Anyone who in a year has built up the reputation of being Britain’s best blues guitarist, must have some interesting things to say, and therefore be interesting to write about and read about. That’s what I figured and indeed Peter Green is very interesting.
He made his reputation as John Mayall’s lead guitarist when he replaced Eric (then “Slowhand”) Clapton. It is necessary to know that Peter Green really and truly lives for the blues and with the blues, and everything from his East End upbringing (he was a shy and reticent child) to his natural talent has contributed to his present reputation.
When he replaced Clapton after a series of auditions by John Mayall in which Peter won hands down, he was taunted on nearly every date by cries of “We want Clapton” from some of the audience.
“They weren’t the kind of things which made me play better,” said Peter, “they would just bring me down. For a long time with John I wasn’t playing at my best, as good as I was able. Only in the last few months with him could I really feel uninhibited.”
Peter first became interested in the blues when he heard a Muddy Waters record when he was fourteen. At that time he was playing bass, but after hearing more and more blues he felt he could play blues guitar and switched instruments. From playing Shadows material he has changed to playing real blues – he is on the new Eddie Boyd LP and in a private letter to a record producer Eddie said that Peter could play blues guitar better than anyone else he had heard – a truly fine compliment.
Peter’s guitar playing has made him into one of the most highly-rated musicians in the country, but does Peter think that his very specialist form of music can be truly appreciated by the audience?
“No, no, only by a few. I think this is demonstrated by the applause I get when I play very fast – it’s something I used to do with John when things weren’t going very well. But it isn’t any good. I like to play slowly, and feel every note – it comes from every part of my body and my heart and into my fingers. I have to really feel it, I make the guitar sing the blues – if you don’t have a vocalist then the guitar must sing.
“Only a few people in this country can really do this. Clapton could. I would watch him and think how great he was. But he sat in with us the other week and he isn’t the same, he’s lost the feeling. Mind you he could, I think, get it back – but he’s so easily influenced. He sees Hendrix and thinks ‘I can do that, why don’t I?’. But I’ll always play the blues.”
A while ago Peter wanted to go to Chicago because he thought that the blues scene in Britain wasn’t wide enough. But he has abandoned the project now and formed his own group, Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac. Why did he leave John Mayall’s band, which has the reputation of being the country’s most successful blues outfit?
“Various reasons. But the most important was that I didn’t agree with the kind of material which was being played. It was becoming, for me, less and less of the blues. And we’d do the same thing, night after night. John would say something to the audience and count us in, and I’d groan inwardly.”
Peter’s group will record for the Blue Horizon label, a specialist label which will soon be distributed nationally.
If you appreciate blues, and real blues guitar, don’t miss them.
Norman Jopling / Record Mirror / August 19, 1967