AOTM: Faking it…Fleetwood Mac Goes to Court

Fleetwood Mac’s 1972-1974 line up was riddled with strife. In 1972, the band hired Bob Weston and Dave Walker. During this time, Fleetwood Mac released their seventh album Penguin and went out on tour. Dave Walker, who was brought in as a vocalist, was fired right after the tour finished because his vocal style and attitude didn’t match the rest of the band. Fleetwood Mac then completed their eighth studio album titled Mystery to Me. The group headed out on tour, but this tour would not end like the others. Partway through the tour, Weston, who was added to the group as a guitarist, was fired from the band for having any affair with Mick Fleetwood’s wife. The rest of the tour was canceled and their eighth album didn’t do as well as previous albums. This angered their manager Clifford Davis. With Fleetwood Mac on an unexpected hiatus, Davis took matters into his own hands and created a fake Fleetwood Mac.

Clifford Davis managed Fleetwood Mac from 1967-1974, and firmly believed he was the rightful owner of the band’s name, which meant he could do with it what he pleased. In a 1974 Rolling Stone article documenting the incident, Davis said, “I want to get this out of the public’s mind as far as the band being Mick Fleetwood’s band,” said Davis. “This band is my band. This band has always been my band (rollingstone.com).” Davis then brought in new musicians to play concerts under the Fleetwood Mac moniker.

Bob Welch, guitarist for the band at the time, explained that Davis didn’t have the legal right to the band. While the members were on vacation, Davis sent all of them a letter stating his intentions and expectations that the band perform a variety of gigs. None of the band members accepted his demands, so Davis put new musicians in their place. Welch stated, “If he [Davis] has the rights to the band’s name, theoretically he can put anybody there. He can put four dogs barking on a leash and call it Fleetwood Mac. Basically what it boils down to is the manager flipped his lid. We’re going to take legal action as soon as we know where we can take it from (rollingstone.com).” While the real Fleetwood Mac was gearing up for legal action, Davis continued to have the fake group perform.

In the meantime, Fleetwood, Welch, and the McVies were also planning a temporary move to the United States to fight their legal battle. The band’s primary audience was American, and since the fake band/tour happened in the U.S., the legal process had to occur in the States. When the band arrived in America, they had a total of $7200 to their name (Fleetwood Mac: The Complete History). Fleetwood Mac was able to get Davis’ fake band restricted from performing live, but it also meant they were restricted from collecting royalties and performing live, too. Legalities may have restricted them from performing live or receiving royalties during this time, but they were able to record their next album Heroes are Hard to Find. When it was all said and done, Fleetwood Mac retained their rights to the band’s name, tour, and continued their journey with the latest album scoring a Top 40 placement on the US charts.

(“Angel” from Heroes are Hard to Find, Fleetwood Mac 1974)

While Fleetwood Mac experienced strife in the band from 1972-1974, the biggest battle they faced was proving who they were and who had the legal rights professionally. The band not only succeeded in court against Davis, they likewise succeeded on the charts with their album Heroes are Hard to Find. Davis may have claimed he was the owner of Fleetwood Mac, but ultimately, the musicians proved they were the rightful and legal owners of themselves.

~Jenna Jakes, WOGB

Related Links:

Fleetwood Mac Soars With Buckingham-Nicks

Fleetwood Mac…the Peter Green Years

Arnel Pineda’s Journey Chronicled In Documentary

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