What The Members Of Fleetwood Mac Did Before Becoming Famous

One of the most enduring bands of the "classic rock" era is Fleetwood Mac. According to Rolling Stone, the band was formed in London in 1967, although those early years saw lineup changes as well as fundamental changes in the band's core sound. Indeed, by most measures, the band hit its stride in 1975, when their self-titled album reached No. 1 in the United States, as Songfacts explains. From there, Fleetwood Mac would release some of the most seminal albums and songs in the history of rock music — particularly of the era — including "Rhiannon," "Landslide," "Tell Me Lies," and multiple others.

Like almost all rock bands that have lasted multiple decades, the Fleetwood Mac lineup has gone through changes due to firings, members leaving for personal reasons, and other issues. Four people — Christine McVie, John McVie, Mick Fleetwood, and Stevie Nicks — have, by and large, made up the consistent core of the band. In recent years, these four have been joined by Mike Campbell and Neil Finn.

Mick Fleetwood was a military brat

Mick Fleetwood was born in England in 1947, according to Louder Sound. His father was a Royal Air Force pilot, meaning young Mick and the family moved around quite a bit during his formative years. According to the band's website, he even spent a few years in Norway and learned to speak Norwegian. Mick was an inquisitive and intelligent young man, but his intelligence was (is) perhaps not the kind that shows up on tests given to schoolchildren. Indeed, Mick failed to excel academically at the traditional British boarding schools he attended. His teachers considered him quite bright, but he had difficulty memorizing facts and repeating them.

"I walked out of school, and I sat under a large tree on the grounds. I'm not religious, but with tears pouring down my face, I prayed to God that I wouldn't be in this place anymore," he said of his school years to educationalist Ken Robinson (via Culture Sonar). Fortunately, by this time, Mick had discovered the drums, and he poured himself into this creative outlet. At 15, he dropped out of school, moved to London, and started forming and/or joining bands, paying his dues for a few years until the U.S. incarnation of Fleetwood Mac hit it big. The rest, as they say, is history.

John McVie was a tax man

John McVie, like his colleague Mick Fleetwood, spent his teenage years in England. However, unlike Fleetwood, McVie spent his entire childhood in England, having been born in what is now West London in 1945, according to AllMusic. In a 2006 interview with The Penguin, McVie told a fan that he was an only child, though he had a sister who died "when she was very young," as he explained, without giving any further context. He also mentioned that as a young boy, his exposure to music was largely limited to what his parents listened to until his teens when he first got exposed to American jazz and blues. 

After this exposure, he was hooked on music and began trying to forge for himself a career in the industry. However, careers in music don't pay off for everybody, and McVie needed a backup plan. As MTV reports, for a time in his early career, he had a day job as a tax inspector, playing gigs at night. That all changed when he met Mick Fleetwood and formed Fleetwood Mac, after which he gave up tax collecting for good and focused on music full-time.

Stevie Nicks was going to be an English teacher

Stephanie Nicks had a hard time pronouncing her name as a young girl, producing something that sounded not unlike "Tee Dee" (according to Showbiz CheatSheet). This later morphed into Stevie, a name that she embraced and under which she has performed professionally for her entire adult life. As a child, she was surrounded by both music (her grandfather was a country musician) and literature — fairytales in particular, according to Los Angeles Magazine. That love of fairy tales would inform her later career as a performer and songwriter; her lyrics and her stage presence both evoke a sort of poetic mysticism. 

Nevertheless, Stevie Nicks' love for music was, at one point, secondary to her love of literature. According to Soundigest, she went to college to become an English teacher but dropped out with a semester to go. By this time, she'd already fallen in love with and entered into a committed relationship with Lindsey Buckingham, and instead of academia, Nicks followed her love into music.

Lindsey Buckingham always had music in his blood

Lindsey Buckingham joined Fleetwood Mac along with his love Stevie Nicks in 1974 at the request of Mick Fleetwood. Before they made their mark with the legendary pop band, however, they made up the folk duo Buckingham Nicks. Of course, this wasn't the first vehicle for Buckingham's musical talent.

Born October 3, 1949, in Palo Alto, California, Buckingham's childhood showed many signs of the developing talent that would eventually give Fleetwood Mac hits like "Big Love," "Second Hand News," and "Tusk." With influences like Elvis Presley, Little Richard, and Buddy Holly, Buckingham practiced on a plastic Micky Mouse guitar until he got his hands on the real deal. He eventually got into the Beach Boys and Kingston Trio and started the band Fritz. Nicks later joined, and the pair moved from San Franciso to Los Angeles and released "Buckingham/Nicks." Their talent caught the eye of Mick Fleetwood, and the rest is history.

Christine McVie wanted to be an art teacher

Christine McVie was born Christine Perfect near Birmingham, England, in 1943, according to AllMusic. She would spend a few years married to her band-mate, John McVie, and though they've been divorced for far longer than they were ever married, she's used McVie's name professionally throughout her career. 

According to an interview that was once on the band's website, Christine grew up in a musical family, having taken up piano lessons as a young girl. Like John McVie, Christine was particularly interested in jazz and blues. However, she lost interest in music by the time she reached adolescence and instead studied art, with a view towards becoming an art teacher. She did work as an artist, in a manner of speaking, spending a brief period of time working as a department store window dresser, as Harper's Bazaar reports. However, music never fully left her blood, and by the late 1960s, she was looking for a band to join. Eventually, she met and married John McVie and joined Fleetwood Mac, with whom she would spend the next several decades, despite falling out with John.

Christine McVie died on November 30, 2022. In April 2023, her death certificate was released by The Blast, revealing her cause of death was revealed to be a stroke. The secondary cause of death was cancer — "metastatic malignancy of unknown primary origin."

Mike Campbell worked with Tom Petty

Mike Campbell is one of the newer additions to Fleetwood Mac, having been hired to replace Lindsey Buckingham in 2018. Prior to joining his "new" band, Campbell had been a part of Tom Petty's backup band, the Heartbreakers, for decades. "I was kind of shocked, really, but honored," Campbell told Yahoo! Entertainment of being asked to join Fleetwood Mac.

As for who he was before becoming a rock star, there's precious little information out there about Campbell. According to Guitar Player, he was born in Florida, as was Tom Petty. Indeed, it was in the Sunshine State that Campbell and Petty met, and Mike joined Tom's band at the time, Mudcrutch. Prior to that, he'd been an anonymous Florida teenager with a fondness for rock 'n' roll. As he told MusicRadar, as a teen, his mother bought him a pawn shop guitar that he described as "unplayable." A short time later, his father purchased a new guitar for him — a low-rent model that failed to impress his would-be bandmates the first time they saw him holding it. But once he started playing, they changed their tune (no pun intended).

Neil Finn was born to be a musician

Like Mike Campbell, Neil Finn is a later addition to the Fleetwood Mac lineup, having joined the group in 2018 along with the previously mentioned Campbell, according to Rolling Stone. Prior to that, the New Zealand-born musician is perhaps best known for his decades with Crowded House, which achieved its peak success in the 1980s. 

Unlike his bandmates Stevie Nicks, Christine McVie, and John McVie, Finn never worked in or trained for any job other than music. Indeed, according to the Te Awamutu Museum, Finn and his brother, Brian, were born into a musical family, and by a young age, both boys could be counted on to entertain guests at Finn family gatherings. Once Neil finished school, he worked briefly in a record shop before putting New Zealand in the rearview mirror and heading to London to seek his fortune in music. By the middle 1970s, he was paying his dues by working in small bands up until the time Crowded House hit it big.