Here are 20 father/son guitarists that suggest music could be in your bones…
Paul McCartney + James McCartney
Your dad being a Beatle must be weird enough. The upside for James McCartney? He’ll never need money. The downside? He’ll always be compared to his legendary father, Paul. Yet James McCartney is a talented singer/songwriter/guitarist in his own right. James McCartney released his first full-length album in 2013. Establishing his own identity, his album is aptly called Me.
Bob Dylan + Jakob Dylan
Now 43, Jakob made his own name with The Wallflowers and solo albums. “He looks just like his dad!” some still say on web forum posts. Yes, because Bob Dylan is his dad! Jakob is a good guitarist, a good songwriter, and he likes his Gibson guitars, also. But imagine your dad - or rather his dad - critiquing your lyrics? Jakob Dylan must have balls of steel.
Frank Zappa + Dweezil Zappa
Frank Zappa was a genius guitarist/composer/auteur. But he had his mad moments – naming his daughter Moon Unit, for one. Dweezil Zappa maybe got off lightly with his name, but followed in his father’s footsteps as a mercurial guitarist. “Zappa Plays Zappa” is Dweezil’s current project, saluting Frank’s unique music. Family style, Dweezil totes a Gibson SG just like his legendary pop. Dweezil also runs guitar instruction courses.
John Lennon + Julian Lennon
Could it be harder? Julian Lennon – born John Charles Julian Lennon – is now 50, but still releasing his own music. Young Julian reportedly inspired Beatles songs “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” “Julia,” “Hey Jude” and “Good Night.” The late George Harrison played on Julian’s 1991 hit “Saltwater.” In 2010, Julian/“Jude” published a book of his family’s artefacts, Beatles Memorabilia: The Julian Lennon Collection. But Julian Lennon has also forged his own creative path - he was producer of award-winning documentary Whale Dreamers, about an aboriginal tribe in Australia and its special relationship to whales.
Eddie Van Halen + Wolfgang Van Halen
Say “Eddie” to a fellow guitarist, and they’ll immediately think of Eddie Van Halen. Music is in the Van Halens’ bones. Edward Lodewijk Van Halen is the son of father Jan Van Halen, a Dutch clarinetist, saxophonist and pianist. Edward's middle name “Lodewijk” was derived from composer Ludwig van Beethoven (Lodewijk is the Dutch version of Ludwig).
Eddie continued this naming tradition by naming his son Wolfgang Van Halen after composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Alright! And now, Wolfgang plays bass in Van Halen. Grandfather to grandson, EVH in the middle, brother Alex on drums. A music family.
Steve Earle + Justin Townes Earle
Dad Steve is the maverick’s alt-country star of choice. Outspoken and relentlessly creative, Earle picked up the guitar at the age of 11 and rose and rose, beating a heroin addiction along the way. His 1980s’ Guitar Town album was a hit debut, and Copperhead Road (rockier) and Transcendental Blues (folkier) are both great recordings.
Son Justin Townes Earle - his middle name in is honor of his father’s mentor Townes van Zandt – is a “chip off the old block.” He, too, has battled addiction problems but at 31 has matured into his own man. In 2011, Justin received the Americana Music Award for Song of the Year category for “Harlem River Blues.” Justin is a good fingerstyle player... better than dad Steve? You decide.
Hank Williams + Hank Williams Jr + Hank Williams III
New names didn’t come easy in the Williams’ house. Hank Senior (born Hiram King Williams) was a legendary country pioneer and writer – one of his nicknames was The Hillbilly Shakespeare. In Alabama, September 21 is “Hank Williams Day”.
Hank Jr made his own name with a rowdy mix of country and rock. He’s now 64, and can play guitar, bass, upright bass, steel guitar, banjo, dobro, piano, keyboards, harmonica, fiddle, and drums.
Hank Williams III (son of Hank Jr) is himself now 40. He’s another multi-instrumentalist and mixes his country heritage with punk and metal. An early album, Three Hanks: Men with Broken Hearts, mixed the work of all three men as if in the same studio.
Bob Marley + Ziggy Marley
Bob Marley’s sons Stephen, Damian and Ziggy are all musicians, but elder Ziggy is perhaps the best-known – he’s won four Grammys in his own right. He plays guitar, piano and percussion as well as being a singer-songwriter, but has also spent time as a voice-over artist and launched his own food line. Ziggy’s own son, Daniel Bambaata Marley, is a reggae/rap artist.
Richard Thompson + Teddy Thompson
Richard’s own father was an amateur guitarist (his day-job was as a U.K. police detective) and Richard’s son Teddy has followed the family folk tradition, releasing five albums. Teddy Thompson has played guitar in Rosanne Cash’s band, herself the daughter of Johnny Cash. Even so, it must be hard when your dad Richard Thompson is this good.
Tim Buckley + Jeff Buckley
The most tragic father/son story in rock music. Tim was a unique singer-songwriter who died aged just 28. His son Jeff was a unique singer-songwriter who died aged only 30. They never really knew each other – Jeff said he only met his father once, at the age of eight. Tim’s music is expansive but sometimes “challenging.” Jeff, however, could have been a huge star. He had good looks, songwriting/guitar/voice skills, plus an aura about him. Jimmy Page was a big fan of Jeff: “I saw him play in Australia,” Page told me. “He blew me away. What a talent he was.”
I met and interviewed Jeff in 1995, for his stellar debut album Grace. With talk about his debut album done, I asked about his future musical hopes and plans. He said something unnerving, even at the time: “Oh I don’t know, really. I’m not sure I’ll make it past 30…” Two years later, aged 30, Jeff Buckley drowned.
There are many more father/son guitarists. Who are your favorites? And you from a musical family?