Bob Welch: Retracing the Steps of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Invisible’ Frontman
"I am de invisible man!" Bob Welch once quipped, shortly after he was weirdly excluded from Fleetwood Mac's induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Welch's role in Fleetwood Mac might best be encapsulated in two words: "transitional figure." Which may account for the confusion non-buffs have when it comes to placing his five-year service to the group in history. You can't peg him to the veteran group's original blues sound or later years of superstardom. Instead, he helped pave the bridge in-between.
Mac was "making the change from straight blues to the more harmony vocal type sound when I was in the band," he said in a 1999 interview. "In fact, I think I helped them do that." Notably, he was the first American hired to be a frontman for the once quintessentially British band as they consciously considered a more commercial direction. "I think my contribution to Fleetwood Mac, looking back, is that I helped them redefine their sound after they had lost their founding member (Peter Green). And, I helped them survive, as a working band, long enough to get to L.A.(from Britain). It was my suggestion that we move there"—where, after he quit, they hired Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks to replace him, and the rest is history.
Welch deserves credit for a lot more than being a way-paver for Buckingham/Nicks, though. Some of his songs he wrote and sang on the five albums released during his 1971-74 with the group, like "Hypnotized," were such FM staples that Buckingham was obligated to keep performing them after Welch quit... just as Welch had had to keep singing Peter Green songs like "Oh Well" when he joined the group.