There are so many ways that guitar bands get formed. Sometimes it’s on purpose – like answering an advert, which is how Bernard Butler ended up in Suede. Sometimes it’s by complete accident – like meeting someone wearing a fancy-dress-party outfit that’s as awesome as yours, which is what first caused Jake Shears to recruit Ana Matronic to Scissor Sisters.
But sometimes bands will emerge from far, far simpler circumstances, such as just growing up alongside your future collaborator. And groups containing guitar-toting siblings have been ‘born’ (sorry!) more times than you might think over the years – let’s take a look at a few chronologically...
The Kinks (formed 1964)
The ‘British Invasion’ of pop and rock music in America during the 1960s is almost always, not surprisingly, mainly associated with the Beatles. But remove the fab four from that picture and the overwhelming majority of London-spawned acts involved in this cultural phenomenon becomes incredibly clear. One prominent example was The Kinks, formed by brothers Dave and Ray Davies, and responsible for the epic 1964 hit ‘You Really Got Me’, which made the top 10 in the USA, Canada and Ireland, and shot to #1 in the UK.
AC/DC (formed 1973)
No other band in the history of rock music has ever made simplicity sound so good. Much of this can be laid firmly at the feet of brothers Angus and Malcolm Young, the founders of this legendary act, and the pair respectively responsible for the awesome blues-rooted solo and thick, punchy, bottom-of-the-neck rhythm guitar work throughout most of their recording career. Malcolm departed the band due to health issues in 2014 (replaced by his nephew, keeping the family vibe well intact) and tragically passed away in 2017.
INXS (formed 1977)
INXS surfed the new wave harder than most bands throughout the ‘80s, bringing fun, love and excess to some of the biggest releases of the decade. And whilst the explosive talent of Michael Hutchence on lead vocals and rhythm guitar kept attention on the front of the stage, the band also included three siblings – Tim (lead guitar), Jon (drums) and Andrew Farriss (keys), pinning down that powerful yet playful backline.
Meat Puppets (formed 1980)
Any band whose sound can be described as “cowpunk” is going to be interesting, and the Meat Puppets blend of psychedelic rock, country and punk has proved a major influence on various other incredible groups. Not least of all Nirvana, who invited brothers Curt and Cris Kirkwood to join in their legendary ‘MTV Unplugged’ performance that involved three songs from the MP’s second album. Along with sharing a surname, the Kirkwood boys also shared a garden fence during the band’s early years, having purchased adjacent homes in Tempe, Arizona, and rehearsing in the backyard shed!
The Proclaimers (formed 1983)
Possibly Scotland’s most famous twins, and certainly one of its most recognisable vocal talents. The Proclaimers are rock duo Charlie and Craig Reid (and if you have difficulty in telling them apart, it’s Charlie usually holding the guitar). Their rise from regional acoustic performances of folk and post-punk to becoming one of Edinburgh’s most famous international exports was in part due to the spartan line-up, which “stuck out like a sore thumb” according to one 1987 review. Another standout factor is the incredibly distinctive vocal style of the brothers, singing with their strong Scottish brogue. Craig has reflected that "it was a conscious thing, because we were singing about where we live, our experiences and it just felt stupid to sing in an English or American accent".
Radiohead (formed 1985)
Someday, GuitarHead might be able to produce a blog article that doesn’t have any good reason to mention Radiohead. But today is not that day, since within that quintet of idiosyncratic English alternative rock genius lurks yet another pair of siblings! Both Jonny and Colin Greenwood were educated at the prestigious Abingdon School in Oxfordshire, where they would rehearse with fellow students Thom Yorke, Ed O’Brien and Philip Selway in the music department every Friday. This rehearsal schedule even provided the bands initial name - the group called themselves “On a Friday” for 6 years, until EMI requested a change upon their 1991 record deal.
Stone Temple Pilots (formed 1989)
This might be one of the few written pieces EVER about Stone Temple Pilots that doesn’t focus on the late, great, phenomenally talented, and sadly missed singer Scott Weiland. It’s brothers Robert and Dean DeLeo that we’re looking at here, although bassist Robert was the original co-founder of STP - apparently after strangely bonding with Weiland when they both realised that they were dating the same woman! The early band line-up had already been together four years when original guitarist Corey Hicock departed, and Dean DeLeo (a businessman who played guitar as a hobby) was drafted in by his little bro. Resulting in one of the strongest backlines that alternative rock has ever seen.
The Corrs (formed 1990)
In keeping with the title of this blog, three members of the Corrs (Andrea, Caroline and Sharon) do indeed have a big brother in the band. Guitarist Jim Corr, on the other hand, works alongside his three little sisters, in one of the most successful groups ever to come out of Ireland. The strong Gaelic folk influence on the bands pop rock/alternative sound was one of the contributions to their enormous popularity throughout the ‘90s. Not to mention that any of the group could easily have found fame in modelling. Some families are just born beautiful!
Kings Of Leon (formed 1999)
Possibly one of our favourite debut albums of all time is Youth And Young Manhood, an 11-track collection of beautiful low-fi southern rock, courtesy of this marvellous Nashville family quartet. Caleb, Jared and Nathan Followill are brothers, working alongside their cousin Matthew (who they apparently ‘kidnapped’ from Mississippi when first forming the group). There’s even a family connection within the title of this group – Leon was the name of the boys grandfather.
The Magic Numbers (formed 2002)
You sense more than a hint of that ‘70s New York singer-songwriter vibe in the music of The Magic Numbers, beautifully woven into the no-nonsense and intelligently produced British indie rock feel that predominates. This no doubt results from the bands fantastic cocktail of heritage – brother and sister Romeo and Michelle Stoddart (lead gtr/vocals and bass/vocals respectively) are of Portuguese and Scottish heritage, born in the Caribbean, raised in NYC, and moved to London during their teens. There, they met brother and sister Angela and Sean Gannon (keys/vocals and drums respectively) whose family are of Irish descent. All together, this pair of pigeon pairs provided one of the most refreshing new acts of the noughties, with their eponymous 2005 debut shortlisted for the Mercury Music Prize.
Wrapping it up
We’ve only covered a fraction of groups where family connections were the initial spark – the Bee Gees, Jackson 5, Partridge Family and many others with or without guitars have made their musical mark over the years. It seems that whenever brothers, sisters, brothers and sisters, or even (as with The Magic Numbers) a duo of family duos decide to make music together, the results tend to be pretty impressive!
I’m off to try and teach my little brother how to hold a guitar properly (hey, I can dream), so until next time...