Jeremy Spencer was born on July 4, 1948 in West Hartlepool, Cleveland, England, UK . He grew up listening to early rock and roll (Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly etc.) then after discovering Elmore James -- got seriously into the blues.
Jeremy then formed a trio called The Levi Set and sent a tape to famed blues-era Mac producer Mike Vernon.
Mike ended up seeing the band play while on a scouting trip up North for Decca Records. In Lichfield, Staffordshire Mike saw Spencer play in a church with The Levi Set. Mike thought the trio was rubbish but that Spencer was great, playing wonderful licks on his large F-hole semi-acoustic guitar. Vernon brought the band back to London to record and make some audition tapes -- tapes that ended up being so bad that he didn't bother to play them for Decca.
As for Spencer, he told Mike Vernon that he had talked to Peter Green before at a John Mayall gig, when Green was still playing in his band. So Vernon decided to play the tape for Peter Green to see what he thought of the young guitarist. Well, Peter was so impressed that two days later, he went up to Lichfield, grabbed Spencer by the neck and told him he was in the new band.
In the beginning, they performed as "Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac featuring Jeremy Spencer". After about a month they had their first gig at the famous "Windsor National Jazz and Blues Festival". The Fleetwood Mac buzz had begun.
The band did release a single at that time -- "I Believe My Time Ain't Long"/"Rambling Pony" but didn't release an album until "Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac". This first album did surprisingly well and stayed on the British charts for over a year.
The second single, "Black Magic Woman" flopped, but a third single, an instrumental called "Albatross" found its way to number one. A moody, beautiful piece, it was the first sign that Fleetwood Mac was moving beyond the confines of the blues. With "Albatross" firmly planted at number one, the band headed to the States for their first American tour.
The second Fleetwood Mac album released was "Mr. Wonderful". It was on that album that Jeremy re-recorded "I Believe My Time Ain't Long" but renamed it "Dust My Broom". While touring the States again, the band played a jam-session with some of the great blues legends like Otis Spann and Willie Dixon. The tracks they worked on during that time can be heard on "Blues Jam At Chess".
While with Fleetwood Mac, in 1970, Jeremy recorded a self-titled solo album in a way to make up for the fact that he did not play on "Then Play On" which came out a year earlier. An EP of Jeremy's work was also supposed to have been released at that time but that didn't happen either. The material from that EP has since surfaced on Fleetwood Mac's “Vaudeville Years” CD.
During this early 70's period, it was becoming more and more apparent that Jeremy was not happy in the lifestyle he was immersed in and was trying to 'find himself'. Like everyone else around Jeremy at the time, Mick Fleetwood noticed the change in the young guitarist and suggested that he write a song about he felt. The result was a track called "One Together" which can be heard on The Mac's Kiln House album.
While in LA and visiting a bookstore in the daytime (when scheduled to play with Fleetwood Mac that night), Jeremy met a member of a religious cult called The Children of God. This happenstance meeting proved to be all Jeremy needed to change his life completely in an instant. Apparently this is where he felt his life should be at the time and he decided to withdraw from Fleetwood Mac and society in general.
Jeremy's bandmates in Fleetwood Mac contacted the police soon after, having no idea what had happened to their friend and bandmate. They ended up finding Jeremy at the Children of God 'headquarters'. Fleetwood Mac's manager Clifford Davis did get to speak to Jeremy. He discovered that he was indeed with that group because he wanted to be. The band had no choice but to accept the situation and move on. Jeremy would be sorely missed.
Jeremy did not give up music completely though. He did record an album called “Jeremy Spencer and the Children” in 1972. Then came "Flee" in 1979. The latter release featured a song called "Sunshine" which in essence was a re-worked version of “When I Looked to See the Sunshine” from the “Jeremy Spencer and the Children” album.
In 1992, “Don’t Go Please Stay” & “You Made A Hit” from Jeremy's self titled 1970 solo album on Reprise appeared on the CD that accompanied the original hard cover edition of Mick’s “My 25 Years In Fleetwood Mac” book. It was a nice gesture although in Mick’s introductory speech on the disc, he mistakenly refers to them as being Fleetwood Mac tracks “never heard by anybody before”.
Then believe it or not, we didn't hear from Jeremy again until 1999. A live cd documenting Spencers tour through India was released that year but only in India and Thailand. On the cd he performs “It Hurts Me Too” which, interestingly enough, was a song covered by the Bluesbreakers when Peter Green, John McVie, and Mick Fleetwood were with John Mayall.
In 2003, Jeremy got together with Mick Fleetwood to add a track to a various artists cd released in the UK called “Gaia”. The track they teamed up to do was an instrumental called “Maria de Santiago” -- and also the Zucchero/Anggun track from the album called "World".
In 2006, Jeremy released "Precious Little", a very personal cd released on Bluestown Records. He followed that up in 2008 with his first live cd since 1999. It was called "In Concert", was released on Secret Records and featured a live version of the Mac classic "Shake Your Moneymaker". To support the cd Jeremy played his first U.S. gigs in over 37 years backed by the Trond Ytterbo Band, the same group of Norwegians who played on his CD "Precious Little".
This was his itinerary:
7/9/08 - Space Club, Evanston, IL
7/10/08 - Beale On Broadway, St. Louis, MO
7/11/08 - Fitzgeralds, Berwyn, IL
7/12/08 - Bellville American Music Festival, Belleville, WI
The tour was originally supposed to be much longer but due to work visa issues it had to trimmed down to just four dates in the midwest. For these gigs Jeremy played a very well received 90 minute set plus one encore -- "Madison Blues". Many of the songs came from his latest CD, including the opener "Bitter Lemon" and then later on "Psychic Waste" and "Maria De Santiago". He also played an excellent version of Otis Rush's "Double Trouble", and a handful of Elmore James tunes. Standouts among these were "It Hurts Me Too" and "Shake Your Moneymaker" Throughout the shows Jeremy was chatting with the audience, quizzing them about who recorded some of these songs first and telling stories about his new guitar 'Mona'. After the show, Spencer spent a long time talking with fans and signing copies of his CD and other memorabilia.
Spencer has made it clear over the years that he has never regretted joining The Children of God or leaving Fleetwood Mac. He reportedly is still active with the religious group but he has not personally addressed the subject one way or the other.
Although his personal situation at times may seem unclear or at worst even controversial, his professional contributions to Fleetwood Mac and to the world are profound and undeniable.
Research: John Fitzgerald, John Warburg & Morten Strand
Written by: Jan Freedland & John Fitzgerald
If you have any interesting facts or insights that you'd like to add to Jeremy's bio, please drop us a line.