Peter Green is on Fleetwood’s mind a lot these days, not only because Fleetwood regards him as his long-lost brother and misses him every day but because Green taught him that when faced with trials, a musician should stay in touch with his medium. “I never got over Peter, because he set such a high standard for me as a fellow player and as a person. He was so extraordinarily different from anyone I’d ever met. When his illness set in, he grew his nails so he wouldn’t be able to play guitar, because in his mind he’d been too privileged in life. He’d been brought up well-to-do, had gotten a boarding school education and was on his way to a successful music career. He came to believe he deserved none of it, so he denied himself all of it. He stopped playing the guitar for a long time, and this is someone who had played each and every day. Later he went back to it, because it is a part of him as much as his arm is, and in the end the guitar saved his life. It grounded him, as much as that is possible, considering his condition. That is why I’ve been playing drums as much as possible during this period. Getting on the drums is like going to a spa for me. It keeps me from being too preoccupied with my...transitions, if you like. It keeps me from controlling it all too much, as well as getting out of control and making incorrect decisions. Playing drums keeps me from being needy and from sliding into old habits, from perpetuating circumstances that will draw me in and weaken me on this journey. Playing has been the great equalizer for me more than ever, and I love that.”
Fleetwood has had a few island bands over the years, all of which have featured an array of talented musicians who call Maui home. Hawaii, despite its welcoming sense of aloha, isn’t the kind of community outsiders can just waltz into, no matter who they are. A sense of cultural deference goes a long way here, and that is something Fleetwood understood from the start. As the only son of a British air force officer, he’d lived in foreign lands and among diverse cultures, in Egypt and Norway, before he’d reached his teens. “Quite a lot of people in my position come here to the island and don’t participate in local culture at all,” he says. “That is their choice. They are free to come sit in their big houses and not leave anything behind. But I see that as taking without giving, and I don’t want to be that. It doesn’t behoove me as a musician, especially, when there are so many great players about. I consider myself a visitor here, even though I’m not at all anymore. That is just how I was brought up, traveling with my family as my father was reassigned every three years. We were taught to behave as guests in foreign countries, because that is what we were.”
Fleetwood began visiting Maui regularly 40 years ago, the first time after completing Fleetwood Mac, the band’s first album with Buckingham and Nicks. “The moment I set foot on this island I had...a thing. I literally felt like I’d lived in Maui all my life and that I’d finally come home.”
As he spent more and more time on the island over the years, he began to explore the local scene, befriending legends like Willie K, a massive Hawaiian guitarist of the Hendrix variety. “I remember going to see Willie in the 1980s, and he blew my mind. He was wild, just a complete freak, playing down in a bar in Lahaina. Paul McCartney saw him that year too and said he was the greatest unknown talent he knew of.” In addition to befriending Willie and bassist Lenny Castellanos, Fleetwood met Gretchen Rhodes, a powerful singer who gave Fleetwood a demo when she was working in an Indian clothing shop. “Usually those kinds of things don’t work out,” he says. “It didn’t hurt that she is completely gorgeous, which at least assured that her CD would get a listen. My tour manager and I didn’t expect to get the full package of looks and talent, but we sure did with Gretchen. She’s amazing.”
He’s had a loose consortium of players with whom he’s toured under two monikers, Mick Fleetwood’s Island Rumours Band and the Mick Fleetwood Blues Band. The current incarnation of the Blues Band is heavy on Hammond organ, and it’s downright sleazy funk, somewhat like Miles Davis, sans trumpet. It’s great jammy head-trip music, more like Fleetwood Mac’s earliest days than anything from the Buckingham-Nicks era. Fleetwood plans to record this band and tour locally, and perhaps in Europe as well.
He has another project afoot that will fulfill a lifelong dream of his. He’s opening a restaurant in Lahaina called Fleetwood’s on Front Street, which will be both an eclectic gastropub and a top-notch performance space. It makes complete sense, because the man is one hell of a host, moving easily between intelligent conversation and a seemingly endless trove of well-told stories. “I’ve wanted my own club since I was 12 or 13,” he says. “When I got serious about the drums, my parents set me up in a little cement shed we had behind our house, and I turned it into a club.” He did a good enough job that he began to charge the kids in the neighborhood admission. “I was enthralled by the beatnik scene I witnessed when I visited my sister at university. Listening to Mose Allison, looking at all these women with big breasts and curvy bodies, some of them modeling naked as an art installation—that was it for me. So I did my version. I got some fish netting up on the wall and strung empty wine bottles from it. I’d serve the kids Coca-Cola, and I brought the family record player down and set up my drums way back in the corner in the shadows. I’d charge them to listen to me play along to Buddy Holly records, and I had the time of my life. As my wife, Lynn, often told me, I don’t let go of my dreams. This being one of them, I’m opening my childhood club here in Maui.”
It will be family oriented and have modern English pub decor, but it will be far from stuffy. “The last thing I want is for people to think they don’t dare come in wearing a pair of shorts with suntan lotion on. I want them to feel that it’s perfectly fine to get suntan lotion on our leather couches.” For the fans there will be a small area devoted to Mick memorabilia, but it will in no way be what he calls “the Mausoleum of Mick Fleetwood.”
“If you create a band,” Fleetwood says, “it’s like creating a religion. Rather than staying in one place and giving your sermons, you become a traveling preacher. I see the restaurant as me building a cathedral for all the traveling preachers I know to come and spread the gospel. And besides that, selfishly I’ve built myself a stage to play on any day of the week.” Another impish grin lights up his face. “I really can’t wait to open our doors.”