Musical Family: The Townshends

Time again for the next segment of Like Father, Like Son, except today, I’m going to expand it a bit to include a daughter.  If you recall, in the first segment, we talked about Willie & Lukas Nelson. Then we talked about Leonard & Adam Cohen , and then about Tim & Jeff Buckley. Last time we talked about the Glen Campbell family. Today, we’re going to talk about yet another musical family.

The Townshend Family

Cliff Townshend was born to Dorothy and Horace Townshend on 28 January 1916. The couple had been married in 1910 in Brentford, and were both musicians who played in Concert Party shows for the troops during World War I. Cliff showed an early interest in music and was in a band by 1932 while still attending Latymer Upper School in Hammersmith, London. Showing a streak of rebellion, he was expelled from school for playing at Bottle Parties while still a teenager, adult parties which featured smoking and drinking as well as innovative popular music. Later he played at such venues as the Stork Club and with the Billy Wiltshire Band.

In 1939 World War II was declared in England, and in 1940 Cliff enlisted in the Royal Air Force. Before ending up with The Squadronaires, he played in a number of small bands as part of his duties, as the RAF high command recognized the high morale value of popular music. During the early days of the war, he met Betty Dennis. Betty had enlisted in 1941 at age sixteen, and she drove a truck and sang with some of the RAF bands. They were married 16 April 1944 in Pontypool, South Wales, where they were stationed. By this time, Cliff Townshend had achieved the rank of Lance Corporal.

In 1956, Cliff Townshend released a solo recording of “Unchained Melody” which made him something of a pop star, and royalties from the record were welcome. Cliff and Betty Townshend’s second son Paul Townshend was born in 1957, and the family moved to a larger flat in Ealing Common. In the same year, Cliff took his son Pete to see the film Rock Around the Clock with Bill Haley, and then to a live Bill Haley concert at Regal Cinema at Marble Arch. Cliff thought the music “had some swing.”

Pete Townshend is the first born of Cliff and Betty Townshend. He is an English musician, singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist, best known as the lead guitarist, backing vocalist, and main songwriter for the rock band The Who. His career with the Who spans over 50 years, during which time the band grew to be considered one of the most influential bands of the 20th century.

Pete was married to Karen Astley from 1968 - 2009. Karen's father, Edwin was a television writer and composer, famous for his work on The Saint and The Danger Man. By coincidence, Edwin had often opened for Townshend's father, Cliff's band, The Squadronaires.

In 1982, Pete’s daughters Emma and Minta made their professional music debut singing back-up on A Bao A Qu, a four-track EP by their aunt, singer-songwriter Virginia Astley, named after a Jorge Luis Borges story. Emma also sang backup on Pete Townshend's White City: A Novel album released in 1985, and appeared in the film of the same title, named after an area of West London.

Emma's record deal with EastWest Records, part of the Warner Music Group, extended from 1995-1998, and she released the album Winterland in 1998, named after a celebrated sixties San Francisco music venue. The album was well received, garnering good reviews. She provided vocals for "We Can Fly Away", written by Sandy McLelland and Paul Lowin, which was the theme song in the 1999 made-for-TV movie The Magical Legend of the Leprechauns, (which coincidentally featured The Who's lead singer Roger Daltrey in an acting role).This song has become her most popular, despite its lack of common ground with material issued under her own name.

Pete’s younger brother, Simon, is also a guitarist, singer, and songwriter. He is most associated with The Who and the various side projects of its original members. Simon Townshend has also performed with numerous other acts including Pearl Jam, Dave Grohl and Jeff Beck.

At the age of nine, Simon Townshend recorded backing vocals to the track "Smash the Mirror" with his brother Paul Townshend on The Who's rock opera Tommy and in 1975 appeared as the Newsboy in the 1975 film, Tommy.

In 1974, Simon released his debut single When I'm a Man at the early age of 13 and 9 years later in 1983 he released his first solo album Sweet Sound and then Moving Target in 1985.

In 1989 Simon also appeared on Pete's fifth solo album The Iron Man: The Musical by Pete Townshend, singing on the short song "Man Machines" and an alternative version of "Dig".

And in 1994 he toured with The Who's lead vocalist Roger Daltrey on the Daltrey Sings Townshend tour.

That wraps it up for today’s post about the Townshend’s.  Are there any other parent child musicians that you would like to learn about or hear their music? Let me know in the comments below.


  1. Had the pleasure of booking Simon for a show he did with me in the late 90s at the Agenda Lounge in San Jose. I made it a point not to mention his brother or The Who but only talked about Simon's music.
    At the end of the night he gave me a signed CD and thanked me for enjoying his show.

    1. Hi Patrick

      That sounds like an awesome experience! I seriously think you should expand your blog to include your music experiences. It would be a great addition.


    2. If only we had the tech then as we do today.....I think it's rather cool you keep tapping in the artists I know and worked with.

    3. I like to think of it as a happy coincidence :) Am working on a piece for next week (or maybe the week after) it will be interesting to see if you worked with this next one as well.

  2. Hi,
    It is interesting to see a blog dedicated to music and band. It is nice one !!!

    The out of box salesman

  3. Howdy, MMQE ~
    I was never really a big Who fan, with the exception of the album WHO'S NEXT. I actually own that on compact disc. It's strange to me how much I dig every single track on that one album, while not really liking anything else The Who ever did (with the sole exception of the song LOVE, REIGN O'ER ME).

    And then when those pedophilia revelations about Pete Townshend came to light (and his B.S. explanation about it), I just stopped caring about him at all.

    But still... WHO'S NEXT still rox!

    ~ D-FensDogG
    Stephen T. McCarthy Reviews...

    1. boy, it's a good thing this post isn't all about Pete and The Who!

      I can usually enjoy music for what it is, rather than associating it with the crimes of those performing it.


    2. I can too... depending upon what the crime is. Definitely not when it's pedophilia.

      ~ D-FensDogG

  4. Wow Mary, this was really interesting. I had no idea that Pete Townshend came from and had such a musical family! Was very cool to be introduced to Simon -- I like his I'm the Answer. And Emma's We Can Fly Away is impressive as well.
    My mom plays organ and she plays by ear. She can't read music but she can hear a song and go sit at the organ and play around for a few minutes with different notes and all the sudden she's playing the song! It's amazing. She came from a musical family: my grandmother played piano and my grandfather played guitar. Others in the family played guitar and accordion and they all used to get together on weekends and play and sing.
    Me? Not a musical bone in my body! I took organ lessons when I was young but wanted to be outside playing instead of practicing so that didn't go far. I dated a bass player back in the 80s and he tried to teach me how to play but it was too difficult because I'm left-handed and I got frustrated and that was the end of that. Are you musical? Do you play anything?

    I enjoyed reading about the Townshend family. And it was nice to start my day with a little big band sound...
    Have a good week. I'll be back later to check out your 9/11 tribute post.

    Michele at Angels Bark

    1. I think it's always interesting to learn the backgrounds of the artists, and where they came from. Until this post, I had no idea about the brothers and the kids.

      You gotta watch out for those bass players! I've dated a few in my time (even married one *gasp*) I've also dated a drummer, too. But for some reason it's almost always the bass player that spells trouble.

      When I was growing up, I had piano lessons, and a handful of lessons on a pipe organ. My sister also played. She was way more talented than I ever was. She inherited my grandmother's Kimball piano that was built in the 1800's. After my sister passed, it was passed on to her daughter. I had an el cheapo refurbished piano that we purchased from a church that was upgrading. After I was old enough to move out on my own, I never had a place where I could put my piano, so I gave it to an older brother and his wife for their kids to learn. I also played oboe in junior high band (but that's a whole 'nother story about lack of talent).

      Thanks for dropping by. I'm off to check the comments on my 9/11 post to see how many political/conspiracy comments I will be ignoring.

      Have a great week, and I'll see you on the battle field this Thursday



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