Robert Lawrence “Bob” Welch (August 31, 1945 – June 7, 2012) was an American musician. A former member of Fleetwood Mac, Welch had a successful solo career in the late 1970s.
Raised in Beverly Hills, his father was movie producer and screenwriter Robert L. Welch, who worked at Paramount Pictures in the 1940s and 1950s, producing films starring Paramount’s top box office stars, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby.
He also worked as a TV producer, responsible for the 25th Annual Academy Awards TV special in 1953 and The Thin Man TV series in 1958–59. Bob’s mother, Templeton Fox, had been a singer and actress who worked with Orson Welles’ Mercury Theatre in Chicago, Illinois and appeared on TV and in movies from 1962 to 1979.
Dropping out of UCLA before graduation, Welch joined the Los Angeles-based interracial vocal group, The Seven Souls, as a guitarist in 1964, replacing band member Ray Tusken, a guitarist who went on to become vice-president in charge of A&R for Capitol Records.
The Seven Souls lost a battle of the bands competition whose prize was a recording contract with Epic Records, to Sly and the Family Stone. The original line-up included lead singer Ivory Hudson, saxophonist and singer Henry Moore, drummer Ron Edge and bassist Bill Deiz, who later became a television news anchorman and reporter in Los Angeles.
(Later band members Bobby Watson and Tony Maiden subsequently formed the funk group Rufus with Chaka Khan.) In the summer of 1971, the remaining members of Fleetwood Mac held auditions at their retreat in England, Kiln House, while seeking a guitarist to replace Spencer.
Judy Wong, a friend of the band who served at times as their secretary (the Kirwan-written song “Jewel-Eyed Judy” was dedicated to her), recommended her high school friend Welch to the band. Welch (who has been described as Wong’s high school boyfriend) was living in Paris at the time.
He formed the British rock group Paris in 1976, and had hits including Sentimental Lady in 1977 and Ebony Eyes in 1978. Fleetwood Mac’s Christine McVie and Lindsey Buckingham did backing vocals on Sentimental Lady.
Dreams were a Number 1 hit in 1977, and Don’t Stop hit the top of the charts the same year. Mick Fleetwood continued to manage Bob Welch’s career into the 1980s. In 1994, Welch sued Fleetwood, John and Christine McVie, band attorney and attorney Michael Shapiro and Warner Bros.
Records for breach of contract related to underpayment of royalties. In 1978, Welch and the three band members signed a contract with Warner Bros. agreeing to an equal share of all royalties from their Fleetwood Mac albums.
Welch alleged that the three subsequently had struck various deals with Warner Bros. that gave them higher royalty rates. Welch alleged that Fleetwood and the McVies had failed to inform him of the new, higher royalty rate, thus depriving him of his fair share of royalties.
When Fleetwood Mac was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998, original band members Peter Green, Jeremy Spencer, Danny Kirwan, Mick Fleetwood and John McVie were named to the Hall, as were Christine McVie, Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks.
Welch, who anchored the band for several years and five albums, was not. “My era was the bridge era,” Welch told the Cleveland newspaper the Plain Dealer in 1998, after he was snubbed by the Hall of Fame. “It was a transition.
But it was an important period in the history of the band. Mick Fleetwood dedicated a whole chapter of his biography to my era of the band and credited me with ‘saving Fleetwood Mac.’ Now they want to write me out of the history of the group.
On June 7, 2012, at the age of 66, Welch committed suicide in his Nashville home at around 12:15 p.m. He was found by his wife, Wendy, with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest; a nine-page suicide note and love letter had been written to his wife.
According to her, Welch had had spinal surgery three months earlier, but doctors told him he would not get better.