Guitar World (12/1989), Where Are They Now? Fleetwood Mac's Bob Welch

Guitar World, Vol. 10 No.12, December 1989

Where Are They Now?
Fleetwood Mac’s Bob Welch
by Richard J. Grula

Wounded by the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune, Bob Welch is working his way back into the mainstream.

If ever there was a guitarist who zigged when he should’ve zagged, Bob Welch is the guy. Welch made his mark co-piloting Fleetwood Mac through five albums in the early Seventies, a period when the band was often overwhelmed by mind-numbing legal and financial hassles. In 1976 drummer/leader Mick Fleetwood opted to expand the group by adding two unknowns - singer Stevie Nicks and guitarist Lindsey Buckingham. "I agreed with the philosophy," recalls Welch, "but I said, ‘Naah, I don’t really want to stay for another go-round.’ Much to my dismay."

Dismay? While Welch struggled with Paris, a forgettable power-trio which folded after two albums, the retooled big Mac sold millions and became virtually a record industry unto themselves. Then, capitalizing on his former band’s success, he enlisted members of Fleetwood Mac for a remake of "Sentimental Lady," a Welch tune from the Mac’s Bare Trees. The song hit big and Welch’s solo debut, French Kiss, sold over two million units. But he quickly discovered the problem a huge debut created. "The next one had to sell two million," he sighs. "If it sold 1,861,000, I was a flop. So the pressure was really on, and it became a backwards evolution."

Battered by disco and punk, and the effects of his own burgeoning drug problem, each of Welch’s next six solo albums fared worse than its predecessor. His solo career ground to a halt with 1984’s dismal Eye Contact, after which Welch spent his days at home "thinking about when I could buy my next half-ounce of whatever." His house became a crash pad for L.A. rockers, including the young Guns N’ Roses, who rehearsed in his garage. "They’d come upstairs, where I had a few gold records on my wall, and say, ‘Wow! Bob, what’s it really like?’ I’d say, ‘Hey, man, it’s horrible, you don’t wanna do it.’" Crowded living conditions soon forced Welch to move into a hotel.

Realizing he "had to do it," Welch checked into detox in late ‘85. Emerging as "Mr. Clean & Sober," he sold his house and met his future wife, Wendy, who began straightening out Welsh’s disorganized finances. He made a few more stabs at music in L.A., but sickened by egos, pollution and that city’s cultural de-evolution, he and Wendy packed up and moved to Arizona in 1987, where they became immersed in a vibrant Phoenix music scene. Recently, Welch recruited hot local players and formed Avenue M, a hard-rocking outfit which he describes as "Aerosmith with David Lee Roth’s humor - and lots of guitar."

"Musicality is back," says Welch, who raves about groups like Extreme and Van Halen.

Avenue M is now searching for a record deal and Welch, at 41, finds himself back at square one. He’s witnessed all the ugly business dealings of rock ‘n’ roll but, healthy, happy and eager, he’s itching for another shot at the big time. No doubt he’s learned a few things.

"Izzy {Stradlin’} called me about a month ago," Welch confides. "He said, ‘The guys are pissed at me because I told them I want accounts separate from the band, just to handle my stuff. They’re telling me, "Hey - don’t you trust us?’" I said, ‘Izzy, if you never do anything else, do exactly that. Don’t do drugs and get your own guys. Keep your own stuff straight. Have your little black book.’ Lord have mercy, it is unbelievable the messes you get into."

Thanks to Tracy Garner for the submission.