Bob Welch, a former Fleetwood Mac guitarist in the 1970s who helped bridge the gap between the band’s blues-focused and pop-rock incarnations, died Thursday at his Nashville home of an apparent suicide, according to police. He was 66.
WKRN-TV, Nashville’s ABC affiliate, as well as other local news outlets are reporting that Welch’s wife Wendy found the musician with a gunshot wound to the chest at their home in the suburb of Antioch, Tenn. shortly after noon.
Fleetwood Mac, “Hypnotized”
Solo, “Sentimental Lady”
Police spokesman Don Aaron said Welch left a suicide note. He also noted that the musician had a history of health issues, but did not elaborate further.
Mick Fleetwood, Bob Welch’s former Fleetwood Mac band mate and the musician’s manager during his solo career, called the suicide “incredibly out of character.”
“He was a very, very profoundly intelligent human being and always in good humor, which is why this is so unbelievably shocking,” Fleetwood told Reuters. “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.”
Born in Los Angeles, Welch had played in various groups before being recruited by the British blues rock-heavy Fleetwood Mac in 1971 after two of its key members, Peter Green and Jeremy Spencer, departed. He played guitar and sang on five albums during his tenure, starting with 1971’s “Future Games” and 1972’s “Bare Trees,” which included the song “Sentimental Lady” — a big hit for him after he went solo.
In 1973, the band released two albums, including “Mystery to Me,” featuring the Welch-sung fan favorite “Hypnotized.” His tenure contains the band’s first top 40 album, 1974’s “Heroes Are Hard to Find,” which peaked at No. 34 on the Billboard 200. It turned out to be his final time out with the group before departing and forming the power trio Paris and, later, a solo career.
All five albums he released with Fleetwood Mac reached the top 100.
After his departure, Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham joined the group and they embarked on their most successful period, marked by mainstream rock albums, including 1976’s landmark “Rumours.”
“He was an amazing guitar player — he was funny, sweet and he was smart,” Nicks recalled in a statement. “I’m so very sorry for his family and for the family of Fleetwood Mac. So, so sad.”
Welch is credited with transitioning the band’s sound into more commercial territory, however, after suing for unpaid royalities in 1994, he was not included as a member when they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.
Welch went on to release his own solo albums, four of which hit the Billboard 200, including the platinum-selling “French Kiss” in 1977. The album reached No. 12 the following year and spawned his only top 10 single on the Billboard Hot 100: “Sentimental Lady” (No. 8). Welch would continue to rack up hit singles, charting four more on the Hot 100 through 1979’s “Church.”
Additional reporting by Keith Caulfield in Los Angeles.