In Praise of Pete Frame’s ‘Rock Family Trees’ – A Rosetta Stone for Music Fans

I first came across Pete Frame‘s beautifully hand drawn genealogical band maps in my dad’s copy of the “History of the Byrds” by The Byrds. This splendid double album no longer resides with my dad but now has pride of place in my record collection along with a couple of hundred other albums that I once used to covet. Despite being one of the Byrds’ biggest European sellers it has never been released on CD and has been out of print since the 1990s but all of the songs are available on one of the many Byrds originals or compilations available.

The History of the Byrds album and Pete Frame's book.
The History of the Byrds – a fine album and my introduction to Pete Frame.

What isn’t available elsewhere however is the joy when you open the gatefold sleeve of “The History of the Byrds” and you are met with the most amazingly detailed family tree for the band which presents you with a timeline showing the different incarnations of the Byrds and the various bands and artists with a direct or indirect connection to them. To an impressionable, young music explorer like me this was like finding the Rosetta Stone, opening up a whole world of discovery and new knowledge that I could never have dreamed of finding, yet here it was, all in one place, in my young hands. I was awe struck and spent hours tracing the lines, following Chris Hillman from The Hillmen through five versions of The Byrds and four versions of The Flying Burrito Brothers and onto Stephen Stills‘ Manassas or tracing lines from Doug Dillard’s eponymously-named group through his auxiliary membership of Byrds No. 5 through his partnership with Gene Clarke and then on to his solo work. Those two lines alone cover a huge musical legacy but tracing other lines across the family tree for The Byrds just multiplies the discovery by factor upon factor. For a time, I thought that the ‘family tree’ inside the “History of the Byrds” was a one-off, written by the album cover designer. At this point I didn’t realise that Pete Frame was a prolific genealogist but would later discover his books.

The History of the Byrds Album family tree.
The History of the Byrds – from Pre-Byrds to Byrds No8.

Using Pete Frame’s family tree in “The History of the Byrds” introduced me to Folk, Bluegrass and Country Rock and some of the greatest artists of the 60s and 70s such as Gene Clark, Doug Dillard, The Eagles, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, the aforementioned Flying Burrito Brothers and the genius that is Gram Parsons. These artists of course have their own extended family trees and discovering them enabled me to discover even more artists such as Emmylou Harris from her contributions to Gram Parsons’ classic albums GP and Grievous Angel and Buffalo Springfield from Neil Young and Stephen Stills’ membership.

When I later discovered and bought the oversized “Complete Rock Family Trees” I literally spent days upon days perusing it’s pages, carefully folding out and putting back each map, exploring the history of Fleetwood Mac, the Birmingham Beatsters, Fairport Convention, Poco and The Eagles and the 1980s Liverpool scene.

Updates are available in two further books – More Rock Family Trees and Even More Rock Family Trees covering more recent scenes such as ‘Madchester’ in the amazing family tree below.

Pete Fram'e family tree for 'Madchester'.
Pete Fram’e family tree for ‘Madchester’.

Pete Frame’s Rock Family Trees is literally like a map of the stars and for anyone who loves music and discovering it then if you don’t have a copy of one of Pete’s books in your music collection then you are seriously missing out and making your music discovery harder than it needs to be.