Fleetwood Mac in Chicago: The Legendary Chess Blues Session - January 4, 1969

Author: Robert Schaffner & Jeff Lowenthal
Publisher: Schiffer publishing
Review by Bruce Alexander & Michael Sherer
Review posted: January 2023
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Band photo by Jeff LowenthalBand photo by Jeff Lowenthal

This is the first book to cover Fleetwood Mac in their early stages, and it’s all from the legendary Chess Studios in Chicago.

These recording sessions took place in January 1969, when Fleetwood Mac were a British blues band. Founded in 1967 in London, England by Peter Green, Jeremy Spencer and Mick Fleetwood, it then consisted of Green (guitar, vocals), Spencer (guitar, vocals), Fleetwood (drums), John McVie (bass guitar) and Danny Kirwan (guitar, vocals).

The Chicago blues musicians who also played at this session were Willie Dixon (vocals and guitar), Otis Spann (piano, vocals), (upright bass), Shakey Horton (harmonica, vocals), J.T. Brown (tenor saxophone, vocals), Buddy Guy (guitar)  Honeyboy Edwards (guitar, vocals), and S.P. Leary (drums).

Jeff Lowenthal was the only photographer at the sessions, and his work is candid, insightful and very fine, as is the book as a whole. There are many more black and white photos than there are color.

Also featured are forwards by session producers Marshall Chess and Mike Vernon, texts by Robert Schaffner and some of the participating musicians. Additionally, there’s commentary by non participating musicians such as drummer Aynsley Dunbar, the late Kim Simmons of Savoy Brown, Martin Barre of Jethro Tull and Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick. There’s also a new interview with Buddy Guy.

In essence, this book captures a hungry, still rather new English blues band that were six years away from breaking it big with a different lineup and sound in ‘75 that by then had seen the loss of Green, Spencer and Kirwan.

However, back at the start of ‘69 they were taking their original blues ethos with much seriousness and finding their way. It was a very different era and ethos for them than what was to come, and if one cares to dig deep into their entire history, this book is a must to view their first wave.

Robert Schaffner & Jeff Lowenthal Online
Book on Amazon