Peter Green: One of the greatest guitarists of a generation

Fleetwood Mac founding member Peter Green may never really understood that his status as one of the greatest guitarists of all time.

Described by BB King as the only guitarist "to give me the cold sweats" – and referred to by Mick Fleetwood as "The Boss", Green's sound formed the foundation stone of his band's early success.

Known to those who played with him as "The Green God", it was perhaps blues singer John Mayall who first recognised the extent of his talent, recruiting him to replace Eric Clapton in John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers.

After forming the awkwardly-titled Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac featuring Jeremy Spencer in 1967, Green walked away from the band after just three years in the grip of what would later be diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenia.

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UNITED KINGDOM - JANUARY 01: BBC TV CENTRE Photo of FLEETWOOD MAC and Peter GREEN, with Fleetwood Mac, performing on TV Show (Photo by Ivan Keeman/Redferns)
1968: (L-R) John McVie, Jeremy Spencer, Peter Green, Danny Kirwan and Mick Fleetwood of the rock group "Fleetwood Mac" pose for a portrait holding Pan Am bags in 1968. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
UNSPECIFIED - JANUARY 01: (AUSTRALIA OUT) Photo of FLEETWOOD MAC; Grou portrait - Peter Green John McVie and Jeremy Spencer, Mick Fleetwood, front (Photo by GAB Archive/Redferns)
UNSPECIFIED - JANUARY 01: Photo of Peter GREEN and Jeremy SPENCER and Mick FLEETWOOD and Danny KIRWAN and John McVIE and FLEETWOOD MAC; Posed group portrait L-R John McVie, Danny Kirwan, Mick Fleetwood, Jeremy Spencer and Peter Green (back) (Photo by RB/Redferns)
17th June 1968: Blues, rock 'n' roll and progressive pop influenced band Fleetwood Mac, when their instrumental single 'Albatross' was topping the British charts. The line up is, from left to right; Mick Fleetwood, Peter Green, Jeremy Spencer and John McVie. (Photo by Keystone Features/Getty Images)
UNITED KINGDOM - JANUARY 01: BBC TV CENTRE Photo of FLEETWOOD MAC, L-R: Danny Kirwan, Peter Green, Jeremy Spencer, Mick Fleetwood performing on TV Show (Photo by Ivan Keeman/Redferns)
British rock musician Peter Green, of the group Fleetwood Mac, performs, London, England, late 1960s or early 1970s. (Photo by George Wilkes/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Guitarist Peter Green (right) and bassist John McVie, of British rock group Fleetwood Mac, rehearsing at the Royal Albert Hall, London, 22nd April 1969. (Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - 1969: (L-R) 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, California. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
British blues rock guitarist and founder of Fleetwood Mac, Peter Green, June 1969. (Photo by George Wilkes/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - MARCH 21: (L-R) Mick Fleetwood, Jeremy Spencer, Danny Kirwan, John McVie and Peter Green (top) of the rock group 'Fleetwood Mac' pose for a portrait on March 21, 1970 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - NOVEMBER 04: Peter Green (ex Fleetwood Mac) performs live on stage at Paradiso in Amsterdam, Netherlands on November 04 1996 (photo by Frans Schellekens/Redferns)
Portrait of ex Fleetwood Mac pop group member Peter Green, 10th April 1987. (Photo by John Shenton/Mirrorpix/Getty Images)
LONDON - MARCH 15: Peter Green, co founder of Fleetwood Mac performs at the "One Generation 4 Another" show on March 15, 2004 at the Royal Albert Hall, in London. The special one-off two-hour event is in behalf of the Lord's Taverners, which aim to give children, particularly those with special needs, financial help with sport-related requirements. (Photo by Jo Hale/Getty Images)
LONDON - OCTOBER 6: Peter Green of Fleetwood Mac arrives for the BMI Awards at the Dorchester Hotel on October 6, 2009 in London, England. (Photo by Samir Hussein/Getty Images)

In those years the band released six UK top 40 singles, including Albatross, Need Your Love So Bad and the purely instrumental Albatross that went to number one in the UK and are still cited by Fleetwood Mac purists as "the real thing".

Between announcing his departure and actually leaving, Green penned The Green Manalishi – a song Green said was about money and the devil.

It featured the lyric: "I can't believe you need my love so bad, you come sneaking around trying to drive me mad."

Green's anxiety and disgust of money was one of the major features of his mental illness, and the reason cited by many who knew him that drove him to quit the band.

RIP #PeterGreen

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Bandmate Fleetwood once recalled Green's anxiety about their growing wealth.

He once told an interviewer: "I had conversations with Peter Green around that time and he was obsessive about us not making money, wanting us to give it all away.

"And I'd say, 'Well you can do it, I don't wanna do that, and that doesn't make me a bad person'."

Peter Allen Greenbaum was born in Bethnal Green, London, on October 29 1946, into a Jewish family.

The youngest of four children, his brother Michael taught him his first guitar chords – and by the age of 11 Green was teaching himself.

The 1970s for Green were punctuated by spells in psychiatric hospitals and courses of electrocovulsive therapy, which would leave him in a trance-like state.

Guitarist Nigel Watson, who worked with Green on a number of records, said once: "Very often, after he'd had a treatment, he came into my brother's shop where I was working and which was only a hundred yards away from the hospital.

"He stood there, like, for hours, with his arms slightly in front and in a trance, telling me how very frightened of it he was."

He was famously arrested in 1977 for aiming a shotgun at his accountant.

According to legend, Green wanted him to stop sending him his royalty cheques for Fleetwood Mac's early work, worth around £30,000 a year.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Green returned to music – propelled mainly by his brother Micheal who wrote the majority of his records and helped him find a label.

He also made a couple of appearances on Fleetwood Mac recordings – including the 1979 album "Tusk" and the single "Brown Eyes", as well as contributing to Mick Fleetwood's 1981 solo album The Visitor.

Green blamed a lot of his mental health problems on his experimentation with LSD, saying in 1988: "I took LSD eight or nine times.

"The effect of that stuff lasts so long.... I wanted to give away all my money.... I went kind of holy – no, not holy, religious."

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Fleetwood Mac at London Airport in 1970, with Peter Green second left (PA)

Rolling Stone magazine ranks Green at number 58 on its list of the "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time" while Mojo magazine places him at number three.

As recently as February of this year, some of his contemporaries and musicians inspired by him staged a "Peter Green Tribute Concert" featuring the likes of Mick Fleetwood, The Who's Pete Townshend, ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons and Oasis's Noel Gallagher.

Green himself was not present, in fact it's not even clear if he knew the concert was taking place.

Fleetwood, in the late 1990s, said he was rarely able to contact his mentor and old friend.

He told the PA news agency: "I spoke to him last time we played Wembley Stadium. I told him we were thinking about him and asked him to come along.

"He said no, and I thought he was just about to put the phone down when I heard him say, 'Mick, play a real great one for me, won't you?' – and it just broke my heart."

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