Leicester Art College: guitarist John “Charlie” Whitney forms the R&B based Farinas with Jim King, Harry Ovenall (drums), Tim Kirchin (bass). They perform Chuck Berry and Coasters covers.
In August: one single on the Fontana label, “You’d Better Stop/I Like It Like That”
Ric Grech replaces Kirchin
Roger Chapman joins on lead vocals.He influences the repertoire beyond blues/R&B. Band’s sound is expanded with instrumentation of acoustic numbers, along with violin and sax. The band travels in their van to clubs and colleges allover England. Name changes to the Roaring Sixties; develop gangster image wearing baggy, double-breasted suits
Demos recorded in London with U.S. producer Kim Fowley, dubs them “The Family” from their Mafia image. Become heavies in the London underground scene. Family loses the suits in favor of blue jeans and vests. Rob Townsend replaces Ovenall on drums. They becomc heavily influenced by U.S. west coast bands like The Byrds and The Doors.
Charlie Whitney: “Up until then, we’d just taken old blues things and rearranged them, but suddenly we found we were pouring out new songs. When we came to London, everyone always thought that we took acid all the time, but we were much more of a working class band. People would take one look at Rogcr and say ‘He has just got to be on acid’.”
July 1967: Band makes its London debut at Royal Albert Hall, opening for Tim Hardin.
September 1967: One single with Liberty, “Scene Through the Eye of a Lens/Gypsy Woman” produced by Jimmy Miller. it had moderate sales, but no airplay.
Band signs with Reprise. Around this time Jenny Fabian (convent girl-tumed-rock climber/Syd Barrett’s former girlfriend) moved into the band’s Chelsea pad, which served as a focus of hipster activities. At times she was thc girlfricnd of Ric Grech, and their manager. She penned Groupie in 1969, a paperback with more or less accurate tales of the the UFO/Middle Earth club scene in London. Coauthored by writer Johnny Byrne, a lot of it centered on a band suspiciously called “Relation” and its manic singer “Spike”. Family was not proud of this unauthorized trash-ography. Jimmy Miller was to produce their debut album, but got tied up with the Rolling Stones’ Beggars Banquet. Instead, Family records MUSIC IN A DOLL’S HOUSE with producer Dave Mason, who contributes one song “Never Like This”. The band backs up Mason on his B-side single “Little Woman”.
June 1968: Single “Me My Friend/Hey Mr. Policeman” gets a push from BBC man John Peel.
July 1968: DOLL’S HOUSE released with good reviews, hits #35 on UK album charts.
October 1968: A-side of single “Second Generation Woman/Hometown” features Ric Grech in a straight-up rocker unlike nonnal Family fare.
March 1969: FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT released and reaches #6 in thc charts. The cover features circus performers on a black background, and the band admits it was “inspired” by the Doors’ Strange Days. Band disapproves of the mixing.
April 1969: Ric Grech leaves during the band’s first U.S. tour to join Blind Faith. Chapman has commented on this by saying that the band was the LAST to find out. He heard it after Hendrix mentioned it in an interview.
“[Grech] could have at least told us before the tour began!”
Tour manager Peter Grant recommends John Weider to join on bass, violin and guitar. He leaves L.A. club group Stonehenge, and flies to Detroit so that the Family U.S. tour can continue. At the Fillmore East, Family begins the first of eight shows between the Nice and Ten Years Aftcr. On the first night the Nice ignore Bill Graham’s word and burn the American flag during “America”. Then Family follows, and Chapman’s stage antics cause a microphone stand to be sent in Bill Graham’s direction offstage, who takes it as a threat. For the following shows, a well-behaved Chapman bores the crowd with his arms pinned to his sides. The tour ends when Chapman loses his voice AND his visa is revoked. Some feel that Graham blacklisted the band, callsing Family to miss out on the U.S. success so deserved.
July 1969: On the 5th, Family plays at the Rolling Stones’ Hyde Park gig, a Brian Jones Memorial, with King Crimson.
August 1969: Family plays the Isle of Wight festival, on Saturday thc 30th.
Octoher 1969: Single “No Mule’s Fool/Good Friend of Mine” reaches #29. Managcr John Gilbert is fired for mismanngemcnt of the previolls American tour. Jim King’s erratic behavior leads to his dismissal, and he joins Ring of Truth. He is replaced by John “Poli” Palmer to play vibes, keys, and flute.
January 1970: A SONG FOR ME is released and the first to be produced by the band itself. Ilits #4, the highest album position the band would attain.
March 1970: Chapman’s passport is stolen in New York, and the band is forced to play in Canada without him [don’t ask me to explain this either!].
April 1970: “Songs for Lots/Today” single released.
June 1970: Family plays the Kralingen Festival in the Netherlands. Production for compilation OLD SONGS NEW SONGS begins and features new versions of three FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT songs.
August 1970: Maxi-single of “Strange Band/ Weaver’s Answer (new)/Hung Up Down (new)” reaches #11 and stays in UK Top 50 for three months
November 1970: ANYWAY released and features half-live/half-studio. It goes to #7·
Family completes a second U.S. tour between October 1969 and June 1971.
March 1971: OLD SONGS NEW SONGS released.
June 1971: John Weider decides he has tired of bass guitar and joins Stud with Jim Cregan (formerly of Blossom Toes, Julian Covey and the Machine), Charlie McCracken and John Wilson (both formerly in Taste). Cregan goes on to Family 15 months later. McCracken later joins Charlie Whitney’s Axis Point.
Meanwhile Jim Cregan notifies an old friend about the open position in Family. John Wetton joins on bass, guitar, and vocals. Preceding this, Robert Fripp had asked Wetton to join the Boz Burrell-era King Crimson, but Wetton didn’t feel comfortable with the rest of the lineup. Instead, Wetton accepts Family’s invitation, but keeps in touch with Fripp.
July 1971 : Biggest single for the band, “In My Own Time/Seasons”, hits #4 in the UK.
October 1971 : FEARLESS released, hits # 10 and even charts in U.S.! Album cover features layered paging, with computer-generated band photos, and it’s the first Family album to use synthesizer.
August 1972: Disappointed with near-success, Welton departs to Crimson pasturcs, even though new album is ready for relcase. Jim Cregan leaves Stud and joins the band.
September 1972: “Burlesque/the Rockin’ R’s” reaches # 13.
October 1972: BANDSTAND released in an album cover with rounded edges, shaped like an old television, goes to # 15. The album features even greater presence of synthesizer, and is a little more straight-forward than the previous. Album climbs to # 183 in the U.S. Elton John gets them to open for his U.S. tour (Family’s third visit). Palmer remembers the audience being caught off guard by their brand of English Rock:
“We would play, finish, and there would be silence … The only clapping in this huge stadium would be the guys doing the PA.”
“By this time we’d become a bit of an island, unable to get across the little stretch of water keeping us apart from bigger things.”
November 1972: Poli Palmer is let go as he began to favor his primitive YCS3 synthesizer more and more. The band felt it would take him too long during concerts to program the patches for tiny bits of music. He had planned to form a band with former Family-man Ric Grech, but it never got going.
December 1972: Poli’s replacement comes in the form of the talented and rowdy Tony Ashton.
January 1973: “My Friend the Sun/Glove” released as a post-album single, doesn’t chart. Family forms their own label, Raft.
April 1973: “Boom Bang/Stop This Car” is released, which also sinks.
Septcmber 1973: “Sweet Desiree/Drink To You” single released. Band is frustrated at lack of success in the States, decides to pack it in gracefully. Cuts last album IT’S ONLY A MOVIE (which charted at #30), does the tour.
October 13th, 1973: Family’s farewell concert at hometown Leicester Polytechnic, with guest players and Family favorites from all periods.
Pete Frame, famous for his Rock Family Trees:
“They went down with their label; gritty, loose, rough and powcrful, they were one of those bands you always remcmbcr with a smile. I can still see them now… bunch of lovable scruffy ‘erberts.”
BEST OF FAMILY was rcleased, and in Novcmber a posthumous single: “My Friend the Sun/Burlesque”.
In late 1973 Roger Chapman and Charlie Whitney began to work as a duo. This led to a Chapman/Whitney album called STREETWALKERS in 1974, with many friends as backing musicians (John Wetton, Linda Lewis, Ian Wallace, Boz Burrell, Ric Grech, Poli Palmer. ..). The following year they fonned the Streetwalkers, a rock R&B outfit that also featured former Jeff Beck vocalist Bob Tench. Thrce albums and a live-one later, they broke up in 1977. Surprisingly, they did better in Amcrica than Family ever had. The Streetwalkers sound was carried on, in my opinion, by a band formed’ in 1978 by Charlie Whitney, Rob Townsend and Eddie Hardin (formerly of the Spencer Davis Group). “Axis Point” released two albums on RCA, Axis Point and Boast ofthe Town. The band also featured bassist Charlie McCracken, who had been in Taste, and in Stud with Jim Cregan and John Weider.
Meanwhile Cbappo began his long-awaitcd solo career in J978, with CHAPPO. He found many fans in Gennany, and basically concentrated his efforts and releases there. With many studio albums to date, he has certainly found his niche, and his last album, HIDE GO SEEK, even did well in his homeland. Charlie Whitney was pretty much low-profile in the ’80’s, but his laid-back acoustic blues and bluegrass outfit, Los Racketeeros, put out a CD in the late 90s. Sadly, Ric Grech dicd on March 17, 1990, due to kidney and liver failure after a brain hemorrhage at Leicestcr General Hospital.