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Mac brings it back: Mick Fleetwood re-creates lesser-known blues sound of famous band

NORTH COUNTY TIMES, By GARY WARTH - Staff Writer

Fleetwood Mac. The band that needs no introduction. Lindsey Buckingham. Stevie Nicks. "Go Your Own Way." "Rhiannon." "Don't Stop." "Landslide."

And then there's "Hellhound on My Trail." "Shake Your Moneymaker." "Black Magic Woman."

Wait. What do those Robert Johnson and Elmore James songs have to do with Fleetwood Mac? And everybody knows "Black Magic Woman" is a Santana song.

But to fans who know Fleetwood Mac as more than just the smooth pop band that dominated the 1970s, it all makes sense.

There were two Fleetwood Macs, with only the second version becoming a superstar in the United States. Its first incarnation was a blues band put together by English kids who grew up loving the music that had become all but forgotten by the United States.

As the band's lineup changed, so did Fleetwood Mac. The songwriting talents of latecomers Buckingham, Nicks and Christine McVie led the band to fame and fortune in the United States, and most American fans never had a chance to hear the band's bluesy roots.

Until now. Drummer and founding member Mick Fleetwood is re-creating the sound and set list of the original Fleetwood Mac for a brief tour that includes a June 12 stop at Spreckels Theatre in downtown San Diego.

"I think it sounds like the band," Fleetwood said from his home in Maui, Hawaii, where he is preparing for the tour. "Believe me, you will close your eyes and be hearing those songs played brilliantly."

The set list likely will include songs by Elmore James, Howlin' Wolf and Robert Johnson. It also will include "Black Magic Woman," a song written by then-band leader Peter Green and later covered by Carlos Santana.

The Mick Fleetwood Blues Band includes bassist Lenny Castellanos, keyboardist and vocalist Mark Johnstone and lead vocalist and guitarist Rick Vito, a Fleetwood Mac member from 1987 to 1991.

"Rick is his own master in terms of styling, but the lovely thing about my musical and personal relationship with Rick is that he came to see the original band back in 1968," Fleetwood said. "His connection lasted right through the history. He absolutely adores Peter Green. Not only is Rick his own musical boss, he really knows and loves this music, going way back."

Fleetwood is calling his latest outing the Uncorked Tour in honor of his award-winning wine label, Mick Fleetwood Private Cellar. Fleetwood does not own a vineyard, but rather creates his wines by blending several vintages into a specific taste.

Fans who purchase a $200 VIP ticket to the show will participate in a wine tasting with Fleetwood before the show and receive an autographed bottle of one of his wines.

For Fleetwood, the evening will be a blending of his favorite things.

"Wine, women and song," he said. "The only thing missing is the women."

By the women, Fleetwood may be referring to his band. He described the Mick Fleetwood Blues Band as a version of the more famous band that bore his name "before all the ladies joined."

Fleetwood still grows excited remembering the early days when he and his schoolmates first heard blues from the United States. English kids such as Eric Clapton, whom Peter Green replaced in John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, sought out old records to learn guitar riffs and songs to form their own bands.

The early Fleetwood Mac, the Rolling Stones and other English bands recorded those songs and toured the United States, eagerly looking forward to visiting the birthplace of the blues. Instead, Fleetwood recalled blank stares when they mentioned the names of their musical heroes to Americans, who had mostly forgotten the music's pioneers.

Ironically, the English musicians ultimately were credited with introducing blues music to a new generation of American fans, an accomplishment still meaningful to Fleetwood.

"An art form that's a true American heritage survived," he said. "This is what this evening is all about. I love to be reminded of the music I was brought up on and loved."

By going on the road with a blues band again, Fleetwood hopes to once again help keep the music alive, although he has faith it will survive for generations to come.

"It's being kept alive by a lot of young, great players," he said. "Having this funny version, to be this crazy Englishman and to be part of it, it is important. And it's happily past the stage that you think this stuff might have disappeared."

Contact staff writer Gary Warth at (760) 740-5410 or
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Mick Fleetwood Blues Band

When: 9 p.m. June 12

Where: Spreckels Theatre, 121 Broadway, San Diego

Tickets: $40-$75 ($200, VIP package)

Info: (619) 220-8497 or ticketmaster.com

Web: mickfleetwood.com