There are loads of examples of musicians recording or performing with their parents or their kids, but almost nobody seems to have their mom in the band. I’m kind of surprised. Let’s say you’re 16 years old, you got a band … and suddenly discover your mom was in Bikini Kill, Demolition Doll Rods, Fugees or The Pretenders — you’d give her a tryout, right?
I guess The Partridge Family had a mom in the band, but they weren’t really a real band. Well, they were and they weren’t. Shirley Jones (Shirley Partridge) was the real-life stepmother of David Cassidy (Keith Partridge). The two of them are the only ones from the cast who are actually on any of the recordings. Incidentally, there were eight studio albums and two compilations in just three years — 1970-1973. Talk about making hay while the sun shines.
There are a couple of relatively minor pop-rock family bands with moms. Canadian trio Still Eighteen features former Platinum Blonde singer-guitarist Joey Ciotti, with his wife Karen on drums and daughter Samantha on bass. And about 10 years ago, there was this band called The Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players, an American indie-pop outfit featuring singer-songwriter Jason Trachtenburg, his wife Tina and their daughter Rachel. They wrote quirky songs inspired by old slides they found in thrift shops. Tina ran the projector and sang backup live, while Rachel played drums. So there’s that. But ultimately, they’re the exception that proves the rule: When it comes to big-name rock bands, you won’t find many moms.
Eddie Van Halen had many family connections in his band, named after his family — but none involving his mom. Eddie and his drummer brother Alex formed the band. Their dad Jan was also a musician and actually plays clarinet on Big Bad Bill on Diver Down. After bass player Michael Anthony left the band, Eddie recruited his son Wolfgang to replace him.
When Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy was coping with his wife’s cancer diagnosis, he and his 18-year-old drummer son Spencer made an album together about her, 2014’s Sukierae. So, that’s a dad and son doing something for mom, but not with mom.
Tori Amos wrote a poppy soul duet specifically for her and her 14-year-old daughter Natasha, partially as a means of coping with menopause. So that’s got mom involved — but it’s not a band, and it was mom’s idea.
Frank and his daughter Nancy Sinatra lay claim to having the only father / daughter duet to be a No. 1 hit: Something Stupid. But, her mom — also named Nancy — certainly wasn’t involved. At the time, Ol’ Blue Eyes was freshly married to Mia Farrow. Well, they were halfway through their two-year marriage.
Natalie Cole nearly had a No. 1 hit with a posthumous duet with her father Nat King Cole on his song Unforgettable. But again, that’s daddy/daughter. There’s lots of those — like Lisa Marie Presley’s posthumous duet with her dad Elvis on In The Ghetto. King Crimson vocalist/guitarist Adrian Belew also released a single with his 11-year-old daughter Audie in 1989 called Oh Daddy. Thankfully, they both were, and remain, quite alive.
But no mom involvement. None either when Adam Cohen produced and contributed guitar to his dad Leonard’s last album You Want It Darker, in 2016. Or, when Miley Cyrus performs with her dad Billy Ray. Miley has performed with Dolly Parton, but that’s her godmother, not her mom. And they’re certainly not in a band together. Though I would love to see her and Dolly onstage with Flaming Lips.
The von Trapp family, of Sound of Music fame, had their stepmother Maria involved. But not their mother. The Winans certainly had a group with their mom — delores “Mom” Winans — involved. But it was she and David “Pop” Winans who formed it. You can also count The Carter Family, The Cockman Family (!), The Collingsworth Family, The Cowsills … there’s so many, mostly gospel and the like. And The Judds, of course.
Similarly, Canadian country-rock band The Argues is made up of sisters Lauren and Sabrina Argue and their parents Michael and Chantale. There’s also The Rankin Family and Leahy and The Family Brown — all Canadian, and all have moms involved.
But maybe the coolest mom-inclusive band I can find is fictional, like The Partridge Family. Well, kind of fictional. The 2021 horror movie Hellbender is a story revolving around a mother-daughter metal duo. It was written by John Adams and Toby Poser, who are married. Zelda Adams, who is their real-life daughter, portrays the daughter in the film. Toby portrays the mom. But the story was inspired by their real-life musical project H6LLB6ND6R, started two years earlier.
So that’s my best example of “mom’s in the band!”
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Area Resident is an Ottawa-based journalist, recording artist, music collector and re-seller. Hear (and buy) his music on Bandcamp, email him HERE, follow him on Instagram and check him out on Discogs.