Mar 072013

I think I’ve got it: the Hall’s shortest Last Man Standing topic ever! I happened upon a Cowsills documentary while flipping channels last night. I knew almost nothing about that band. It turns out I knew a couple of their songs, but I’d never put the song titles and tunes together. I knew they were somehow the inspiration for The Partridge Family. It wasn’t covered in the two thirds of the doc that I saw, but I’m pretty sure I knew that sister Susan Cowsill was once married to The dB’s’ Peter Holsapple. That’s correct, right? Although that fact likely means something to us, I’m sure it was not deemed important for regular people who might be watching the documentary.

Anyhow, I tuned in just when the band’s lead brother pissed off the dad and got fired from both the band and the family. Pops Cowsill sounded like a complete asshole. The oldest brother, the “Brian Wilson” of the group, as one of the brothers described him, got a raw deal. The band’s career quickly went down the tubes. Pops Cowsill sounds like he was an even worse person than Murray Wilson. The family crap that followed was horrendous. Somehow Mama Cowsill, in classic tyrannical father/dysfunctional family lore, was almost completely glossed over. It bugs me when mothers are glossed over in these screwed-up family tales, even though I’m sure the message was that Mama Cowsill was as brutalized as the kids were. This from a guy who grew up with a Mom fond of letting me know that “Everyone’s guilty…of something.” But I digress…

I got to thinking: are there ANY family bands that were not driven by a tyrannical dad and/or a fundamentalist religious background, in which God, it might be argued, serves as the stern father? I’m not trying to beat up on all family bands and all family bands with religious backgrounds, mind you. I hope Pops Staples and his clan, for instance, lived as functional lives as any of us might reasonably expect. And if it doesn’t already exist the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame should create a special “rock ‘n roll chapel” to pay tribute to the essential roll the church has played in the devil’s music.

For the purposes of this Last Man Standing, I’m hoping we can cite family bands that, to our knowledge, were not driven by a tyrannical dad or were not rooted in a fundamentalist religion. Can’t families just sing and play music together? Can’t they all just get along more often than not?

Also for the purposes of this thread, we shall define “family bands” as bands containing at least 3 family members. Family duos and bands containing only 2 family members will NOT count. Sorry, Kinks. Sorry, highly dysfunctional Everly Brothers, assuming you grew up in a relatively  stress-free family.

I can think of at least 3 possible entrants, but probably no more…unless you spoil my quest for The Hall’s Shortest Last Man Standing Ever!


  65 Responses to “Last Man Standing: Family Bands Not Driven by Tyrannical Fathers and/or Fundamentalist Religious Beliefs”

  1. So there are more than the 3 bands I had in mind. Nice!

  2. bostonhistorian


  3. Suburban kid

    The Corrs

  4. bostonhistorian

    And aren’t Kings of Leon all cousins or brothers or something?

  5. bostonhistorian

    And what about groups like the Isley Brothers who started out in gospel but moved into secular music?

  6. I though Hanson had a domineering Christian dad.

  7. Pointer Sisters

  8. bostonhistorian

    I know they’re Christians, but I don’t recall the dad pushing them. I could be wrong.

  9. I believe they were raised as Evangelical Christians, which disqualifies them. Again, I do not mean to make judgments about fundamentalist religious beliefs or to equate them with abusive fathers, only to use that as one of 2 criteria for disqualification.

  10. Yes, and their dad was a Pentacostal preacher. Disqualified.

  11. I’m not trying to be fair or pass judgment, but they are yet another example of a church-based fraternal band. I’m seeking family bands with a secular background that also lack an abusive father. Think of what I’m seeking more than what I’m ruling out. Once more, I’m sorry to have to group religious families with highly dysfunctional ones. My wife is the daughter of a great man who also happened to be a preacher. My wife is not a musician.

  12. Good one. I checked, and there’s no record of their dad having been abusive nor a priest!

  13. Their dad was a minister, and their parents told them they could not listen to “devil’s music.” Disqualified.

    Look, it’s real easy: for what it’s worth, go to the artists’ Wiki page and scan the Early Years section. Most likely it wil give an indication of whether these musicians were raised in a super-religious family or not. I don’t, however, choose to dig at all regarding whether they had an abusive father.

  14. I’ve always wondered how much of that KoL back story was just some ginned up marketing. It’s a little too convenient. A group of shoeless backwoods brothers whose pentecostal father wouldn’t let them listen to secular music suddenly emerge as a fully formed Rock band. Critic’s (particularly English ones) love that Southern Gothic stuff but my bullshit detector is going off.

  15. bostonhistorian

    Okay, their music never seemed to be a product of their religion, so I was unclear of the parameters.

  16. So Jet doesn’t count either. A shame because they have 8 siblings in the same band.

  17. Bachman Turner Overdrive!

  18. Suburban kid

    The Bee Gees

  19. BigSteve

    The Shaggs

  20. Suburban kid

    Wasn’t their dad a twisted tyrant?

  21. BigSteve

    I think he bought them their instruments, but I didn’t think he was crazy or anything.

  22. BigSteve

    The Neville Brothers

  23. Sly and the Family Stone

  24. “I’m not trying to be fair…”? also, in the main post, I think you meant “role” of the church, not “roll”.

  25. Suburban kid

    Sister Sledge

  26. He pushed them into it, Steve. From Wiki: “The conceptual beginning of The Shaggs came from Austin Wiggin, Jr.’s mother. During Austin’s youth she had predicted during a palmreading that he would marry a strawberry blonde woman, that he would have two sons after she had died, and that his daughters would form a popular music group. The first two predictions proved accurate, so Austin set about making the third come true as well. Austin withdrew his daughters from school, bought them instruments, and arranged for them to receive music and vocal lessons. The Wiggin sisters themselves never planned to become a music group, but as Dot later said, “(Austin) was something of a disciplinarian. He was stubborn and he could be temperamental. He directed. We obeyed. Or did our best.” Austin named The Shaggs after the then-popular shag hairstyle and as a reference to shaggy dogs. In 1968, Austin arranged for the girls to play a regular Saturday night gig at the Fremont, New Hampshire Town Hall.

  27. 2000 Man

    No, he was one of those preachers that drove around and drank and educated the boys by playing The Stones, Creedence and Skynyrd for them. He wasn’t supposed to be “that guy.” In fact, he always sounded like a sort of grifter to me. Now, is it true? Who knows. It certainly is convenient, and I’m back in the garage with you.

  28. alexmagic

    I’m not familiar with any overbearing parents or specific religious drive in the origin story for The Bee Gees, so I’ll take a shot at the Gibbs being one of Mod’s three.

  29. the roches

  30. Indeed, they were on my list.

  31. Indeed, they were also on my list.

  32. What about Heart?

  33. Need 3 or more. Any parent or degree of religion can mold a duo.

  34. Suburban kid

    The Osmonds

  35. H. Munster

    The Cornelius Brothers and Sister Rose

  36. Suburban kid

    The Maddox Brothers and Rose

  37. What’s a better hand in poker: two pair or three of a kind? If the former, then I submit the Magic Numbers (two sets of a brother and a sister).

  38. Devo’s original lineup featured two sets of brothers, the Mothersbaughs (Mark, Bob, and Jim) and the Casales (Gerald and Bob).

  39. bostonhistorian

    Hardcore Catholics. Aaron Neville credits Saint Jude with saving him from heroin.

  40. What do I know? Thanks. Now, what saint manages struggles with vibrato?

  41. machinery

    I concur with the Brothers Gibb.

  42. machinery

    Did anyone mention the Isley Brothers? The original band if I recall were all bros.

  43. Suburban kid

    Well, if two sets of siblings count, then you can add the original lineup of the Shangri La’s.

  44. I’m going to try the Ramones since there were family members. I think either brothers or cousins. Okay how about the “Angels” an early sixties girl group with two sisters. One of my fave oldies. “My boyfriend’s back and there’s going to trouble. Ohh la dee dee dah. Indeed.

  45. This is obscure and I’ve seen them open a couple of times, but the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players are a mom, dad, and daughter group that is pretty entertaining. The parents didn’t come off as tyrannical.

    BTW — Susan Cowsill dated Dwight Twilley for a period of time in the early 80s, which yields this piece of You Tube gold.

  46. Gentle Giant: Phil Shulman, Derek Shulman and Ray Shulman formed the band and apparently (per Wiki-p) their dad was trumpeter who supported their musical adventures

  47. 2000 Man

    That was really cool. Thanks for posting it!

  48. cherguevara

    If Devo counts then also the Magic Numbers.

  49. Doesn’t Arcade Fire have the husband and wife combo of Will and Regine plus that brother of his that appears to do nothing but fake play instruments and jump around a lot?

  50. BigSteve

    Wait, just being a Catholic disqualifies you? Please. The Nevilles do not have a “fundamentalist religious background.”

  51. H. Munster

    The Chipmunks are brothers, aren’t they?

  52. Figures: those Butler boys were raised Mormon. They’re not even Canadian (the Butler boys). Just thinking of them jumping about on their unamplified jug-band instruments while the core band members crank out that Cure/U2/Springsteen groove on standard rock band instruments bugs me. And that lead guy’s hair. Ugh!

  53. Suburban kid

    The Carter Family

    Last. Man. Standing.

  54. Ramones members absolutely unrelated…barely even friends.

    “My Boyfriend’s Back” goes, “My boyfriend’s back and you’re gonna be in trouble… (Hey-la, hey-la, my boyfriend’s back)”.

  55. underthefloat

    Ditto. Thanks for posting that. I don’t have any bands to mention and Iove the thread. Two things Cowsills related. Thier album in the mid 90’s “Global” has a few really cool tracks on it. Worth a listen I think.
    Also, more on the family…Barry Cowsill died in Hurricane Katrina.

  56. H. Munster

    The Stone Coyotes

  57. cliff sovinsanity

    There’s a well known sibling group in Canada called The Rankin Family featuring Jimmy, Cookie, and Heather Rankin. Along with brother John Morris and sisters Raylene and Geraldine they released a top 40 independent album in 1990 called Fare Thee Well Loved which got considerable airplay on radio and MuchMusic eventually going 5 times platinum. Despite a few deaths along the way the group survives putting out the occasional album and the odd tour now and again.
    Dig it

  58. cliff sovinsanity

    It’s possible that they are brothers but they don’t qualify because they had a tyrannical quick tempered “father” figure.

  59. ladymisskirroyale

    Having seen them at the Greek Theater, I can attest that these instruments were highly amplified!

  60. cherguevara

    The Gregory Brothers are three brothers plus one wife. The band isn’t really known, except they also happen to be the people behind “Autotune the News.” Kind of a lame entry, sorry!

  61. Cowboy Junkies

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