Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Jeremy Spencer

Spencer became known for the slide guitar, and his work was greatly influenced by Elmore James.  In the summer of 1967, ex-Bluesbreakers guitarist Peter Green was looking for another guitarist to help form Green's new band Fleetwood Mac.  Green had brought in drummer Mick Fleetwood and temporary bassist Bob Brunning already.  Spencer became a good fit and soon after he joined, regular bassist John McVie joined.
The group recorded two albums of traditional blues songs, Fleetwood Mac and Mr. Wonderful.  
When Danny Dirwan was brought in as the group's third guitarist, Spencer seemed isolated within the band and did not contribute much to the third album Then Play On, although he did play piano on Green's classic "Oh Well".  Spencer was a key component of the early group's live performances, doing a great routine of old blues songs and doing incredible impersonations of Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly and others.  

Jeremy Spencer, 18 March 1970
Spencer released a solo album Jeremy Spencer in 1970.  Green left in mid-1970 and The Mac album Kiln House featured some of Spencer's 50's parodies, including "Buddy's Song".  New keyboardist Christine McVie (John's wife) joined in February of 1971.  Spencer increasingly became disillusioned and shortly after arriving in Los Angeles on the day Fleetwood Mac was to appear at the famous Whiskey A Go Go on Sunset Boulevard, Spencer let the hotel room he shared with Fleetwood and did not return. While out, Spencer had been approached by a member of the cult group Children of God, who encouraged him to convert to their religion.  According to a Fleetwood Mac roadie present at the time, Spencer (who had been hitting alcohol and drugs heavily) had been brainwashed.  Despite many appeals, Spencer could not be persuaded to fulfill his musical obligations.  Peter Green originally came out of retirement to rejoin the band and then guitarist Bob Welch was brought in.  

Of course Fleetwood Mac (after adding Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham) became one of the top rock acts in history.  

Spencer has released four albums since his self-titled album in 1970.  They are Jeremy Spencer and the Children, Flee (which contains the great track "Travelin'"), In Concert--India and Precious Little.

In 2008, to support the Precious Little CD, Spencer played his first U.S. gigs in over 37 years, appearing at the Space Club in Evanston, Illinois, Beale on Broadway in St. Louis, Fitzgeralds in Berwyn, Illinois and at the Belleville American Music Festival in Belleville, Wisconsin.  Spencer's 90-minute set was very well received, including "Bitter Lemon", "Psychic Waste" and "Maria De Santiago" from his CD and a handful of Elmore James songs.  ,After the show, Spencer spent a long time talking with fans and signing copies of his CD and other memorabilia.  Although his disappearance from Fleetwood Mac and his entire Children of God experience is not beyond reproach or even disdain, Spencer's great contribution to music cannot be denied.

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