F is for Fleetwood Mac

Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours ranks as the seventh best-selling album worldwide of all time.  Elvis Presley’s soundtrack to Blue Hawaii hit #1 on the US charts in the fall of 1961 and remained there for 20 weeks in a row, a record that wasn’t broken until 1977, when Fleetwood Mac released their album Rumours.  Fleetwood Mac recorded 18 studio albums, 9 live albums, 23 compilation albums, one extended play single, and 62 singles.  They have sold more than 120 million records worldwide, making them one of the world’s best-selling bands and they won a Grammy award for their Rumours album, which also won album of the year.  The group kept evolving and it has thrived, dived, and survived through more than a dozen lineup changes and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.

Fleetwood Mac is a British blues band that formed in London in 1967 and evolved into a hugely popular pop-rock group. Fleetwood Mac was founded by Peter Green and was named after Mick Fleetwood and John McVie, their name came from an instrumental jam that Green, McVie and Fleetwood recorded with Mayall.  After Peter Green left in 1969, Fleetwood and McVie remained as original members, and the band has since featured a cast of brilliant talents.  The original members were Peter Green, Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, and Jeremy Spencer. Guitarist Peter Green, drummer Mick Fleetwood, bassist John McVie and slide guitarist Jeremy Spencer were all former members of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers which began in 1967.  Later members included Danny Kirwan, Bob Welch, Christine McVie originally Christine Perfect, Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham.  The Bluesbreakers were (and are) a pioneering white blues band- musical conservatory led by singer, harmonica and keyboard player Mayall.  At one time or another Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Mick Taylor, John McVie, Mick Fleetwood, and Jack Bruce were part of this group.  The Bluesbreakers line-up of John Mayall, Peter Green, John McVie and Mick Fleetwood never made a studio album and shattered after just three months.

Peter Green’s brother, Michael, taught him his first guitar chords and when Peter was eleven, he started teaching himself.  He began playing professionally at the age of fifteen.  He first played bass guitar in a band called Bobby Dennis and the Dominoes.  He joined a rhythm and blues outfit, the Muskrats, then a band called The Tridents in which he played bass.  In 1966, Green played lead guitar in a band called Peter B’s Looners, and that is where he met drummer Mick Fleetwood.  Three months later, Green got the opportunity to fill in for Eric Clapton in John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers for three concerts, and soon after, when Clapton left the Bluesbreakers, Green became a full-time member of Mayall’s band.  In 1967, Green left the Bluesbreakers and formed his own blues band with slide guitarist Jeremy Spencer, Fleetwood and Bob Brunning, who played bass till McVie joined.  Rolling Stone ranked Green at number 58 in its list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time”.

Mick Fleetwood took up the drums at a young age, getting a drum kit when he was thirteen.  With his parents’ support, he dropped out of school at the age of 15 and, in 1963, moved to London to pursue a career as a drummer.  Mick met keyboard player Peter Bardens who lived only a few doors away, and Bardens gave Fleetwood his first gig in Bardens’ band The Cheynes in July 1963.  He did some stints in The Bo Street Runners, where he replaced original drummer Nigel Hutchinson.  In February 1966, Bardens asked Fleetwood to join his new band, the Peter Bs, which soon become Shotgun Express with Rod Stewart.

Fleetwood was a member of the band John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers from 1964 to 1967, and he was dismissed from the Bluesbreakers for repeated insobriety during gigs.  Both Fleetwood and McVie were heavy drinkers, and their combined efforts were too much for Mayall and the band to cope with.  Mick was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.

In 1970, Mick married Jenny Boyd, who was the inspiration for Donovan’s ‘Jennifer Juniper’ and the sister of Pattie Boyd (the ex-wife of both George Harrison and Eric Clapton).  The couple divorced after a few years, but tried again in 1976.  Jenny was having an affair with his best friend and former Mac guitarist Bob Weston through the mid-1970s and she confessed everything to her husband and left the tour with their children.  The band tried to put this setback behind them and continue with their itinerary, but eventually Fleetwood snapped and Weston was dismissed.  Mick and Jenny split up for good in 1978, which was followed by a publicized affair with Stevie Nicks.  Bob Weston was a British rock guitarist, who was a member of Fleetwood Mac in the early 1970s.  He also recorded and performed with a number of other musicians, including Graham Bond, Long John Baldry, Murray Head, Sandy Denny and Danny Kirwan.  Weston lived alone in his final years, and he was found dead at the age of 64 in his flat by London police officers on January 3, 2012, and he reported died from the effects of a gastrointestinal hemorrhage caused by cirrhosis.

John McVie expressed an interest in music from childhood, when he took up the trumpet.  He reached his teens amid the British skiffle boom and the first serious rumblings of home-grown rock & roll, and decided to switch to the guitar.  Since his friends were learning lead guitar, he chose to learn the bass instead.  McVie’s first band was the Krewsaders, comprised of friends John Barnes and Peter Barnes who later went on to form a group called The Strangers and he knew them from Ealing, where they played local dances and weddings.  McVie had a friend, Cliff Barton, who was playing with the Cyril Davies All-Stars, who was offered the chance to join a fledgling band called the Bluesbreakers, organized and led by John Mayall.  Barton wasn’t interested, but he told Mayall that he should look up the then 17-year-old McVie, who joined the Bluesbreakers in January of 1963.

Jeremy Spencer started taking piano lessons at age nine, and he switched to guitar at 15.  He formed his own band, the Levi Set.  His slide work and pounding voice caught the attention of record producer, Mike Vernon, who convinced Peter Green to meet with him when he was in the process of forming Fleetwood Mac.  Founding guitarist/singer Peter Green was looking for someone to share the spotlight with him, as he did not want to be the sole frontman.  As a musician Jeremy was extremely talented on slide guitar and he had a keen ear for impressions, giving him an almost chameleon-like ability to mimic different musical styles.

Danny Kirwan was a guitarist, singer and songwriter who was with Fleetwood Mac between 1968 and 1972.  He began learning guitar at the age of fifteen.  When he was seventeen, he got the attention of Fleetwood Mac in London while fronting his first band, Boilerhouse, a blues three-piece with Trevor Stevens on bass guitar and Dave Terrey on drums.  Kirwan’s band began playing support slots for Fleetwood Mac at London venues.  Fleetwood Mac was a quartet, but when Kirwan was invited to join Fleetwood Mac, they were able to move away from being just pure blues, as Danny Kirwan became the third guitarist.  He began playing in the group following the release of 1968’s Mr. Wonderful and his first appearance with the band was their Number One single ‘Albatross’.  Kirwan developed an alcohol dependency, and by 1972 he was becoming alienated from the rest of the band and he was fired during the tour in support of their sixth studio album Bare Trees.

Bob Welch was an American musician from California who was a member of Fleetwood Mac from 1971 to 1974.  Welch learned clarinet in his childhood, and switched to guitar in his early teens.  In 1964, Welch joined the Los Angeles-based vocal group The Seven Souls as a guitarist and he stayed with then till they broke up in 1969.  In 1971, Welch auditioned for Fleetwood Mac when the band was looking for a replacement for guitarist Jeremy Spencer who had made a spiritual decision to leave, reportedly because he disliked the focus that rock had on selfish individualism and was appalled by a recording he heard of his own performance.  Welch was assigned rhythm guitar, backing up lead guitarist Danny Kirwan.  While Welch was in the band, Fleetwood Mac experienced battles over the sound and shape of the music, but through this all Welch stepped up and did his job impressively.  He was part of a six-piece line-up and part of a four-piece line-up and he even had center-stage at one point, although at other times he was just a part of the puzzle.  He kept Fleetwood Mac together being the only constant, before their real success arrived.  Welch quit the band because he was burnt out and bored, struggling to keep a marriage together and to get through life.  Welch died on June 7, 2012 from suicide at the age of 65.

Christine McVie is a keyboard-player and singer who has had a long and productive musical career while seldom insisting on being center stage.  Born as Christine Perfect, she began playing the piano at the age of four and then found herself seriously studying the instrument at the age of 11, continuing her classical training until she was 15.  That’s when she discovered rock & roll, and she and her pal Teresa Gilbert snuck down to London from their Birmingham homes to play ‘Walk, Don’t Run’ on acoustic guitars before a Shadows concert.  In 1960, 19-year-old Spencer Davis made some duo appearances with her before he teamed up with Stevie and Muff Winwood, while she was only 17.  While studying sculpture at an arts college, she joined the band Sounds of Blue with Andy Sylvester and Stan Webb.  By the time McVie graduated with a teaching degree, Sounds of Blue had broken up, and she moved to London.

In 1968, Christine reunited with two of the band’s former members, Andy Silvester and Stan Webb, in the British blues band Chicken Shack, playing piano and contributing vocals.  Christine married John McVie, and became known as Christine McVie, and later she joined Fleetwood Mac as a pianist and singer and she remained a member for the next 25 years.  Christine is one of the bands key creative forces, having written half the songs on the band’s Greatest Hits album.  John and Christine divorced in 1978, but they still continued to be members of the band.

Stevie Nicks was born Stephanie Lynn Nicks and she had phenomenal success not only as a solo artist, but also as a key member of Fleetwood Mac.  Stevie began performing at the age of four, and she sang occasionally at the tavern owned by her parents.  Nicks started writing songs in her mid-teens, and joined her first group, the Changing Times, while attending high school in California.  During her senior year, Nicks met fellow student Lindsey Buckingham who was a junior at a religious-group gathering after school, and Buckingham started performing in a group known as The Fritz Rabyne Memorial Band who played talent shows and student dances and family parties across suburban San Jose.  Lindsey played with the band’s founder and drummer Bob Aguirre, keyboardist Javier Pacheco, singer Jody Moreing, and her cousin Calvin Roper on guitar.  Later they shortened the group’s name to Fritz, and when their lead singer Jody dropped out, Buckingham called Stevie and asked if she wanted to be in the band.  Between 1968 and 1971, the group became popular, and they opened for Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Creedence Clearwater Revival.  Three years later, Fritz disbanded, but Buckingham remained with Stevie.

Nicks and Buckingham had a platonic relationship throughout their time in Fritz, but as the group started to splinter, they were drawn together by their mutual ambition and a budding romance ensued.  By 1971, they headed to Los Angeles to try and make it as a duo, releasing an excellent folk-pop album as Buckingham Nicks, but it was dropped from Polydor Records within months of its release and after this commercial flop, their contract was terminated.  In an effort to make ends meet, Stevie worked alternately as a maid, a dental assistant, and a waitress.  Nicks has been portrayed more as a sex symbol than a serious musician, because of her flowing outfits and the way she danced whirling around onstage, even though she is a prolific songwriter who composed complex, intimate songs from an honest, female perspective.

In 1973, Stevie and Lindsey went to Aspen, so that he could rehearse for two weeks with Don Everly and this is when she wrote ‘Landslide’.  She looked up at the Rocky Mountains she was inspired and felt like things were going to improve, so she told Lindsey that they were going to the top!  Within a year, Mick Fleetwood called them, and they were in Fleetwood Mac making $800 a week apiece.  It was like they were at the end of their rope and suddenly they became rich overnight.

Lindsey Buckingham never took guitar lessons and does not read music, so he is a self-taught player that essentially plays by ear.  By age 13, he became interested in folk music.  He put out an album with Stevie Nicks where they both appeared nude on the album cover, something Nicks reported that she was uncomfortable doing.  Nicks felt mortified and she almost quit music at the age of 25, but she removed her top because Lindsey was pushing her to do it being very controlling and possessive.

While Fleetwood Mac was investigating Sound City recording studio in California, producer Keith Olsen guided the group through the facility, and he showcased the studio’s sound capabilities by playing the Buckingham-Nicks track ‘Frozen Love’.  Mick Fleetwood heard the song and he asked who the guitarist was and by chance, Buckingham and Nicks were in Sound City recording demos, at the time and that is how Buckingham and Fleetwood were introduced.  When Bob Welch left Fleetwood Mac in December 1974, Fleetwood immediately contacted Buckingham and offered him the vacant guitar slot in his band.  Mick reached out to Buckingham to join Fleetwood Mac as the band’s lead guitarist and also to become one of the band’s vocalists.  Buckingham accepted on the condition that Stevie Nicks also becomes part of the band, insisting that they were a package deal.  Fleetwood agreed and he invited Stevie and Lindsey to join his band in late 1974.

After Buckingham joined, the band’s pop tendencies flowered under his direction.  Not only did he provide the group with some brilliant, surprisingly dark pop songs, he sharpened the other members’ songs with his production, arrangements, and breathtaking guitar playing.  Buckingham left the band after its 1987 album, Tango in the Night, to concentrate on his solo career.  Lindsey was the group’s lead guitarist and one of the vocalists from 1975 to 1987, and then from 1997 to 2018.  In 2011, Buckingham was ranked 100th in Rolling Stone’s list of “The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time”.

Fleetwood Mac put out a single in 1967 ‘I Believe My Time Ain’t Long’ / ‘Rambling Pony’, which did not chart.  They found success with their debut eponymous album in 1968, which reached No. 4 in the UK and stayed on the charts 37 weeks, despite the lack of a hit single.  The single they released on this album was ‘Shake Your Moneymaker’ which was written by Elmore James.  Mr. Wonderful was their second studio album, also released in 1968, which had no singles, but reached No. 10.  The group did release three non-album singles in 1968, and ‘Albatross’ charted #1 in the UK.

In 1969, they released two more non-album singles, ‘Man of the World’ / ‘Somebody’s Gonna Get Their Head Kicked in Tonite’ and ‘Oh Well (Parts 1 and 2)’, both of which charted #2 in the UK.  Then Play On was their third studio album, released in 1969 and their first to feature Danny Kirwan and the last with Peter Green.  This album charted #6 in the UK and went to 109 in the US and the single ‘Rattlesnake Shake’ came from this album that was written by Green, but it failed to chart.  In 1969, they also released Fleetwood Mac in Chicago which was a double album and it featured Fleetwood Mac and seven Chicago blues musicians, Otis Spann (piano, vocals), Willie Dixon (upright bass), Shakey Horton (harmonica, vocals), J.T. Brown (tenor saxophone, vocals), Buddy Guy (guitar), Honeyboy Edwards (guitar, vocals), and S.P. Leary (drums).  This album had no singles and it failed to chart in the UK, but it reached 118 in the US.

Kiln House was their fourth studio album, released in 1970 and the first of the post-Peter Green Fleetwood Mac era, and their last album to feature Jeremy Spencer.  They abandoned the heavy blues path they had been on, and the group drew heavily from early rock and roll influences.  Christine McVie was present at the recording sessions and contributed backing vocals, keyboards, but she was not a full member of the band until shortly after the album’s completion.  This album did not have any singles and it charted 39 in the UK and went to 69 in the US.

Their next five albums from 1971 to 1974 failed to chart in the UK, but oddly they all made the US charts.  Dave Walker and Bob Weston were in the group with Mick, John, Christine and Bob Welch from 1971 through 1972.  Dave Walker is a British singer and guitarist who started playing with The Redcaps in 1960 and he has been front-man for a number of bands; most notably Humble Pie, Savoy Brown, and he was briefly in Black Sabbath.  In 1971, when Future Games came out, it charted 91 and was certified Gold by RIAA.  Bare Trees came out in 1972 and it got to 70 on the charts and went Platinum.  Penguin from 1973 reached 49.  Mystery to Me also from 1973 reached 67 and went Gold.  Heroes Are Hard to Find was released in 1974 and it reached 34.  Each of these albums has singles, but none of them made the charts.

Fleetwood Mac was their tenth studio album, in 1975 and it was their second eponymous album, so most Fleetwood Mac fans refer to it as The White Album.  This was their first album to feature Lindsey and Stevie, after Bob Welch departed the band in late 1974.  The album reached number one on the Billboard 200 over a year after entering the chart, and it spent 37 weeks within the top 10, and more than fifteen months within the top 40.  It also went to 23 in the UK and this album resurrected the group.  It launched three top twenty singles, ‘Over My Head’ which reached #10 in the US, ‘Rhiannon’ and ‘Say You Love Me’, both got to #11.  The song is always referred to as simply ‘Rhiannon’ on Fleetwood Mac albums, but the title ‘Rhiannon (Will You Ever Win)’ was used on single versions in some countries.  Stevie Nicks wrote this song with some help from Lindsey, while they were recording as Buckingham-Nicks and they were about to release the track on their second album, but they joined Fleetwood Mac instead and recorded it with them.  The album was a prelude to a run of hugely successful albums for the band in Britain, including four multi-platinum number ones, Rumours, Tusk, Tango in the Night and Behind the Mask.

Rumours was their eleventh studio album, released in 1977.  It won Album of the Year at the 20th Grammy Awards and in 2003, the album was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.  John McVie suggested the album title to the band because he felt the members were writing “journals and diaries” about each other through music.  The album produced several top singles including ‘Go Your Own Way’ which reached 38 in the UK and 10 in the US and went Platinum.  ‘Dreams’ reached 24 in the UK and 1 in the US and went Platinum.  ‘Don’t Stop’ reached 32 in the UK and 3 in the US and went Silver.  ‘You Make Loving Fun’ reached 45 in the UK and 9 in the US.

Rumours was selected in 2018 for preservation in the National Recording Registry.  Rolling Stone placed it at number 26 on their list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, describing the band as turning “private turmoil into gleaming, melodic public art.”  Fleetwood Mac Rumours sold 10 million copies in its first year, becoming the top-selling album in history at that time.  The group toured for a solid year, playing to sold-out 10,000-seat arenas each night.  Before the recording of Rumours began, Fleetwood had become aware that his wife Jenny Boyd and mother to their two daughters, Lucy and Amy was having an affair with a close friend, and divorce would soon follow.

Combining rock-and-roll with sex and drugs, then adding in jealousy, infidelity usually leads to divorce, especially when members are in the same band.  The marriage of bandmates Christine and John McVie, began to implode at the same time when Buckingham and Nicks’ relationship was faltering.  Reports say that Buckingham became jealous of Nicks and he started mocking her onstage, he was physically abusive kicking her, choking her and he reportedly threw a Les Paul guitar at her head, although he claims not to remember any of these events.  At this time Nicks was taking the tranquilizer Klonopin, which was prescribed by a psychiatrist to help calm her nerves after being addicted to cocaine for about 10 years. Nicks officially ended things, deciding to go her own way.

After being married for almost eight years, Christine and John entered the studio near San Francisco to begin recording and mixing of Rumours, while they were at the point of divorce.  Adhering to the notion of British reserve, the former couple stayed silent around each other, avoiding contact other than during work sessions.  Things further deteriorated when Christine began openly dating the band’s lighting director.

The high emotions that the band was enduring, ultimately resulted in several hit songs with brutally honest lyrics.  ‘Go Your Own Way; was Buckingham’s response to the disintegration of his relationship with Nicks.  ‘Don’t Stop’ was Christine’s ode to looking ahead in life, while ‘You Make Loving Fun’ was a celebration of her new-found romance away from ex-husband John.  ‘The Chain’ was the group’s joint anthem regarding betrayal.

In 1979, Christine McVie started a romantic relationship, with Beach Boy Dennis Wilson which did not end on particularly good terms, and she hadn’t seen him for at least two years when she heard that Dennis had drowned.  In 1998, Christine announced that she was quitting Fleetwood Mac, after 28 years of late nights, she was done living out of a suitcase, finished with recording studios and sold-out arenas.  She was scared of flying, so she returned to her native England.  Her second marriage, to keyboardist Eddy Quintela ended in 2003, as they divorced after more than a dozen years of marriage.  They collaborated on 14 songs while they were together and ‘Little Lies’ and ‘As Long As You Follow’, became hits for Fleetwood Mac.  Being out of the music business and out of public view worked out all right for a while, till she started getting bored and then she began seeing a therapist to overcome her flying phobia. and then she asked the band if she could come back.

The only two constants in this band were drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie, as Buckingham left after 1987’s Tango in the Night,  Nicks’ left after 1990’s Behind the Mask and Christine McVie left after 1995’s Time, although they all eventually returned.  From 1987-91, the band consisted of Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, Christine McVie, Stevie Nicks, Billy Burnette who toured with Bob Dylan and John Fogerty and Rick Vito who was a member of the bands of John Mayall, Bonnie Raitt, Bob Seger, and many others.  From 1991-95, band members were Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, Christine McVie, Billy Burnette, Bekka Bramlett the daughter of Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett and she worked with Mick Fleetwood’s band, The Zoo, on his album, Shakin’ the Cage, in June, 1992, before joining and Dave Mason the guitarist and song writer known mostly for his time as an original member in the band Traffic.  From 1997-98, members were Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, Christine McVie, Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. From 1998-2013, the band was Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks.  From 2014-17, it was Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, Lindsey Buckingham, Stevie Nicks and Christine McVie. 2018 – Present, it is Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, Stevie Nicks, Christine McVie, Mike Campbell of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers and Neil Finn of Crowded House.

34 thoughts on “F is for Fleetwood Mac

    1. They had a lot more songs which I did not write about because this post went on and on, but I wanted to cover the band from their beginnings where they didn’t record such great music.

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  1. Well done, Jim. Though FM are known more for Rumours, they were a phenomenal blues band during Peter Green days.
    Have you heard Christine McVie during her Chicken Shack days…an excellent blues vocalist.

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  2. There can’t be very many households that hasn’t got a copy of ‘Rumours’ in their music collection (I have it on vinyl and CD).
    ‘Mystery To Me’ and the double ‘Live’ albums are another two I like.
    Fleetwood Mac certainly have had a long, roller-coaster of a career in music.

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  3. Another good post Jim! Funny how it worked out you post them right after Eagles, because the 2 are ever-linked in my mid…the big bands of that certain era, and to top it off, I recall my brother giving me ‘Rumours’ and ‘Hotel California’ together one birthday.
    I love ‘Rumours’, like quite a few of their other songs too (“sara” to me is a very underrated gem), haven’t heard a lot of their early Green-era blues, but what I have is not bad. I liked Bob Welch’s solo stuff too; talk about a bad time to quit though (or be turfed out). I’d be curious to see them now with Finn and Mike Campbell in, and Buckingham out… would probably be good, but a bit different.

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    1. They went through so many changes and they have a real long history, so this was a hard post for me to write. The reason that Fleetwood Mac appears after the Eagles is that I wrote this for a thing called the April A to Z challenge. Tomorrow it will be the Grateful Dead for the letter G.


  4. I only knew of Fleetwood Mac in the 80’s and loved their music. Recently I saw several documentaries about the band’s history. This is surely the most creative but also most chaotic band ever. Great music though 😁🙋‍♀️🐝.

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  5. Great post Jim…
    I like Fleetwood Mac a lot. I really like their Peter Green era also which gets overlooked because of Rumors. Everything gets overlooked because of Rumors. It’s one band I regret not seeing live.
    Their debut album with Buckingham/Nicks was great…it was Rumors part one to me…I like it almost as well…especially the song Monday Morning.

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  6. Just like the Eagles, I cannot imagine coming-of-age without Fleetwood Mac.

    But…um…‘Somebody’s Gonna Get Their Head Kicked in Tonite’? Think I missed that one! LOL! 😀

    I liked Bob Welch too. He got my attention because “Welch” is my maiden name – LOL! – but I never knew he committed suicide. How sad.

    Another great write-up, Jim!

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  7. Wow Jim, just wow, and then some. You’ve made me skip doing things again.
    One of my all time favourites. I joined them at Oh Well in 1969 and have been along for the ride ever since. Thanks again.

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  8. One of my all time faves, at least the version of the group with Stevie and Lindsey. I have seen them with Mike Campbell and Neil Finn and they were good too. I consider Stevie my muse 🙂 Great detail, Jim.

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