Birmingham’s role in kickstarting Fleetwood Mac stars Nicks and Buckingham

Performing on campus at UA, pre-Rumours. Photo courtesy 1975 University of Alabama yearbook.

Before they were highly acclaimed Grammy-winning artists touring the globe with Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham had their first taste of fame in our very own Birmingham, Alabama.

After receiving a generous amount of air-time on Birmingham’s WJLN-FM, Buckingham Nicks saw enthusiastic welcomes and sold-out shows across Alabama–they even moved on to perform their farewell show at Boutwell Auditorium

In Stevie’s words

Gold dust woman, Stevie Nicks, stealing the show with Fleetwood Mac at the BJCC in 2019. Photo by Grace Howe.

If it weren’t for Buckingham Nicks’ sprinkle of success in Birmingham, there likely would be no Fleetwood Mac. If all of this happens to be news to you, you’re not alone. I had the opportunity to see the *queen* perform alongside Fleetwood Mac at the BJCC last year and let me tell you my soul left my body.

Stevie Nicks, in all of her witchy glory, addressed her crowd of adorers and spoke of what Birmingham means to her: 

“It’s a nice thing to know had we not joined that band [Fleetwood Mac], our record would’ve broken out in the south and our lives would’ve gone in a whole other direction because of you…I think it’s important for you to know that for some reason this city hooked on to that music that then became Fleetwood Mac.” 

Stevie Nicks

Humble beginnings

Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham at the start of their careers–so groovy…so 70’s. Photo via Buckingham Nicks on Last.fm.

Nicks and Buckingham got together and started pursuing their musical dreams in California in 1973. Though they were doing what they loved, they hardly received any of the recognition they had hoped for–they survived with the extra cash Nicks made while waitressing. Their album was essentially, well, a flop. 

However, consistent radio play of their album on WJLN, a former local progressive rock station, led them to Birmingham. Here they opened for bands Mountain and Poco–helping them form their local fanbase, according to Bhamwiki

“We went to Birmingham and discovered we’d sold out an auditorium. Just blew our minds because we were totally unknown in L.A., couldn’t get a gig at a club or anywhere, and here were six thousand people out there going nuts!”

Lindsey Buckingham

Thriving in the ‘ham

So beautiful–I can almost hear this picture. Photo courtesy Last.fm.

Meanwhile back in Los Angeles, Mick Fleetwood was looking to add to his bluesy band. In Sound City studio he discovered a recording of Buckingham Nicks’ performing their track, “Frozen Love”, in Tuscaloosa and knew it was the sound he’d been looking for. The pair soon accepted his life-changing offer. 

Shortly after, Buckingham Nicks were invited back to Alabama to headline three shows in 1975. First they performed at what is now the Birmingham International Raceway, then Morgan Auditorium in Tuscaloosa, and finally a farewell show at Municipal Auditorium–now Boutwell. They were welcomed by sold out shows and crowds like they had never seen before, reported Bhamwiki.

After giving the album multiple listens, I find it hard to believe the people of Birmingham were nearly the only ones to discover Buckingham Nicks’ sound–though it’s pretty amazing the Magic City gave them their first glimpse of sweet fame. 

Had Mick Fleetwood never discovered the recording of their performance in Tuscaloosa, their careers would’ve taken a much different route. It’s often said upon joining the band Stevie remarked, “We could join Fleetwood Mac or we could move to Birmingham, Alabama.” If only they had–imagine the possibilities…

Were you there to see one of Buckingham Nicks’ shows in Birmingham? Tag us on social @bhamnow and tell us about it!