Fleetwood Mac co-founder Peter Green dead at 73

The English singer-guitarist died in his sleep, his family announced Saturday

Fleetwood Mac co-founder Peter Green has died. He was 73.

According to a family statement released on Saturday, the English singer-guitarist died in his sleep.

"It is with great sadness that the family of Peter Green announce his death this weekend, peacefully in his sleep," the statement reads.

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British musician Peter Green, guitarist and co-founder of rock band Fleetwood Mac, circa 1968. 

British musician Peter Green, guitarist and co-founder of rock band Fleetwood Mac, circa 1968.  (Getty)

The London-based law firm Swan Turton Solicitors said a further statement will be provided in the coming days.

The blues rock guitarist formed Fleetwood Mac with drummer Mick Fleetwood in 1967.

Green, to some listeners, was the best of the British blues guitarists of the 1960s. B.B. King once said Green “has the sweetest tone I ever heard. He was the only one who gave me the cold sweats.”

Green also made a mark as a composer, with “Albatross,” and as a songwriter, with “Oh Well” and “Black Magic Woman.”

Peter Green is performing at the Fillmore Audiitorium in San Franciso, California on January 1, 2003. 

Peter Green is performing at the Fillmore Audiitorium in San Franciso, California on January 1, 2003.  (Getty)

Green, real name Peter Allen Greenbaum, was born on Oct. 29, 1946, in London. The gift of a cheap guitar put the 10-year-old Green on a musical path.

He was barely out of his teens when he got his first big break in 1966, replacing Eric Clapton in John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers — initially for just a week in 1965 after Clapton abruptly took off for a Greek holiday. Clapton quit for good soon after and Green was in.

In the Bluesbreakers, he was reunited with Fleetwood, a former colleague in Peter B’s Looners. Mayall added bass player John McVie soon after. The three departed the following year, forming the core of the band initially billed as “Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac featuring (guitarist) Jeremy Spencer.”

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Fleetwood Mac made its debut at the British Blues and Jazz festival in the summer of 1967, which led to a recording contract, then its first album in February 1968. The album, which included “Long Grey Mare” and three other songs by Green, stayed on the British charts for 13 months.

The band’s early albums were heavy blues-rock affairs marked by Green’s fluid, evocative guitar style and gravelly vocals. Notable singles included “Oh Well” and the Latin-flavored “Black Magic Woman,” later a hit for Carlos Santana.

But as the band flourished, Green became increasingly erratic, even paranoid. Drugs played a part in his unraveling.

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On a tour in California, Green became acquainted with Augustus Owsley Stanley III, notorious supplier of powerful LSD to the The Grateful Dead and Ken Kesey, the anti-hero of Tom Wolfe’s book “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.”

John McVie, Danny Kirwan, Mick Fleetwood, Peter Green, and Jeremy Spencer of the rock group 'Fleetwood Mac' pose for a portrait in 1969 in Los Angeles, Calif.

John McVie, Danny Kirwan, Mick Fleetwood, Peter Green, and Jeremy Spencer of the rock group 'Fleetwood Mac' pose for a portrait in 1969 in Los Angeles, Calif. (Getty)

“He was taking a lot of acid and mescaline around the same time his illness began manifesting itself more and more,” Fleetwood said in 2015. “We were oblivious as to what schizophrenia was back in those days but we knew something was amiss.”

In an interview with Johnny Black for Mojo magazine, Green said: “I was dreaming I was dead and I couldn’t move, so I fought my way back into my body. I woke up and looked around. It was very dark and I found myself writing a song. It was about money; ‘The Green Manalishi’ is money.”

Green left the band in 1971. Even so, Mick Fleetwood said in an interview with The Associated Press in 2017 that Green deserves the lion’s share of the credit for the band’s success.

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“Peter was asked why did he call the band Fleetwood Mac. He said, ‘Well, you know I thought maybe I’d move on at some point and I wanted Mick and John (McVie) to have a band.’ End of story, explaining how generous he was,” said Fleetwood, who described Green as a standout in an era of great guitar work.

In his absence, the band’s new line-up, including Christine McVie, Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham, gained enormous success with a more pop-tinged sound.

Green was confined in a mental hospital in 1977 after an incident with his manager. He was released later in the year, and married Jane Samuels, a Canadian, in 1978. They had a daughter, Rosebud, and divorced the following year. Green also has a son, Liam Firlej.

Green returned to performing in the 1990s with the Peter Green Splinter Group.

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He made a rare appearance with Fleetwood Mac in 1998 when the group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.