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.