Jeremy Spencer Biography
Born on July 4th, 1948, Jeremy Spencer was one of the original members of Fleetwood Mac. He was discovered by Mike Vernon, who Read The traveled to Birmingham to see Spencer's band, the Levi Set Blues Group. Although Vernon saw no future for the rest of the band, he was impressed with Spencer's slide-guitar playing and with his devoted renditions of Elmore James songs: "Jeremy really blew me away. He was on the short side, with a flock of curly hair, not unlike Peter's, and he played slide on this large, F-hole semi-acoustic with a pick up. He was playing Elmore James songs-- he even sang like Elmore James." (A sample of what Jeremy sounded like prior to joining the band can be heard here -- this was circa 1966 or early '67.) Vernon, who knew Peter Green wanted to 'share the spotlight' in his new band with another guitarist, arranged for the two to meet. Soon after, they began rehearsing together with drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist Bob Brunning.
Spencer was only 18 years old when he joined the band, and had an infant son, Dicken, with his 15 year old childhood sweetheart named Fiona. (The couple eventually went on to have eight children.)
Much of Spencer's contribution to the band consisted of remakes of Elmore James songs, but according to Mick Fleetwood, "Jeremy was way past merely copying Elmore James. He was a chameleon in the best sense of the word. He acted the blues, lived the blues with the conviction that really matters in music." The elfin guitarist also contributed much vulgarity to live performances, hanging condoms from his guitar and using foul language. The group was even banned from London's Marquee Club after Fleetwood and Spencer appeared onstage with a variety of sexual aids, including condoms filled with beer. Jeremy's ability to mimic Rock n' Roll greats soon led the band to devote half of their show to doing hilarious 50's pop parodies, with Spencer impersonating Elvis, Little Richard, Buddy Holly and Cliff Richard.
For these performances, the band would call themselves 'Earl Vince and the Valiants,' and Jeremy would slick back his curly hair and put on a gold lame' suit. Despite his entertaining parodies onstage, Spencer was also a "lazy musician who refused to write anything of his own." He was fairly religious and had a mini-Bible sewn into the lining of his coat; he would pray at home with Fiona and Dicken before 'transforming' into Fleetwood Mac's crude 'front man' at each gig.
In January 1970, after releasing Then Play On (which Spencer didn't play on at all), the band released (in the U.K. only) an album of "rock n' roll satire ...on which Spencer attacks everything from rockabilly to acned teen ballads, surfin' to psychadelia, blues to boogie, Presley to Pink Floyd... 'Don't Go Please Stay' is a brave pie in the face for the Mac themselves." (This track, as well as 'You Made A Hit' can be heard on the CD included with the hard-cover version of My 25 Years in Fleetwood Mac.) There was also talk of Green and Spencer recording a 'religious epic' together, but this never came to pass, as Peter left the group in May of 1970. The group's next album, Kiln House, was Jeremy's last with the band. He was quite uncomfortable with his (and Danny Kirwan's) task of filling Peter's shoes: "I didn't feel I could do it. All I could play was rock n' roll. Peter was a developed musician. I couldn't do the stuff that people now expected us to play."
Two weeks into their tour to support the album, in L.A., Jeremy disappeared. He had left the hotel at about 3:00 to visit a bookstore on Hollywood Blvd, and on the street he was approached by a member of the religious group called The Children Of God. When the guitarist failed to show up for that evening's gig, the police were contacted, and five worry-filled days later Spencer was traced to the Children Of God headquarters, a warehouse in downtown L.A. In order to get in to see Spencer, manager Clifford Davis had to make up a story about Jeremy's wife, Fiona, being seriously ill. According to a Fleetwood Mac roadie who was at the scene, Spencer "was walking around in a daze like a zombie...he'd been brainwashed. It nearly killed me to see him." His head had been shaved and he now answered to the biblical name Jonathan.
Davis and Spencer talked for 3 hours, while members of the cult rubbed Jeremy's arms and chanted 'Jesus Loves You' repeatedly. Apparently the guitarist had been doing some 'soul-searching': "Acid trips and dope, fame and fortune, pride and conceit, idleness and every other sin took hold of me from the start of the material success of the band." Much like Peter Green, Jeremy also felt unworthy of all the adoration he'd been receiving in the group. Ironically, to replace Spencer on their tour, which still had 6 weeks left, Fleetwood Mac begged Green to fly in and help them complete the shows, which he did.
In 1975 Jeremy Spencer returned to London and formed a group called Albatross with other Children Of God members; of course, part of their act "included his tireless tributes to Elmore James , played presumably with a clean conscience this time." He also released an album in 1979 called Flee. Jeremy is still involved with The Family (as the Children of God are now called) and is also still playing and composing music. In March 1995, he played some shows in India with a group from The Family called Heart to Heart. Clips of the show are evidence that the only thing Jeremy has lost over the years is some hair-- his talent and enthusiasm for playing the slide guitar are still quite apparent.
He appears to be healthy and happy, and we are glad to know he is still involved with and enjoying music. Additional shows occurred in Bombay and New Delhi, India in January and February, 1998. While in India, Jeremy was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on January 12, 1998 at a ceremony in New York City. In February 2000, Jeremy is doing another benefit in India sans the dance troupe. Among the shows there, Jeremy played at the Jazz Yatra International Jazz Festival with Leni Stern, five time winner of the Gibson Women's guitarist award.
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