Your Take: Family Tradition

Karlie Justus Marlowe | July 24th, 2010

On Wednesday, Paul posted another edition of his Forgotten Artists series, focusing on country songbird Pam Tillis. Tillis, the daughter of country star Mel Tillis, drew references to other family performers in the country genre:

Being related to a famous country entertainer can be a mixed blessing. Although the family ties can open doors for the aspiring singer, they can also serve to set unrealistic expectations. Just ask Roy Acuff Jr., Ronnie Robbins (billed as Marty Robbins, Jr.), The Lynns (daughters of Loretta Lynn), Riley Coyle (daughter of Jeannie C. Riley), Pake McEntire (Reba’s brother), Jay Lee Webb (Loretta Lynn’s brother), Peggy Sue (Loretta Lynn’s sister), and Hillman Hall (Tom T. Hall’s brother), each of whom issued an album or two and then disappeared. John Carter Cash has avoided the problem entirely by working behind the scenes.

Then there are those who achieve modest success and carve out respectable careers but never achieve top-drawer status, such as Shelley West (daughter of Dottie West), David Frizzell (brother of Lefty Frizzell), Tommy Cash (brother of Johnny Cash), Carlene Carter (daughter of Carl Smith and June Carter) and Thom Bresh (son of Merle Travis). Jazz guitarist Lenny Breau, son of country stars Hal Lone Pine and Betty Cody might have fit into this category had he not died young.

True superstar success for those with famous kinfolk is indeed rare. The three biggest that come to mind are Crystal Gayle (Loretta Lynn’s sister), Lynn Anderson (the daughter of songwriter Casey & singer-songwriter Liz Anderson) and Hank Williams Jr. Pulling up behind these three are George Morgan’s daughter Lorrie, Roseanne Cash and the subject of this article, Pam Tillis.

Who are your favorite related country singers? Are there any that you believe succeeded only because of a previous generation’s name recognition?

Do you think family performers (both acts that perform together and those that come years apart, like Mel and Pam) are more prevalent in country music than other genres? Why or why not?

  1. Thomas
    July 24, 2010 at 8:05 am

    …my favourites are the married ones: tim & faith, garth & trisha, brooks & dunn, joey & rory…

  2. Paul W Dennis
    July 24, 2010 at 8:12 am

    I have a good trivia question for you. There are two families in which three generations (grandparent, parent, parent’s offspring) of that family have had a #1 pop record. Name them

    >>> Hint one of the answers works only from the top down as the parent is unrelated (except as an in-law) to the grandparent

    My favorite related singer is Justin Tubb, a very talented songwriter whose father, was of course, one of the biggest stars of the genre

    I also like both Robison Brothers (Charlie & Bruce) and pop act The Everly Brothers (sons of country singer Ike Everly)

    I don’t think any of those who made it, got there without having some talent

    Since I don’t much follow pop music (and haven’t since the early 1980s) I really can’t opine on whether or not it is more prevalent in country than in pop. I don’t think it occurs as often in country music as once was the case

  3. Razor X
    July 24, 2010 at 9:01 am

    …my favourites are the married ones: … brooks & dunn…


  4. Paul W Dennis
    July 24, 2010 at 9:19 am

    Obviously Thomas is thinking of Garth Brooks & Holly Dunn !

  5. Lewis
    July 24, 2010 at 9:33 am

    There are quite a few related people that I like. Carlene Carter, Pam Tillis, Roseanne Cash, Hank Williams, Jr., Hank III (when he’s not doing his punk rock stuff), Lorrie Morgan and the list goes on and on.

    I do have an album by Roy Acuff, Jr. which he recorded for Hickory during the 1970’s. Pretty good album but sad that he didn’t chart with anything. He did do some duets with Sue Thompson who is about 20 years older than Roy Jr. that I wish would surface somewhere.

  6. Michelle
    July 24, 2010 at 10:14 am

    I like Mel & Pam Tillis, George & Lorrie Morgan(not very familiar with George’s music), Deana Carter, John Michael Montgomery, Dolly Parton, Crystal & Loretta, and I’m probably forgetting many. I feel that if they “succeeded” then it had to be more than just name recognition.

  7. numberonecountryfan
    July 24, 2010 at 10:19 am

    For Thomas: The 9513 is talking about blood relatives, not married couples!

    For Paul W. Dennis: The answer to your question is Red Foley, Pat Boone, and Debby Boone!

  8. Thomas
    July 24, 2010 at 10:39 am

    …”who are your favourite related country singers?” – there are no blood traces in this question, numberonecountryfan.

    regarding your answer to paul – i’m impressed!

  9. numberonecountryfan
    July 24, 2010 at 11:05 am

    But, Thomas, there were no mention of married couples in the introduction to this story!

  10. Lewis
    July 24, 2010 at 11:22 am

    Michelle: Did you mean to say Eddie Montgomery (brother of John Michael Montgomery) and Stella Parton (sister of Dolly Parton)? I knew that John and Eddie’s dad was a country singer but he didn’t go national with it. As for Dolly Parton, I don’t think her parents ever sang on any record or even recorded for that matter.

  11. Stormy
    July 24, 2010 at 11:25 am

    Paul: There are of course the Williamses. Then, of course, you have Chelsea Crowell who tracks her mother’s line up through Rosanne and Johnny Cash into the Carter family and her Daddy’s line up through Rodney, his dad who was a singer and his grandfather who was a bluegrass banjo player.

  12. Paul W Dennis
    July 24, 2010 at 11:29 am

    NUMBERONECOUNTRYFAN – very good – that’s ONE of the answers – the harder one, actually . Now what’s the other family ?

  13. Michelle
    July 24, 2010 at 11:45 am

    Yes, Lewis, I was referring to their siblings, Stella and Eddie, but the ones I named I like the best.

  14. Michelle
    July 24, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    Hank Sr and Jr, but I think it can make it tougher when you’re expected to live up to a name. I’ve read about Hank Jr and I thought it was sad.

  15. Rick
    July 24, 2010 at 1:31 pm

    Holly Williams and Shelton (ie Hank III) prove that there’s talent in them thar Williams’ genes!

    Marty Robbins’ son performs on the Opry now and then singing his daddy’s songs and he’s quite good. Thom Bresh is a great guitar picker and live performer, although he likes to tell crude sexual jokes and stories. I’ve seen Buddy Allen Owens perform at the Crystal Palace in Bakersfield but he doesn’t have much of a voice.

    Being a blood relative of a country star can crack open some doorways, but without talent or acceptance at Top 40 country radio the artists won’t get very far! The way radio shunned the fine music of Alan Jackson’s nephew Adam Wright (and his lovely wife Shannon) sure proved that!

  16. numberonecountryfan
    July 24, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    Are you ready for the other family that Paul W. Dennis was looking for? Good! It is Ozzie and Ricky Nelson, along with Nelson (the twins). Do I win a prize for that?

  17. Paul W Dennis
    July 24, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    Good Job !! Ya wanna copy of an Ozzie Nelson CD ??

  18. Julia Hughan
    July 24, 2010 at 3:02 pm

    There a quite a few out there. Amongst others, I am a fan of Bill Chambers and Kasey Chambers (and their work in Dead Ringer Band), Johnny Cash and Rosanne Cash, Martie and Emily from the Dixie Chicks and I guess Linda Davis and Hillary Scott (who has notably garnered more commercial success than her mother).

    In a more Australian context, some names that spring to mind are Mary Schneider and Melinda Schneider and Slim Dusty and Anne Kirkpatrick.

    The list goes on…

  19. Tex
    July 24, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    Although not as popular as his brothers Lefty and David, Allen Frizzell has done well for himself.

  20. Benny
    July 24, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    Bobby Bare and Bare Jr. is an interesting combination, with Bare Jr. going different path with his alt-Country thing and nice they’re still working together like Jr. producing his dad’s last album ‘The Moon was Blue’ or on the recent Shel Silverstein tribute..

  21. Stormy
    July 24, 2010 at 5:21 pm

    You know, despite the fact that Johnny and Rosanne get all the credit, June and Carleen Carter are a good family line in their own right.

  22. Rick
    July 24, 2010 at 10:09 pm

    Hey everybody, check out the new Aussie market oriented music video from O’Shea for a song titled “Old School” at Roughstock. I didn’t watch any of Season 2 of CMT’s “Can You Duet”, so I had never heard of this act before, but man is that Jay O’Shea cute! (That’s the gal by the way!) The skimpy outfits worn by the couple when dressed as Adam & Eve will appeal to men and women viewers both straight and gay! (lol) Fun stuff but will AirHead Country Radio go for it? Who knows…

  23. luckyoldsun
    July 24, 2010 at 10:29 pm

    David Frizzell was extremely good, though he didn’t get enough good material and didn’t chart for as long as he should have. I only became familiar with Lefty Frizzell after I had already heard “I’m Going to Hire a Wino” many times. David really did channel Lefty in that performance.

    July 25, 2010 at 12:01 am

    Hank III has so much talent he’s like fireworks, brilliant and totally volatile. His “Lovesick, Broke, and Driftin'” is bedrock country sound and sense. I appreciate his maverick ways but selfishly wish for a follow-up to his brief stop at the OK Corral.

  25. Howard
    July 25, 2010 at 7:08 am

    Thought for sure the two best riding the van circuit today would have been mentioned by now, Justin Townes Earl and Lucky Tubb! That’s the good stuff right there.

  26. Ben Foster
    July 25, 2010 at 7:52 am

    Pam Tillis is my number one, but I’m also big on Crystal Gayle and Rosanne Cash. But I think any one of them still could have carved out a career without having had famous relatives, because each one is a talent in her own right.

    Yes, I do think family performers are more common in country music than in other genres. It may be related to the fact that country singers have always seen themselves as a part of a continuing tradition.

  27. Ben Foster
    July 25, 2010 at 7:52 am

    Should I be surprised that nobody’s mentioned Miley Cyrus? ;D

  28. Lewis
    July 25, 2010 at 8:48 am

    Bill Carlisle and his kids Bill Jr. and Sheila come to mind in an instant. As far as I know, neither Bill Jr. and Sheila ever recorded solo records or recorded with their father to my knowledge. I know that Bill and his kids were Grand Ole Opry members for years and I know that Bill’s daughter Sheila died from complications of a car accident that she never recovered from, but did they tour outside of the Grand Ole Opry with their dad or did they have jobs to supplement their income since the Grand Ole Opry doesn’t exactly make you rich and that touring made up much more of the income than anything.

  29. Paul W Dennis
    July 25, 2010 at 9:42 am

    Bill Carlisle had a older brother Cliff who was a major recording star during the 1930s. Bill toured with Cliff as his guitarist from 1934 until around 1946. By 1950 Cliff was retired from the music business but he was much the more talented singer of the two brothers

  30. J.R. Journey
    July 27, 2010 at 1:37 pm

    I’ve said it elsewhere before, but the extended family of Johnny Cash and June Carter is phenomenally talented. Starting with June’s lineage as part of The Carter Family, into Johnny’s own iconic status, his brother’s Tommy’s chart success, down to Rosanne Cash’s sophisticated style of country-ish music, then you factor in Carlene Carter and all the former sons-in-law of Cash like Rodney Crowell and Marty Stuart. That’s something to brag about.

  31. Fizz
    July 27, 2010 at 3:49 pm

    I appreciate Hank III for his whole “F*** Nashville” attitude, but some of his songs, particularly on the first album, sounded amateurish. The new album is pretty decent though. And as for his punk stuff, it’d be different if it was any good, but it’s not. Even his collaborations with Phil Anselmo of Pantera fame have been pure crap.

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