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 explored other genres, incorporating elements of styles such as folk, psychedelia, acid, jazz fusion and rock and roll. Their sound was a mixture of rock, blues and folk interwoven with classical and jazz elements. Family is one of the first bands that mixed these elements and introduced unusual instrumentations and arrangements in rock. The band achieved recognition in the UK through their albums, club and concert tours and appearances at festivals, but were unable to attract the same level of attention in USA. 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, when compared with other bands from the same period and have been described as an "odd band loved by a small but rabid group of fans". Their sound was distinguished by several factors. The vocals of Roger Chapman, described as a "bleating vibrato" and an "electric goat", were considered unique, although some reviewers noting that Chapman's voice could be grating and irritating occasionally. John "Charlie" Whitney was an accomplished and innovative guitarist, and Family's often complex song arrangements were made possible through having multi-instrumentalists like Ric Grech and Jim King in the band and access to 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, not to mention British art rock, and hard rock. 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".

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 whose sound was grounded in R&B. The Farinas were formed in 1962 at Leicester Art College and originally consisted of John "Charlie" Whitney (guitars, keyboards), Tim Kirchin (bass), Harry Ovenall (drums, percussion) and Jim King (saxophone, flute). Ric Grech replaced Kirchin on bass in 1965 and Roger Chapman joined the following year on vocals. Chapman's vocal-style and the use of violin and sax expanded the band's sound in a progressive direction. They briefly changed their name to The Roaring Sixties. They played at the famous Marquee Club regularly and other London clubs including The Hundred Club and the famous Sybilla's in Swallow Street. John Gilbert took over managing the band. 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. Family, under the new name,  was formed in 1966 by John "Charlie" Whitney (guitar, vocals), Roger Chapman (vocals), Jim King (saxophone, Flute), Ric Grech (bass) and Harry Ovenall (drums). 

Their 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 success. Shortly after the recording drummer Harry Ovenall walked away from the band. He was replaced by Rob Townsend. 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 co-producer on two tracks, "The Breeze" and "Peace Of Mind" and 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". Music in a Doll's House was released in July 1968 and charted at No. 35 in the UK to critical acclaim, thanks to the strong support from future BBC Radio 1's John Peel. Now widely acknowledged as a classic of British psychedelic rock, the album showcased many of the stylistic and production features that are archetypal of the genre. The album's highly original sound was characterised 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 Ric Grech and Jim King, including saxophones, violin, cello and harmonica. The album came out with a sophisticated cover, a feature that would become one of Family's trademarks.

Me my friend


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". Family's 1969 follow-up, Family Entertainment, toned down the psychedelic experimentation of their previous offering to some extent, reaching No. 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, or the running order of the songs.

The weaver's answer

Hung up down

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; on the recommendation of tour manager Peter Grant, Grech was replaced by John Weider, previously of Eric Burdon and The Animals. 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, Roger 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; 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 behaviour 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 early 1970, Family released their third studio album, A Song for Me; produced by the band, it became the highest charting album they released, reaching No. 4 on the UK Albums Chart. On this album the band developed a more aggressive sound and their sound 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. They  became an appreciated live-act and appeared in the documentary film Message to Love about the latter festival.

Drowned in wine

The cat and the rat

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 No. 7 on the UK chart. 

Strange Band

In March 1971 the compilation album, Old Songs New Songs, (which contained remixes and rare tracks) was released, but in June John 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 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 No. 4, and the album Fearless in October 1971, which charted in both the UK and the US. Both albums continued the harder and rockier side of Family's music.

Spanish tide

Larf and sing

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. Both albums, Fearless and Bandstand, continued the harder and rockier side of Family's music. In mid-1972, John Wetton left Family to join a new lineup of King Crimson and he 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".


Top of the hill

In 1973, Family released the largely ignored It's Only a Movie (on their own label, Raft, distributed by Warner/Reprise), which would be their last studio album, followed by another tour. They gave their final concert at Leicester Polytechnic on October 13, 1973. Many of the band's members went onto different musical projects; Roger Chapman and John "Charlie" Whitney formed the band Streetwalkers; John Wetton played with King Crimson and eventually became the lead singer of the band Asia. Rob Townsend was a member of Medicine Head between 1973 and 1975. He is now a member of The Blues Band since 1979 and of The Manfreds since 1991. Ric Grech died of kidney and liver failure in 1990 at the age of 43. Tony Ashton died in 2001 at the age of 55 of cancer. Sadly, Jim King died on 6 February 2012 in Middlewich, Cheshire.

Reunion performance (2013)

In September 2012 the band announced a one-off reunion gig on 2 February 2013 at the O2 Shepherds Bush Empire, London featuring Roger Chapman, Poli Palmer, Rob Townsend and Jim Cregan. In fact the band played two nights to sell out audiences. Roger Chapman paid warm tributes to absent band members Rick Grech, Tony Ashton, Jim King, John Weider, John Wetton and Charlie Whitney.

Studio albums

Music in a Doll's House (1968):

1.The Chase (2:14)
2. Mellowing Grey (2:48)
3. Never Like This (2:17)
4. Me My Friend (2:01)
5. Variation On A Theme Of Hey Mr. Policeman (0:23)
6. Winter (2:25)
7. Old Songs, New Songs (4:17)
8. Variation On A Theme Of The Breeze (0:40)
9. Hey Mr. Policeman (3:13)
10. See Through Windows (3:43)
11. Variation On A Theme Of Me And My Friend (0:22)
12. Peace Of Mind (2:21)
13. Voyage(3:35)
14. The Breeze (2:50)
15. 3xTime (3:48)

Family Entertainment (1969):

1. The Weaver's Answer (5:01)
2. Observations From A Hill (3:12)
3. Hung Up Down (3:13)
4. Summer '67 (3:18)
5. How-Hi-The-Li (4:59)
6. Second Generation Woman (3:14)
7. From Past Archives (3:21)
8. Dim (2:32)
9. Processions (2:49)
10. Face In The Crowd (2:55)
11. Emotions (5:12)

A Song for Me (1970):

1. Drowned In Wine (4:10)
2. Some Poor Soul (2:44)
3. Love Is A Sleeper (4:02)
4. Stop For The Traffic-Through The Heart Of Me (2:11)
5. Wheels (4:43)
6. Songs For Sinking Lovers (4:06)
7. Hey-Let It Rock (0:59)
8. The Cat And The Rat (2:32)
9. 93's Ok J (3:59)
10. A Song For Me (9:20)

Anyway (1970):

1. Good News, Bad News (8:06)
2. Willow Tree (4:39)
3. Holding The Compass (4:28)
4. Strange Band (3:34)
5. Part Of The Load (4:40)
6. Anyway (3:28)
7. Normans (4:21)
8. Lives and Ladies (6:37)

Fearless (1971):

1. Between Blue And Me (5:02)
2. Sat D-Y Barfly (3:58)
3. Larf And Sing (2:45)
4. Spanish Tide (4:02)
5. Save Some For Thee (3:42)
6. Take Your Partners (6:26)
7. Children (2:19)
8. Crinkley Grin (1:05)
9. Blind (4:03)
10. Burning Bridges (4:45)

Bandstand (1972):

1.Burlesque (4:05)
2. Bolero Babe (4:37)
3. Coronation (3:50)
4. Dark Eyes (1:46)
5. Broken Nose (4:09)
6. My Friend The Sun (4:20)
7. Glove (4:50)
8. Ready To Go (4:36)
9. Top Of The Hill (5:40)

It's Only a Movie (1973):

1. It's Only A Movie (5:06)
2. Leroy (5:39)
3. Buffet Tea For Two (5:20)
4. Boom Bang (3:01)
5. Boots 'N Roots (5:00)
6. Banger (3:05)
7. Sweet Desiree (3:40)
8. Suspicion (3:21) 
9. Check Out (4:29)