FAMILY existed from early 1967 until late 1973. During this period, this UK band from Leicester were festival staples, and covered a lot of musical ground, touching on 60′s psychedelia; breezy acoustic passages; hard progressive rock; jazz-flavorings; and in their final stages, a laid-back, “good-time” brand of rock and roll. The basis of the group lies with the songwriting partnership of Roger Chapman and Charlie Whitney. Mr. Chapman is thought by many to have the most unique voice in rock. This can be alternately down-home and soothing, to outright manic and throat-wrenching…almost a bleating straight from hell itself. Chapman recently said of his talents: “I thought I was just singing like Little Richard or Ray Charles”.

The Farinas / Formative Years (1962–1967)Jim King (lead vocals, harp) (born Alec Woodburn, Tuesday, May 5, 1942, Kettering, Northamptonshire, UK died Monday, February 6, 2012, Middlewich, Cheshire, UK), Harry Ovenall (drums) (born Richard Harry Ovenall, Sunday, September 12, 1943, Thorpe Hall, Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, UK), Charlie Whitney (lead guitar, vocals) (born Richard John Whitney, Saturday, June 24, 1944, Skipton, North Yorkshire, UK), Tim Kirchin (bass) (born Timothy Kirchin, ca. 1944, Leicester, Leicestershire, UK died ?), Terry Cowlishaw (drums) (a few gigs) (born Terence Cowlishaw, 1941, Midway, Swandlincote, South Derbyshire, UK), Ric Grech (bass, lead vocals) (born Richard Roman Grechko, Friday, November 1, 1946, Bordeaux, France died Saturday, March 17, 1990, Leicester General Hospital, Leicester, Leicestershire, UK, of kidney failure), Roger Chapman (lead vocals) (born Roger Maxwell Chapman, April 8, 1942, Leicester, Leicestershire, UK).

Soul-pop outfit James King and the Farinas were formed in 1962 at Leicester Art College, Leicester, Leicestershire by Jim King on lead vocals and Charlie Whitney on lead guitar, vocals, with Tim Kirchin on bass and Harry Ovenall on drums. Soon the band became just The Farinas later in 1962. Whitney who had been born in North Yorkshire was the son of show business parents, who when it was time for him to go to school, moved to outside of Leicester when Whitney was five in 1949.

Whitney had met harp playing vocalist King and drummer Ovenall at Leicester Art College all on a foundation course. Also there was drummer Cowlinshaw, who was a year ahead of Ovenall and studying Fine Arts. He would dep for Ovenall occasionally in the early days, as he was also in another couple of bands in Peterborough, The Teenbeats and The Monarchs. Cowlishaw was also a drummer in a band called Unit Four Plus One while at Leicester Art College.

As for Whitney he was already playing lead guitar in a band called Tony Bart and the ReVels, who included Tony Bart on lead vocals (born Anthony Bartholomew), Rod Moore on bass (born Roderick Moore died 1962?), Pete Davies on rhythm guitar (born Peter Davies) and Harry Ovenall on drums. Farinas - acetateLater Bart left the band to do his own thing and Moore was sadly killed. King took over the band and Ovenall came up with the new name The Farinas. He looked in a library book, putting his finger in it and coming up with the name from an Italian car designer. As for Bart he joined a band called The Strangers and later still a show band called The Moonstones that also included Cowlishaw on drums.

In around 1962 James King and the Farinas cut a demo, a rare acetate recording of ”All You Gotta Do,” ”Twist And Shout” and ”By By Johnny” at Sound Studios at 41-49 London Road in Derby, Derbyshire. It was produced by Victor Buckland. James King and the Farinas turned pro in April 1963.

James King and the Farinas played all over The Midlands, playing on August 17, 1963 at The Marcam Hall in Cambridge, Cambridgeshire. On Wednesday, January 15, 1964 they played at The Mayor’s Charity Ball at The Banqueting Hall, Tamworth Castle, Tamworth, Staffordshire. They also played twice at The Assembly Rooms in Corporation Street, Tamworth on Saturday, January 25, 1964, supporting Roy Stuart and the Cyclones and on Saturday, February 1, 1964, supporting The Trentside Four. On Saturday, April 18, 1964 they played again at The Marcam Hall in Cambridge, Cambridgeshire. They also played in London mostly at the famous 100 Club at 100 Oxford Street in Soho, West London, supporting The Pretty Things, The Graham Bond Organisation, The Artwoods, etc.

In 1964 The Farinas went down to London and recorded their first and only single ”You’d Better Stop” and ”I Like It Like That” at Fontana Studios in Stanhope Place, Marbel Arch, West London. On Friday, August 28, 1964 The Farinas released their only single ”You’d Better Stop” and ”I Like It Like That” on Fontana TF 493, with King on lead vocals. In around 1965 they had publicity cards done saying ”Fontana Soul and Roll.”

In 1965 21-year old Kirchin left the band. He then quit the music biz, got married and moved down to Brighton, East Sussex. He was replaced by 19 year-old Ric Grech, who was of Ukrainian origin and had been born in France. He was educated by The Sacred Heart Primary School and The Corpus Christi RC School both in Leicester.

Grech had played first violin in The Leicester Youth Symphony Orchestra and joined his first band The Berkely Squares, formed by guitarist Martin Osborn. Osborn had taught Grech to play guitar. He was also in a band with brother’s guitarist Roy Martinez and bassist Paul Martinez (born Paul Frank Martinez, Sunday, October 5, 1947, Casablanca, Morocco), Grech was later in a band called The Exciters with future Farinas lead vocalist Roger Chapman and guitarist Stuart Brown. When Chapman left this group he went to Germany with Danny Storm and the Strollers. As for Grech he joined The Farinas.

In 1966 The Farinas became a five-piece when they were joined by 24 year-old lead vocalist Roger Chapman. He had been educated at Ellis Intermediate School in Leicester and had entered show business at 17 in 1959, the same year he made his first public appearance at The Palais De Dance in Leicester, which was with his first band The Rockin’ R’s? His second band was The Exciters with future Farinas bassist Ric Grech and guitarist Stuart Brown. He was later in The Strollers who backed singer Danny Storm (born David Hurran, 1942, Leicester, Leicestershire, UK), who had a hit in April 1962 with ”Honest I Do.” The Strollers included drummer Barney Peacock. Chapman went to Germany with Strom and the Strollers and on his return he joined The Farinas.

Whitney had first met Chapman when he spoke to him at The Palais De Dance in Leicester in the early 60’s. Whitney had seen him sing once and he needed a singer for a gig, but he could not do it, but Chapman introduced him to another singer who could. The Farinas played their last gig on Friday, September 9, 1966 at The Hermitage Hall in Hitchin, Hertfordshire, supporting Cream.

In October 1966 The Farinas changed their name to The Raring Sixties, which soon changed to Family in October 1966. The famous American record producer Kim Fowley had 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 favor of a more casual dress code.

The Family’s first gig was possibly on Friday, October 6, 1966 at the famous Oasis Club, 45 – 47 Lloyd Street off Albert Square in Manchester 2, Lancashire. On Saturday, October 22, 1966 The Family played for the first time at the famous Cavern Club, 8 – 10 Mathew Street in Liverpool 2, Lancashire. According to Spencer Leigh’s book ”The Cavern” (SAF, 2008) ”One of the earliest appearances from Roger Chapman’s classic rock band, Family. On Wednesday, October 12, 1966 The Family played The Club A-GoGo in Percy Street, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Northumbria for the first time.

On Thursday, December 3, 1966 The Family played a ”All-Nighter” at The Midnight Club, Birmingham, Warwickshire, UK, with The Who. They were called The Family, according to Joe McMichael & ‘Irish’ Jack Lyons’ book The Who Concert File (Omnibus Press, 1997). According to Andy Neill & Matt Kent’s book ”The Complete Chronicle Of The Who 1958 – 1978 Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere.” The Who played with the Family, who shortened their name to Family the following year (1967).

On meeting Mim Scala who Family had known before, Scala asked if there was anything he could do for them. Because they were looking for material at the time, and probably a producer. Ovenall asked Scala if he could arrange for Jimmy Miller (born James Miller, Monday, March 23, 1942, Brooklyn, New York City, N.Y., USA died Saturday, October 22, 1994, Denver, Colorado, USA) to produce the band’s first single which Scala duly did and also introduced the band to John Gilbert, who from then on became the group’s manager.

In September 1967 Family were signed to The Liberty Label, because of their outstanding concerts. Thanks to Jimmy Miller, Steve Winwood (born Stephen Lawrence Winwood, Wednesday, May 12, 1948, Handsworth, Birmingham, Warwickshire, UK) and the other members of Traffic, helped participated in the recording of their first single in September 1967 in London. Shortly after the recording of ”Scene Through The Eyes of A Lens” / ”Gypsy Woman,” and before it’s release Ovenall left in Late September 1967.

Ovenall left as he voiced his concern over the bands movement away from their black musical roots, like Blues R & B and Soul. His concerns also included the role of the bands management. A group meeting was called, during which it was suggested Ovenall’s heart was no longer in the band and as a consequence he left Family. Contrary to several reports he was not asked to leave the band. So he was replaced by 20 year-old drummer Rob Townsend. Townsend spent his teenage years playing in a various Leicester groups such as, The Beatniks, Mid 60’s 6 piece band The Broodly Hoo and Legay, who were influenced by Tamla Motown.

Legay was formed in 1965 with a line-up of Rod Read on guitar, vocals (born Robert Read), Robin Pizer on guitar, vocals, Dave ‘Mac’ Macarthy on bass, vocals, John Knapp on vocals, guitar, organ and Legay Rogers on drums (born ? died December 1997). Legay made their début at The Casino Ballroom at the top of London Road in Leicester. Later on they were joined by Townsend, who replaced Rogers. After Townsend left in September 1967 to join Family, he was replaced by 16 year-old drummer Dave ‘Moth’ Smith (born David Smith, July 21, 1951, Leicester, Leicestershire, UK), who later played in Diesel Park West. In 1969 Legay changed their name to Gyspy, with a line-up of Knapp, Pizer, Smith, Macarthy and new member guitarist Roy Martinez, who replaced Read. The band played the 1969 Isle of Wight Festival.

On Friday, October 13, 1967 Family released their first single on ”Scene Through The Eyes Of A Lens” and ”Gypsy Woman” on Liberty LBF 10031.

Early Years (1968-69)

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. 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, 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, and the group also backed Mason on the b-side of his February 1968 single “Just For You”.

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. Family featured in the book under the pseudonym, ‘Relation’.

Music in a Doll’s House was released in July 1968 and charted at #35 in the UK to critical acclaim, thanks to strong support from future BBC Radio 1’s John Peel. 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 sound was characterized by Chapman’s vocals, rooted in the blues and R&B, 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.

Family’s 1969 follow-up, Family Entertainment, toned down the psychedelic experimentation of their previous offering to some extent, reaching #6 in the UK Albums Chart, and featured the single “The Weaver’s Answer”, although the group reportedly had no control over the mixing and choice of tracks being left to their management at the time.

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, Grech unexpectedly left the band to join the new supergroup Blind Faith; on the recommendation of tour manager Peter Grant, Grech was replaced by John Weider, previously of Eric Burdon and The Animals, rehearsing and joining the band in Detroit. 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; Chapman performed the following shows with his hands by his sides, and by the end of the tour he had lost his voice; Chapman also had his passport stolen resulting in the band performing in Canada without him. Family’s reputation in the US never recovered and they ultimately never achieved great recognition there.

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 behavior” and was replaced by multi-instrumentalist John “Poli” Palmer.

Later years (1970–1973)

In 1970, Family played a few more gigs in the United States, appearing in San Francisco and Boston. In January 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 Albums Chart. The album itself was a blend of hard rock and folk rock. 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. The band appeared in the documentary film Message to Love about the latter festival performing “The Weaver’s Answer.”

Family’s follow up 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 chart. In March 1971 the compilation album, Old Songs New Songs, was released, but in June Weider left Family to join Stud. He was replaced by former Mogul Thrash bassist John Wetton, who had just declined an invitation from Robert Fripp to join King Crimson.

As with 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. In 1972, another album, Bandstand was released, which leaned more towards hard rock than art rock, featuring the singles “Burlesque” in late 1972, and “My Friend the Sun”, which was released in early 1973.

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.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”.

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.

Family gave their final concert at Leicester Polytechnic on October 13, 1973. 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; John Wetton played with King Crimson eventually became the lead singer of the band Asia. Rob Townsend was a member of Medicine Head between 1973 and 1975 and later joined John “Charlie” Whitney again in the band Axis Point. Ric Grech died of kidney and liver failure in 1990 at the age of 43, as a result of alcoholism. Tony Ashton died in 2001 at the age of 55 of cancer. Jim King died in 2012.

Here’s what the Gibraltar Encyclopedia of Progressive Rock has to say:

“Seminal British folk-hard-rock-prog band fronted by Roger Chapman and Charlie Whitney. Their music was instantly recognizable due to Chapman’s unique and grating vocals. Musically they covered a wide range of stuff, all condensed into song format and generally accessible, but still very progressive for its time.”

After seven LP’s and five years of touring, Family called it quits due to uneven success and lack of attention in the American market. British radio host John Peel suggested that it was Chapman’s reluctance to deliver “hummable songs” that kept him from the recognition enjoyed at that time by fellow Englishmen Joe Cocker and Rod Stewart. But Family‘s stubborn innocence has given them a unique, legendary status.

Roger Chapman on Family’s career:
“We didn’t try to be different, it was never calculated… It was as naive and as honest as that.”

But the partnership of Chapman/Whitney didn’t end here. They went on to make a few more albums in the late 70’s as the STREETWALKERS, with a more direct sound of R &B. Charlie Whitney then formed Axis Point for a couple of albums, and is now with a blues and bluegrass combo in the UK called Los Racketeeros . Roger Chapman began his long-awaited solo career in 1978 and formed a partnership with guitarist Geoff Whitehorn. He found greatest success in Europe, and most of his releases were based in Germany. However, he is still producing records with much success in both UK & Germany. For more Chappo info please head over to the Roger Chapman Appreciation Society.