Former Fleetwood Mac guitarist Bob Welch was found dead of an apparent suicide at his home in Nashville yesterday. TMZ reports that his wife found the 66-year-old’s body, along with a suicide note, around noon, dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Welch had recently been battling health issues.
In the hours following his death, former bandmates Stevie Nicks and Mick Fleetwood both fondly remembered the guitarist, who sang and played in Fleetwood Mac from 1971 to 1974, what he called, in an interview, “the bridge era,” when the band’s style was evolving from blues rock to its more “commercial” sound.
“I’m so very sorry for his family and for the family of Fleetwood Mac,” Nicks wrote in an official statement. “He was an amazing guitar player — he was funny, sweet — and he was smart.”
“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. If you look into our musical history, you’ll see a huge period that was completely ensconced in Bob’s work.” Fleetwood also noted that the guitarist’s apparent suicide was “incredibly out of character.”
When Welch was excluded from the band’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in 1998, he told the Cleveland Plain Dealer (via the L.A. Times) that although Fleetwood had previously credited him with “saving Fleetwood Mac,” the band wanted “to write me out of the history of the group.”
Following his auspicious hiring in 1971, when a friend of the band recommended the then-Paris resident and the group tapped him without playing with him or hearing his music, Welch appeared on early albums like Future Games, Bare Trees, and Heroes Are Hard to Find. After leaving the band, he pursued a successful solo career, snagging a Top 20 hit with the song “Ebony Eyes” in 1977, the same year that Fleetwood Mac released their seminal Rumors album.
Welch is the second former Fleetwood Mac guitarist to die this year; the band’s other Bob, Bob Weston, died in January at 64 of a gastrointestinal hemorrhage.