me to?”

    And then he started playing… absolutely blew my son away! I just smiled.

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