Article – Forgotten Rockers

(Leicester Mercury, Feb. 20, 1998)
When Family finally gave up the ghost in 1973, they marked their demise with a party at the Holiday Inn after a farewell gig at the-then Leicester Poly. It was a mark of the respect they commanded that Radio One DJ John Peel turned up, and whispering Bob Harris, along with Frank Worthington, Deep Purple’s Jon Lord and a host of other stars. Today, in our series on Leicester bands, reporter Jeremy Clay looks back at the career of Family, and features John Butler and Gypsy.

A Family affair on the Isle of Wight
It was Britain’s Woodstock. Hundreds of thousands of hippies trekked to the Isle of Wight in 1969 for the love-in starring Bob Dylan, The Who and Jimi Hendrix – and Family.

Leicester’s forgotten rock legends formed in 1966 with Roger Chapman singing, Charlie Whitney on guitar, Rob Townsend drumming, Jim King on “reed instruments” and tragic Ric Grech on bass.

They had three top 20 singles and six gold discs and played the Rolling Stones’ infamous Hyde Park gig.

Great Glen man Charlie, now 53 and living in Wimbledon, remembered: “The Isle of Wight was massive when you think about it. They talk about Oasis at Knebworth but this one was twice as big. And playing Hyde Park was fantastic. I remember that vividly.

“We knew Jimi Hendrix. He was great. And we were in with the Who and Cream too.”

Split in 1973
Ric left after the first album, Music in a Doll’s House, to join Eric Clapton in Blind Faith. He died of liver and kidney failure in 1990, after years of drink and drugs abuse.

The band split in 1973, with Charlie hooking up with Roger again in Streetwalkers.

Charlie said: “I think basically Family couldn’t really get going in America and you needed to at the time. I don’t really know why because I think they went for the music.

“We did about four tours there. We did a massive tour with Elton John from coast to coast and we had Burlesque out as a single.

“If we were going to make it there, it was then.”

But he’s still proud of what Family achieved.

And his favourite albums? “Music in a Doll’s House, because it was the first one. And Bandstand too – because there are certain times in a band’s career when you just click.”

A few years ago Charlie spent a couple of months holed up at a studio in Syston recording a solo album.

But record companies turned their noses up at it.

So he doesn’t harbour any more thoughts of a comeback. “I don’t feel the need. I still play, in Los Rackateeros as a hobby. But I have got no desire to get back on the road. There’s different ways of making money,” he says.

Roger still does the occasional show with his band The Shortlist and drummer Rob is now in The Blues Band.

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