Family (band): Wikis


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Left to right: John "Charlie" Whitney, Jim King, Rob Townsend, Ric Grech, Roger Chapman
Background information
Origin Leicester, England
Genres Rock, Progressive rock, hard rock
Years active 1967–1973
Labels Liberty, Reprise, Raft
Associated acts Kevin Ayers, Streetwalkers, Traffic, Blind Faith, King Crimson, Stud, Mogul Thrash, The Animals, The Farinas, The Rocking R's, The Roaring Sixties, Ashton, Gardner & Dyke, Dave Mason, Nicky Hopkins
Former members
Roger Chapman
John "Charlie" Whitney
Jim King
Ric Grech
Rob Townsend
Harry Ovenall
John Weider
John "Poli" Palmer
John Wetton
Jim Cregan
Tony Ashton

Family were an English rock band that formed in Late 1966 and disbanded in October 1973. Their style has been characterised as progressive rock, although their sound often explores other genres, incorporating elements of such styles as folk, psychedelia, acid, jazz fusion and basic rock 'n' roll. The band was never particularly successful in the United States, although Family did achieve recognition in the United Kingdom, appearing at several festivals.[1][2][3][4]

The band's rotating membership throughout its relatively short existence led to a diversity in sound throughout their different albums. Family are also often seen as an unjustly forgotten act,[1] relative to some other bands in existence during the same era, and have been described as "odd band loved by a small but rabid group of fans".[2]




Early years (1966–1969)

Family formed in Late 1966 in Leicester, England from the remaining members of a group that was previously known as The Farinas[2][5] and later The Roaring Sixties, whose sound was grounded in R&B.[6] The Farinas originally consisted of John "Charlie" Whitney, Tim Kirchin, Harry Ovenall and Jim King, forming at Leicester Art College in 1962. Ric Grech replaced Kirchin on bass in 1965 and Roger Chapman joined the following year on vocals. The American record producer Kim Fowley suggested they call themselves "The Family" as they regularly wore double-breasted suits in performances, giving themselves a mafia appearance, a look they soon abandoned in favour a more casual dress code. They played the famous Marquee Club in April 1967. Family's debut single, "Scene Through The Eye Of A Lens/Gypsy Woman", produced by Jimmy Miller and released by Liberty Records in October 1967, was not a particular success. Around this time, drummer Harry Ovenall was asked to leave the band and was replaced by Rob Townsend.[5][6]

The band signed with the Reprise Records label (the first UK band signed directly to UK and US Reprise) and their debut album Music in a Doll's House, was recorded during early 1968 [6]. Jimmy Miller was originally slated to produce it but he was tied up with production of The Rolling Stones' album Beggar's Banquet and he is credited as co-producer on only two tracks, "The Breeze" and "Peace Of Mind". The bulk of the album was produced by former Traffic member Dave Mason.[6] and recorded at London's Olympic Studios with engineers Eddie Kramer and George Chkiantz. Mason also contributed one composition to the album, "Never Like This", the only song recorded by Family not written by a band member[7] and the group also backed Mason on his February 1968 single "Just For You/Little Woman".

Family made their London debut at the Royal Albert Hall in July 1968, supporting Tim Hardin. Alongside Pink Floyd, Soft Machine, The Move and The Nice, Family quickly became one of the premier attractions on the burgeoning UK psychedelic/progressive "underground" scene. Their lifestyle and exploits during this period provided some of the inspiration for the 1969 novel Groupie by Jenny Fabian (who lived in the group's Chelsea house for some time) and Johnny Byrne [8]. Family featured in the book under the pseudonym "Relation"[9].

Music in a Doll's House was released in July 1968 and charted at #35 in the UK to critical acclaim[4], thanks to strong support from radio broadcaster John Peel [6]. Now widely acknowledged as a classic of British psychedelic rock, it showcased many of the stylistic and production features that are archetypal of the genre. The album's highly original[10] sound was characterised by Chapman's vocals, rooted in the blues and R&B,[2] combined with several unusual instruments for a rock band, courtesy of the presence of multi-instrumentalists Grech and King, including saxophones, violin, cello and harmonica.[10]

Family's 1969 follow-up Family Entertainment toned down the psychedelic experimentation of their previous offering to some extent,[11] reaching #6 on the UK album charts[6][4] and featured the single "The Weaver's Answer", although the group reportedly had no control over the mixing and choice of tracks[8].

With the UK success of Family's first two albums, the band undertook a tour of the United States in April 1969, but it was beset by problems. Halfway through the tour, Ric Grech unexpectedly left the band to join the new supergroup Blind Faith[6][4]; on the recommendation of tour manager Peter Grant, Grech was replaced by John Weider, previously of Eric Burdon and The Animals.[12] A further setback occurred during their first concert at Bill Graham's Fillmore East, whilst sharing the bill with Ten Years After and The Nice -- during his stage routine, Chapman lost control of his microphone stand, which flew in Graham's direction, an act Graham took to be deliberate[6][13]; Chapman performed the following shows with his hands by his sides, and by the end of the tour he had lost his voice; Family's reputation in the US never recovered and they ultimately never achieved great recognition there.[14]

Returning to the UK, the band performed at The Rolling Stones' Hyde Park gig and the Isle of Wight Festival that summer. In late 1969, Jim King was asked to leave Family due to "erratic behaviour" and was replaced by multi-instrumentalist John "Poli" Palmer.[6][4]

Later years (1970–1973)

In 1970, Family played a few more gigs in the United States, appearing in San Francisco and Boston. In early 1970, Family released their third studio album, A Song for Me; produced by the band, it became the highest charting album the band released, reaching #4 on the UK album charts.[6][15] The album itself was a blend of hard rock and folk rock.[16] Family's new lineup played at major rock festivals that summer, including the Kralingen Festival in the Netherlands and the Isle of Wight Festival for the second year in a row.[6] The band appeared in the documentary film Message to Love about the latter festival.[17]

Family's followup album Anyway, released in late 1970, had its first half consist of new material recorded live at Fairfield Hall in Croydon, England, with the second half a set of new songs recorded in the studio, and reached #7 on the UK charts.[6][18] In March 1971 the compilation album of previously recorded material Old Songs New Songs was released (which included some remixed songs from their second album, which they were not happy about the mix), and in June Weider left Family to join the band Stud. He was replaced by former Mogul Thrash bassist John Wetton[6][4][19], who had just declined an invitation from Robert Fripp to join King Crimson.

As with Ric Grech in Family's original lineup, Wetton also shared vocal duties with Chapman, and this line-up soon released Family's highest-charting single "In My Own Time/Seasons" which reached #4, and the album Fearless in October 1971, which charted in both the UK and the US.[19][6] In 1972, another album, Bandstand was released, which leaned more towards hard rock than art rock,[20] featuring the singles "Burlesque" in late 1972 and "My Friend the Sun" which was released in early 1973.[6]

In mid-1972, John Wetton left Family to join a new lineup of King Crimson and was replaced by bassist Jim Cregan, and at the end of that year John "Poli" Palmer also left the band and was replaced by keyboardist Tony Ashton, previously of Ashton, Gardner and Dyke.[4][6] After Wetton's departure (but before Palmer's exit) Family toured the United States and Canada as the support act for Elton John, but their performances were often greeted with silence and Poli Palmer later recalled that "the only clapping in this huge stadium would be the guys doing the PA"[6].

In 1973, Family released the largely ignored It's Only a Movie (and on their own label, Raft, distributed by Warner/Reprise), which would be their last studio album, followed by another tour.[6][21]

Family gave their final concert at Leicester Polytechnic on October 13, 1973.[6] The band never reformed, but instead many of its members went onto different musical projects; Roger Chapman and John "Charlie" Whitney formed the band Streetwalkers,[2][4]; John Wetton played with King Crimson eventually became the lead singer of the band Asia.[22] Rob Townsend was a member of Medicine Head between 1973 and 1975. Ric Grech died of kidney and liver failure in 1990 at the age of 43, as a result of alcoholism.[2][6][23] Tony Ashton died in 2001 at the age of 55 of cancer.[24]


Family's sound was distinguished by several factors. The vocals of Roger Chapman, described as a "bleating vibrato"[25] and an "electric goat",[1] were considered unique, although Chapman was trying to emulate the voices of R&B and soul singers Little Richard and Ray Charles, with some reviewers noting however that Chapman's voice could be grating and irritating occasionally.[3][1] John "Charlie" Whitney was an accomplished and innovative guitarist,[3] and Family's often complex[25] song arrangements were made possible through having multi-instrumentalists like Ric Grech and Jim King in the band and access to electronic keyboards such as the Hammond organ and the new Mellotron. The band's sound has been variously described as progressive rock, psychedelic rock, acid rock, folk rock, jazz fusion and hard rock.[3][1]

Family were particularly known for their live performances; one reviewer describing the band as "as one of the wildest, most innovative groups of the underground rock scene", noting that they produced "some of the rawest, most intense performances on stage in rock history" and "that the Jimi Hendrix Experience were afraid to follow them at festivals".[25]

Family was an influence on Jethro Tull, with Ian Anderson noting that the band were particularly underrated.[1]. Both in his vocal sound and style and his dramatic stage presentation, Chapman was also a strong early influence on Peter Gabriel, lead singer of Genesis (band).



  • Roger Chapman - vocals, harmonica, tenor saxophone, percussion (1967–1973)
  • John "Charlie" Whitney - guitars, sitar, keyboards (1967–1973)
  • Jim King - saxophones, harmonica, tin whistle, piano, vocals (1967–1969)
  • Ric Grech - bass, violin, cello, vocals (1967–1969)
  • Harry Ovenall - drums, percussion (1967)
  • Rob Townsend - drums, percussion (1967–1973)
  • John Weider - bass, guitar, violin (1969–1971)
  • John "Poli" Palmer - keyboards, flute, vibraphone, synthesisers (1969–1972)
  • John Wetton - bass, guitar, vocals (1971–1972)
  • Jim Cregan - bass, guitars (1972–73)
  • Tony Ashton - keyboards, accordion, mellotron, vocals (1972-1973)

Session musicians

  • Dave Mason - keyboards, bass, guitar (on Music in a Doll's House)
  • Nicky Hopkins - keyboards (on Family Entertainment)



Studio albums


External links


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