June 7, 2012 – Bob Welch (Fleetwood Mac) was born on July 31, 1945 in Los Angeles, California, into a show business family. His father was the successful Hollywood movie producer Robert Welch, best known for his work with Bob Hope. Neighbors were Yul Brunner and Jonathan Winters. As a youngster, he learned clarinet, switching to guitar in his early teens and developed an interest in jazz, rhythm and blues, and rock music.
He was accepted into Georgetown University, but instead moved to Paris, planning to attend the Sorbonne. Welch told People in a 1979 interview that, in Paris, “I mostly smoked hash with bearded guys five years older” and spent most of my time “sitting in the Deux Magots café“. He returned to Southern California, where he briefly studied French at the University of California, Los Angeles but did not complete a degree.
In 1964, Welch joined the Los Angeles-based vocal group The Seven Souls as a guitarist. The Seven Souls lost a battle of the bands competition, the prize being a contract with Epic Records, to Sly and the Family Stone. The Seven Souls’ 1967 single “I’m No Stranger” made no impact at the time of its release, despite subsequent issue in France and Italy. Its B-side, “I Still Love You”, has since become a Northern Soul anthem, with original copies selling up to £400. The Seven Souls broke up in 1969.
Welch subsequently returned to Paris and started a trio, Head West, which was not a success. He later told People that his time in Paris (1969-1971) was “living on rice and beans and sleeping on the floor.”
In 1971 while living in Paris, he received a phone call from Mick Fleetwood asking him to come to London. Fleetwood met him at the airport, Welch told the Nashville Tennessean in 2003. “He was driving a yellow VW. He was 6-6 and weighed about 120 pounds. He was a strange-looking human being.”Welch was invited to replace founding guitarist Peter Green to join Fleetwood Mac, and along with Christine McVie, Bob helped to steer the band away from Peter Green/Jeremy Spencer’s blues roots into a more melodic direction.
During the time he spend with Fleetwood Mac they released their album Future Games in 1971, Bare Trees in 1972 with guitarist Danny Kirwan, this album included Welch’s song Sentimental Lady, Mystery To Me in 1973 (included Bob’s son Hypnotized), also that year the band released Penguin and Bob’s final album with Fleetwood Mac Heroes are Hard To Find in 1974.
Things became problematic between Bob and other guitarist Danny Kirwan, due to the latter’s alcohol abuse. Kirwan left the band in August 1972 after he refused to go on stage at a concert after an argument with Welch and Mick Fleetwood fired him. Welch left the band in December 1974, after a brief affair with Christine McVie, much to the dislike of bass player John McVie.
In 1974, Welch was the only guitar player in the band. Warner Bros. made a new deal with Fleetwood Mac, releasing the album Heroes Are Hard to Find on Reprise in September 1974. The album became the band’s first to reach the Top 40 in the United States, peaking at No. 34 on the Billboard chart. The subsequent tour would be Welch’s last with Fleetwood Mac. Welch was suffering with personal and professional issues: his marriage was failing, and he felt he had exhausted his creativity with the band. Later, he explained that he felt estranged from John and Christine McVie, yet close to Fleetwood, with whom, he asserted, he was running the band in 1974. Welch resigned from Fleetwood Mac in December 1974, just prior to mainstream success with Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, with the 1975 album “Fleetwood Mac” and then “Rumors,” Fleetwood Mac’s acclaimed 1977 global superhit album.
The following year he created Paris, the Hard Rock band with Todd Rundgren, Thom Mooney, Hunt Sales and bassist Glenn Cornick (Jethro Tull). Paris released their first album “Paris” and “Big Towne, 2061” in 1976, the band split up the following year, after which Welch then embarked on his solo career.
He scored a massive hit with “Ebony Eyes” in 1977. The album from which it was culled, “French Kiss,” featured a number of former Fleetwood Mac members, as well as a rendition of “Sentimental Lady,” a song originally recorded with Mac but reworked by Welch.
French Kiss his first solo album was released in September 1977, Three Hearts in 1979, The Other One that same year followed by Man Overboard in 1980 and Bob Welch in 1981. The albums contained several singles successes including “Hot Love, Cold World”, “Ebony Eyes”, and “Precious Love”. His next album Eye Contact was released in 1983 the same year he became addicted to heroin.
Bob then met his wife Wendy Armistead Welch at Johnny Depp’s club the Viper Room, when it still was called Central. They got married in 1985, moved to Nashville, Tennessee in 1990, and had no children.
Wendy Welch was given credit by her husband, in his own words he said:
The time frame between 1984-1998 was a story for me of pulling out of major depression, drug addiction and extreme negativity, which I was able to do, thanks to a. the LA Sheriff’s Dept (busted), b. Cedars Sinai hospital (in a coma 2 weeks), and, especially, c. a lovely lady named Wendy Armistead, who helped me stop beating my head against a brick wall ! During this time Wendy helped me to get back into reading music again, to want to do a band again, (the Touch, Ave. M), and to regain my musical and personal identity, which had gotten pretty trashed.
In 1999, after three years clean of drugs he released Bob Welch Looks At Bop. Between 2003 and 2004 he released His Fleetwood Mac Years & Beyond I and II, and Live at Roxy in 2004.
Welch had undergone spinal surgery three months prior to his death. Despite the surgery, doctors told him his prognosis for recovery was poor, and he would eventually become an invalid. He was still in considerable pain, despite taking strong pain medication for six weeks.
On June 7, 2012, around 6:00 a.m., Welch died by suicide, shooting himself in the chest in his Nashville home where his wife Wendy discovered his body. He left a nine-page suicide note and love letter for Wendy; he did not want her to have to take care of an invalid. He left a suicide note, but its content were not revealed. He was 66 years old. Wendy died on November 28, 2016, from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and heart disease, also aged 66. Bob and Wendy Welch are buried beside each other in Memphis, Tennessee.
An exhibit chronicling Bob Welch’s career opened at The Musicians Hall of Fame at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee on August 27, 2018. Despite the lawsuit over a decade earlier, Fleetwood wrote a tribute for the exhibit. Bob and Wendy Welch’s estate has endowed a scholarship to support Belmont School of Music students.
Fleetwood Mac and its former and some current members were inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998, however Bob was not.
“My era was the bridge era,” Welch told the Cleveland Plain Dealer in 1998, after he was excluded from the Fleetwood Mac line-up inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. “It was a transition. But it was an important period in the history of the band. Mick Fleetwood dedicated a whole chapter of his biography to my era of the band and credited me with ‘saving Fleetwood Mac.’ Now they want to write me out of the history of the group.”
• Mick Fleetwood, who hired Welch in 1971 after the departure of Peter Green, said Welch was a key part of the band’s evolution. “He was a huge part of our history which sometimes gets forgotten. Mostly his legacy would be his songwriting abilities that he brought to Fleetwood Mac, which will survive all of us,” said Fleetwood. “If you look into our musical history, you’ll see a huge period that was completely ensconced in Bob’s work.”
• although Stevie Nicks and Welch weren’t in Fleetwood Mac at the same time, she released a statement expressing her admiration and regrets: “The death of Bob Welch is devastating …. I had many great times with him after Lindsey and I joined Fleetwood Mac. He was an amazing guitar player — he was funny, sweet — and he was smart — I am so very sorry for his family and for the family of Fleetwood Mac — so, so sad …”
• David Adelstein, who served as Welch’s keyboard player from 1977 through 1982 said: “For me, they were very exciting times back then. We were the opening act for Dave Mason back around February 12, 1978, our first show at Rocklyn College, NY. A short time later, Bob was leading us up the stairs to what was the biggest crowd I’ve ever seen, Cal-Jam II. We opened the show with a 10:00 AM call! That was a rush — 250,000 people in the crowd at the old Ontario Motor Speedway. During that tour, Bob opened shows for not only Dave Mason, but for Jefferson Starship, Heart, Beach Boys, Styx, Allman Bros. and of course [Fleetwood] Mac (a great billing — the best of both worlds)”. When it came to the follow up album, Bob and his producer, John Carter, gave me my first opportunity to play on that album. When it came around to the third album, Bob gave myself and guitarist Todd Sharp the opportunity to include an original song on the album. This launched my songwriting career. All in all, I have awesome memories from my time playing with Welch, sharing dinners at some wonderful restaurants (he appreciated great food), along with his love of music and that included all kinds of music! The circle of friends here in the LA area … are already missing him much.”