Family In-depth Biography
A blues}-based band with art-rock} inclinations, Family} was one of the more interesting groups of hippie-era Britain. Fronted by the deft and frequently excellent guitar playing of John "Charlie" Whitney} and the raspy, whisky-and-cigarette voice of Roger Chapman}, Family} was much loved in England and Europe but barely achieved cult status in America. While bands like Jethro Tull}, Ten Years After}, and the Keith Emerson}-led Nice} (and later Emerson, Lake, and Palmer}) sold lots of records, Family}, which frequently toured with these bands, was left in the shadows, an odd band loved by a small but rabid group of fans.
Although the band's first official release was Music in a Doll's House} in 1968, the roots of the band go back as far as the early '60s, when Whitney} started a rhythm & blues/soul} band called the Farinas} while at college. In 1966, Whitney} met Roger Chapman}, a prematurely balding singer who had a voice so powerful that, to quote Robert Christgau}, "it could kill small game at a hundred yards," and the two began a creative partnership that would last through two bands and into the early '80s. With Whitney} and Chapman} leading the way, Family} became whole with the addition of bassist Ric Grech}, saxophonist Jim King}, and drummer Rob Townsend}. Within a year they were hyped as the next big thing, and under that pressure and intense British pop} press scrutiny delivered their debut record in 1968, Music in a Doll's House}. Doll's House} is pop} music redolent of the zeitgeist: Chapman}'s voice is rooted in the blues} and R&B}, but the record is loaded with strings, mellotrons, acoustic guitars, horns, essentially all the trappings of post-psychedelia} and early art-rock}. Almost completely ignored in the states, Doll's House} was a hit in Britain and Family} began a string of less art-rock}, more hard rock} albums that ended, as did the band, with the release of It's Only a Movie} in 1973.
After Family}'s demise, Whitney} and Chapman} formed the blues-rock} Streetwalkers}; other Family} members (of which there were quite a few in the band's tempestuous eight years) such as John Wetton} (King Crimson}, Asia}) and Jim Cregan} (Rod Stewart}) went off to find fame and fortune elsewhere. Trivia buffs note: it was Ric Grech} who was the first to leave Family} in 1969 to become the least well-known member of supergroup Blind Faith}. Sadly, that proved to be Grech}'s biggest mistake, as Blind Faith} imploded in a year, and Grech} (whose last notable band membership was in Traffic}), long plagued by drinking problems, died of liver failure in 1990. Today Charlie Whitney} plays in an extremely low-key country}/blues}/bluegrass} band called Los Rackateeros}, and Roger Chapman} lives in Germany, where his solo career is flourishing. A fine, occasionally great band, Family} deserved more recognition (at least in America) than they received. Something that a thoughtfully compiled CD retrospective might rectify. ~ John Dougan, All Music Guide