Who Were the Real Life Daisy Jones & The Six?
Daisy Jones captures the voice of Stevie Nicks, but The Six don’t quite match the makeup of Fleetwood Mac.
This article contains spoilers for the first three episodes of Daisy Jones & The Six. Details about the real life band they were inspired by may lightly spoil future events in the show.
The Prime Video series Daisy Jones & the Six is an adaptation of the 2017 book by author Taylor Jenkins Reid. The novel tells the story of a fictional 1970s California rock group who break through when a charismatic songwriting female lead vocalist grabs the mic. The identity of the group’s real-life counterpart is very thinly veiled. The tagline of the series proclaims “Their music made them famous. Their breakup made them legends.” They can’t be talking about the Beatles, who were legends before they split. Fleetwood Mac, however, sustained multiple breakups before the ensemble even thought about calling it quits.
Riley Keough, the granddaughter of Elvis Presley, plays Daisy Jones. While the young singer’s uncaring upper-class roots contradict the connection, any doubts this is an impressionistic portrait of Stevie Nicks disappear as soon as Riley hits the upper register and lets the vibrato loose. Her flowing stage outfits are representational of the image, making up for the lack of family support Daisy gets for her music. Stevie was encouraged at home, virtually from birth.
The band begins as The Dunne Brothers, the elder Billy Dunne is played by Sam Claflin, best known as Oswald Mosley on Peaky Blinders. He writes the songs, sings lead, and strums rhythm guitar. Will Harrison plays his brother, Graham, on lead guitar. Josh Whitehouse plays Eddie Roundtree, who switches from rhythm guitar to bass. Sebastian Chacon is the drummer, Warren Rojas.
The series is faithful to the novel, capturing artistic clashes, stolen lyrics, complicated relationships with substances, and the ever-present pressures of fame. Or at least the pressures of pleasing a 1970s record label. The Dunne Brothers begin in Pittsburgh, playing parties, weddings, bar mitzvahs, school dances and local clubs, before heading to L.A on some dismissive encouragement from tour manager Rod Reyes (Timothy Olyphant).
Suki Waterhouse, who releases her own brand of retro-pop on Sub Pop records, plays Karen Sirko, a keyboardist from England who joins the band when they hit the west coast. In spite of the obvious Christine McVie parallel, The Sixes, as the Dunne Brothers become when Karen joins, do not have the same background as Fleetwood Mac.
Guitarist and lead vocalist Peter Green formed the band in London in 1967. He was ending his run as the replacement for Eric Clapton, the guitarist called “God” at the time, in the influential blues ensemble John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers. Mayall gave Green, who he tagged “The Green God,” free studio time for his birthday. The guitarist recorded several tracks with fellow Bluesbreakers, drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie. The musicians split off, leaving future Rolling Stone guitarist Mick Taylor to take Green’s place in the Bluesbreakers. Slide guitar and piano playing singer Jeremy Spencer joined in time for the 1967 debut album, Fleetwood Mac. Danny Kirwan joined as a third guitarist and vocalist in 1968.
Christine Perfect, keyboardist and vocalist from the blues band Chicken Shack and twice voted England’s female artist of the year, started as a regular session player with the second album Mr. Wonderful. She married McVie in 1969, becoming Christine McVie. She joined the band officially shortly after completing sessions for the fourth album, Kiln House, Fleetwood Mac’s first album without Green, who’d quit, lingering long enough for the band to audition guitarists.
Spencer and Kirwan also left during the early 1970s, replaced by guitarist and vocalist Bob Welch, who wrote the band’s hit “Hypnotized,” as well as guitarist Bob Weston and vocalist Dave Walker, who both drifted off into other projects. Welch quit Fleetwood Mac on New Year’s Eve, 1974, leaving the band without a lead singer and guitarist. Fleetwood picked up a little-known album called Buckingham Nicks, and went calling.
Which brings us to Daisy Jones & the Six. The series isn’t necessarily about that British blues band, it is about their American additions: Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham.
Stephanie Nicks was born in Phoenix, Arizona on May 26, 1948 and was singing duets with her grandfather, country singer Aaron Jess “A.J.” Nicks, Sr., by the time she was four. She got her first guitar for her 16th birthday, and celebrated by writing her first song, “I’ve Loved and I’ve Lost, and I’m Sad But Not Blue,” on it. Stevie joined her first band, The Changing Times, while at Arcadia High School when her family relocated to Arcadia, California.
The Nicks family moved to Palo Alto, California, where Buckingham was born on October 3, 1949. He had two older brothers, one who’d win a silver medal at the 1968 Olympics. Lindsey met Stevie during her senior year at Menlo-Atherton High School. He was singing The Mamas and the Papas’ “California Dreamin’” at a party, and she joined in on harmonies. Buckingham’s love of guitar also started early. By 17 he was singing and playing bass for The Fritz, a psychedelic folk rock high school band which continued after graduation.
Nicks and Buckingham both went to San Jose State University, and when lead singer and guitarist Jody Moreing quit in 1967, Buckingham invited Nicks to join The Fritz. The band had steady gigs, often opening for Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin before breaking up in 1972.
Like The Sixes, Nicks and Buckingham headed west to L.A. They billed themselves as the folk-rock duo Buckingham Nicks and released an album named after themselves in 1973. It didn’t sell, and the label dropped them. They were on their way to breaking up, personally and professionally. Like Daisy Jones, Nicks got a job waitressing to pay the bills, but continued writing songs, including “Landslide,” which she would ultimately bring to a new band.
Buckingham toured with the Everly Brothers and did session work as a guitarist for Don Everly, where he ran into Fleetwood. The drummer had called Keith Olsen, who co-produced the Buckingham Nicks album, to ask about a replacement for Welch. Buckingham said Nicks was part of the deal, and Mick asked both to join. Nicks thought the group would be a temporary thing.
Green wrote the song “Black Magic Woman” for the original Fleetwood Mac. Nicks revived her ethereally rhythmic “Rhiannon” to supply enough witchery for a new brew entirely. The 1975 album Fleetwood Mac was their tenth studio album. It was the second time a record was named after the band, because it ushered in a new era.
It took until September 1976 for Fleetwood Mac to reach the top of the Billboard 200 album charts, about the same time Nicks and Buckingham called it quits. John and Christine McVie also broke up. Mick Fleetwood’s divorce had just gone through as well. It was a freewheeling time, which could be interpreted as a freefall.
As will be represented in Daisy Jones & the Six, bad gossip turned out to be good publicity for the band’s next album. Rumours could also be considered an eponymous album, the name fit so well. It dropped on Feb. 4, 1977. It went straight to the top of the Billboard 200 as much on the power of such radio staples as “You Make Loving Fun,” and “Don’t Stop,” as it did from tabloid propulsion.
The biggest hits, Nicks’ “Dreams” and Buckingham’s “Go Your Own Way” were aimed at each other like napalm love bombs. Personal vitriol makes for good records. Listeners can feel it. Reid, who also wrote The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and Malibu Rising, structures Daisy Jones & the Six as an oral history, taken from interviews with the band and the people around them. This includes photographer and future rock wife Camila, played by Camila Morrone in the series, and record producer Teddy Price (Tom Wright), who puts Daisy together with Billy, and commands them to write. The tunes reflect their repressed and unaddressed feelings, and they have to live them out publicly every time they perform together live.
“In the summer of 1997, I was thirteen years old and highly addicted to channel-surfing between MTV and VH1,” Reid wrote in hello sunshine. Fleetwood Mac dominated airplay because of the reunion show The Dance. She watched as Nicks sang “Landslide” with only Buckingham accompanying her, and thought “Oh, they’re in love with each other.”
“Imagine my surprise when my mother later explained that, though they had once dated, they weren’t together anymore,” Reid writes. “This completely defied logic to me. But they love each other! I saw it with my own eyes! I understood that sometimes looking like you’re in love or in hate are things you ramp up a bit to make a good show.”
For Reid, that simple onstage exchange told more than a whole Fleetwood Mac classic VH1 Behind the Music special. It revealed how stage presentation is a delicately acted performance. Thunder doesn’t always need the rain to happen. Players might not even love you even when playing. The backstage life of Daisy Jones & The Six is more of an allegorical fantasy. In the book, Daisy marries an Italian prince, and spins out on a coke-fueled, pill popping, double honeymoon with love and music.
Nicks had a similar arc. Rock stars were posterchildren for cocaine in the 1970s. Rod Stewart quit assaulting his nostrils with white powder after Ron Wood told him he could see light coming through the nasal cavity from below. Before going on her solo tour, Nicks was told one more hit of cocaine could kill her so she entered rehab. Nicks also dated royalty, but it was the new rock monarchy, the reigning princes of Laurel Canyon: The Eagles’ Don Henley, and Joe Walsh, and one of that band’s songwriters, alt-country pioneer J.D. Souther.
Nicks brought similar majestic performances to her solo work. For her album Bella Donna which she began recording in between sessions for Tusk (1979), Nicks was backed by legendary Stax bassist Donald “Duck” Dunn of Booker T. & the MGs, pianist Roy Bittan from Bruce Springsteen’s E-Street Band, Henley, and steady West Coast studio guitarist Waddy Wachtel. At the sessions, Nicks also recorded “Blue Lamp,” which came out on the 1981 soundtrack to the film Heavy Metal, and “Sleeping Angel,” appearing on Fast Times at Ridgemont High’s 1982 soundtrack. Not released until 1981, Bella Donna’s biggest hit was Nicks’ duet with Tom Petty on “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around.”
Daisy Jones & the Six never get to do a follow-up album. The series opens at their last, sold-out, show at Chicago’s Soldier Field, promoting the smash album “Aurora.” The Sixes career ends on a dotted half-note, but Fleetwood Mac sustained.
Whether it was the rising punk scene alluded to in the series, or the drama-free advance press, Tusk (1979) highlighted musical maturity and experimentation, but didn’t sell. The album peaked at No. 4 and was gone in two months. It spawned the hit singles “Tusk,” and “Sara.” Mirage arrived in 1982, featuring “Hold Me,” “Gypsy,” and “Love in Store.” Tango In The Night, released in 1987, came out after Buckingham left the band following a physical altercation with Nicks. Stevie quit Fleetwood Mac after the release of Behind the Mask in 1990.
Fleetwood Mac has reunited and split several times since reforming for Bill Clinton’s presidential inauguration. McVie died in November 2022, and Fleetwood announced the band would no longer regroup.
“I am the somebody,” Daisy reminds those who pigeonhole her as a muse. As much of Daisy Jones & the Six is told in flashback, we suspect the singer has a much longer shelf life than the rest of the band. Nicks is the first female musician to earn induction into the Rock Hall of Fame twice, a solo recognition and as a member of Fleetwood Mac. Nicks also gets Elvis’ granddaughter to take a lead on her tune.
The first three episodes of Daisy Jones & The Six are available to stream on Prime Video now. New episodes premiere every Friday through March 24.