Since announcing his new blues band's European tour, Mick Fleetwood has been inundated with interview requests. Fielding questions from his Maui home about the highly anticipated shows that pay homage to the blues rock roots of Fleetwood Mac, the band's legendary drummer wonders why it's taken him so long to mine his early history.
"I'm surprised I didn't think about doing it before," he says. "I've had loads of interviews about it and I don't have an answer. I go, why didn't I. I can only put it down to old age. I'm 61, this is where I began, my boot camp."
Featuring Fleetwood, guitarist/vocalist Rick Vito, bassist Lenny Castellanos and keyboardist Mark Johnstone, the Mick Fleetwood Blues Band will make its Hawaii debut on Friday at a benefit concert for the Maui Arts & Cultural Center.
Uluwehi Guerrero and Halau Hula Kauluokala perform at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in Castle Theater at the MACC. Tickets are $12, $25 and $30 plus applicable fees, and half-price for kids 12 and younger. Pre-show activities begin at 5:30 in the courtyard.
Photo courtesy of Halau Hula Kauluokala
In their initial incarnation, Fleetwood Mac began like a number of leading English bands with roots in the blues. Formed in 1967 by Fleetwood, bassist John McVie, and legendary guitarist Peter Green (all three had previously played together in John Mayall's Bluesbreakers), plus second guitarist Jeremy Spencer, they quickly became the U.K.'s premier blues band.
For Rick Vito (who also feels blessed to now call Maui his home) the upcoming tour is a dream come true. The acclaimed guitarist recalls being thrilled seeing the Peter Green edition of Fleetwood Mac as an aspiring 18-year-old musician.
"I had seen Jimi Hendrix and Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton, and here comes this band that was 180 degrees different," Vito explains. "Their attitude was let's just go out and play music, and they were playing blues much more faithful to what I believed original blues sounded like, and they were putting their own stamp on it. I was especially impressed with Peter Green because his songs were really cool and his approach to guitar was so tasteful, and with Mick and John behind, it was incredible. It pointed me in a direction; I liked the idea of restraint instead of being crazy."
Over the years this gifted musician has recorded and toured with the likes of John Mayall, Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, Bob Seger (that's him soloing on "Like a Rock"), John Fogerty, Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Nicks.
English blues pioneer John Mayall hailed has him as "a master of his instrument," Bonnie Raitt pronounced, "His style is as cool and sharp as a '59 Cadillac tailfin," and bluesman Keb Mo' summed him up as a "soulful singer and brilliant guitarist." Playing with Fleetwood Mac from 1987 to 1991, it was Vito who encouraged the band to dip into its vintage catalogue.
"When Lindsey (Buckingham) left the Mac and Rick and Billy (Burnette) took over, we went on a very successful world tour, and Rick brought back 'Stop Messin' Around,' which we'll do on Friday, and 'I Loved Another Woman,' " says Fleetwood.
Vito's affection for this classic material combined with his vocal and guitar dexterity in large part made the new band possible. "In truth, it's why this is so comfortable for me," says Fleetwood. "He knows where I come from and loved that music so much, that's why we can do this. We have a mutual respect for early Fleetwood Mac so it made this a special thing."
Besides early Mac classics like "Black Magic Woman," "Oh Well" and "Albatross," the band revives such blues nuggets as "Shake Your Moneymaker," "Dust My Broom" and "Need Your Love So Bad."
How about "The Green Manalishi"?
"It hasn't appeared, but it's something I would love to do," Fleetwood notes. "It was the last thing Peter ever recorded with Fleetwood Mac, which is quite ironic if you listen to the words and know the history Peter took with his illness and problems. I love that song, it's such a powerful riff, I'm sure we'll work up to it."
Recorded in St. Louis, "Blue Again," a live Mick Fleetwood Blues Band album will be released next month in Europe first. "It's a really great calling card, rather than coming out with a studio album and re-creating the wheel," he continues. "Enough people will love the music and buy the record, but I'm not expecting to be on the Billboard Top 100."
"We recorded the live show last January," adds Vito. "We happened to have the tape rolling and captured a great night. It's so much fun to play this music. We're celebrating this music, and adding some new stuff that fits stylistically, working in a handful of my songs."
Besides the live show, the new CD will feature a bonus disc of four studio tracks.
"These are four instrumental tracks with just Mick and I playing," Vito explains. "I do a new version of 'Albatross' and one of mine called 'Napili Nocturne.'"
The blues band will tour Europe in October at a time of heightened interest in Mac's formative days. A check of Amazon reveals a staggering number of CD compilations.
"I don't know how many we get paid for," says Fleetwood chuckling. " A couple of times John and I have said, let's get a lawyer and find out. The lovely thing about this is that as late as it is to be revisiting, I do think it's appropriate. It's the 40th anniversary of Fleetwood Mac, but that's not why we're doing it. It's lighting the fuse again to a lot of songs that have an emotional connect to a fair chunk of the audience."
And one last question: Fleetwood Mac in 2009?
"We'll probably be out in April," he answers. "I'm sure we'll go to Australia and between me and John, we'll try our best to get the crew and band to the islands. It's long overdue and the Eagles made it here and me and Rick will open up for them."
Kumu hula Uluwehi Guerrero is in the midst of orchestrating an unprecedented performance coming to the MACC on Saturday, amassing 150 dancers, a large choir, a Hawaiian band and a chamber ensemble.
Basing this ambitious, grand show on the theme "Home Is Where The Heart Is," Uluwehi explains: "It's a celebration of where I'm from, and bringing the community together, instilling family values in a time where that gets lost, when so many people have to work two jobs and don't have time to spend with their families."
In an evening filled with traditional chant, music and hula by Halau Hula Kauluokala, Uluwehi will pay tribute in song and dance to some of his favorite composers and singers, accompanied by his Hawaiian band, the Na Leo Lani O Maui community choir, and the Kaulupono Chamber Ensemble.
"I have every age group from the keiki to the kupuna," Uluwehi continues. "I'm so grateful that I have so many people that come and share every week their love of culture, hula and music."
The Na Leo Lani O Maui community choir, co-directed by the Na Hoku-winning kumu and Gale Wisehart, will help embellish some of the classic songs. "I always wanted to start a choir," he says. "Gale and his partner moved from San Francisco and came to our show in 2004. He was a choir director for Disney, and I said I would really like to start a Hawaiian choir, so we started last year."
The choir meets from 6:30 to 7:30 Tuesday evenings at Ka'ahumanu Church in Wailuku. All are welcome to attend.
"I'll showcase them on Saturday," he continues. "About 75 of them will be performing. They will sing four songs in Hawaiian and two in English, including a song I wrote, 'Go to the Light.'
"I had gone to the Caribbean and they discourage you from going outside of the resorts. I wanted to meet local people and I was so shocked. I had never seen such poverty, but they were full of life, and I thought about how much I take for granted and seeing them happy with their faith and what little they had inspired me to write the song."
The Kaulupono string ensemble also results from another one of his big dreams.
"I love classical music and some of the Hawaiian songs I write have that feel," he notes. "This year, as well as playing inside, we will have a quartet outside playing Hawaiian music for the pre-show."
Uluwehi is currently completing a new CD. In 2001, his beautiful album "In My Heart" earned him the Hoku Award for Male Vocalist of the Year. "This album I'm finishing is a tribute to hula music," he says. "It's traditional with some original pieces. One is a song I wrote, 'Nani Kamakura,' during the Sakura season in Japan. We'll perform that in the concert, and Lynn Araki Regan will perform a traditional Japanese dance to it."
Born in Wailuku, Uluwehi enjoyed singing and playing ukulele as a child. After high school, a desire to learn hula led him to seek out classes with Peter Pekelo Day, where he met a fellow student, Keali'i Reichel. The two students went on to form their own school, Halau Hula O Ka Makani Wili Makaha O Kaua'ula.
"We had the drive and ambition and felt we could do anything, but we had very little knowledge about protocol," he recalls. "We went to hula competitions and got lickings from the kupuna. So we dusted ourselves off and tried again. At that time, there was hardly anyone teaching the language and culture."
During those early years, Uluwehi honed his musical skills in halau performance, focusing on his artistry as a falsetto singer and talented arranger. In the mid-'80s, he formed the group Maui O Kama with Reichel and Onuffre Eleccion, which performed at the Kapalua Bay Hotel.
"We didn't use our Hawaiian names at that time, Keali'i was Carlton, I was Rodney and Onuffre, a pure Filipino, was Kimo," he laughs. "We would drive out every weekend and sing in the lobby."
So did anyone record them?
"No, what a shame, because we had beautiful voices" he says. "We had three-part falsetto singing."
* Contact Jon Woodhouse at firstname.lastname@example.org.