She instead planned on becoming an art teacher, returning back to the piano years later when she became interested in classical music. Then her older brother turned her onto some Fats Domino records.
She hung around the burgeoning British folk and blues scene and sang for a time with Spencer Davis. Eventually she joined some friends in a blues band called Chicken Shack. It was about the time she married John McVie, bassist for another struggling young British blues band, Fleetwood Mac.
She was prepared to quit music for the domestic life.
“I was quite happy being a housewife,” she said. “But I had sung a soul ballad on my last album with Chicken Shack, and a British music paper gave me an award for it top female vocalist of the year.”
Her effective version of Etta James’ “I’d Rather Go Blind” won her the Melody Maker award for female vocalist in 1969. It led to her first solo album, under her actual maiden name, “The Christine Perfect” in 1970. It didn’t sell well, though she got the vocalist of the year nod again that year as well.
“I really didn’t intend to launch that first, disastrous solo career,” she said. “I did around 10 shows in pubs and other small venues.
“Not many other women were doing this sort of underground club circuit in the late ’60s. And I was very immature emotionally; I wasn’t at all ready for it. I wanted to be with John. Then there were some personnel changes in Fleetwood Mac. I played keyboards on an album of theirs and then was asked to join the band.”
Her first contribution came uncredited, playing keyboards on 1969’s “Then Play On.” By 1970’s “Kiln House,” she was singing backup and adding keyboards as well as contributing another talent — drawing the cover.
By the next year, she was listed as a full-fledged member on “Future Games,” where she contributed the first of her songs, “Show Me a Smile” — the beginning of a reliable line of tuneful contributions, some of which would become some of the band’s biggest hits during its most popular period with “Say You Love Me” and “Over My Head.”
Their commercial heights for the chart-topping 1975 “Fleetwood Mac” album now led by Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham, only led to 1977’s “Rumours,” a mega-selling masterwork that chronicled the couples breakups within the band, including the McVies.
As the band stayed together, more or less, they also spread out enough to record solo works. McVie’s 1984 work had followed solo turns by Mick Fleetwood, Buckingham and Nicks. But such efforts only helped the band, she told me.
“Fleetwood Mac has a reputation for taking a long time” to make albums, McVie said. “It’s tough with five people with relatively big egos because there’s an almost constant changing of minds.”
Work on her self-titled album in 1984, she said, “went so smoothly because everybody was prepared and knew what they were supposed to do. I think we should make demos of the songs just before the album is due to commence. It really makes life a lot easier. I never want to spend a year in the studio again to make one record, that’s for sure.”
It probably did, though, as she combined with the band on four more albums, “Tango in the Night,” “Behind the Music,” “Time” and “The Dance.”
She stepped away from the band for 16 years in 1998, and when she returned to tour with the band in 2014 and I was doing the numbers fort The Washington Post, I found that seven of her songs were on the band’s 24-song setlist.
Five years ago, she joined with Buckingham for their own duo album and tour that made a stop nearby.
She took the stage, elegant and very slim at 73, approaching the stage hand in hand with Buckingham, 67, looking like they were nearing a cliff edge from which they’d jump, I wrote in a review at the time.
Things sounded a little shaky here and there, the crowd was accepting of their new material, but went wild when they finished the main set with “You Make Loving Fun,” and “Go Your Own Way,” kicking off the encore with her exuberant “Everywhere,” revived even now in a frequently-seen Chevy ad sing-along.
McVie had accomplished so much in her career, she didn’t have time in the show to sing one of her most beguiling and often-covered songs, “Songbird,” which would often serve as sweet benediction to many a Mac stadium show. It began, “For you, there’ll be no more crying; for you, the sun will be shining…”
A wealth of Christine McVie material will be part of Capital Radio Dec. 5 at 1 p.m. on www.cygnusradio.com.