Family Replacement

Replacing a valued band member is tricky business. Not only does the new member have to gel with the current lineup, but the fans must also approve. Sometimes the band will find a perfect copy, an emulation of the member who left or was fired or died. This sometimes works (Brian Johnson replacing Bon Scott in AC/DC), but more often leads to a mixed reaction, at best, from incredulous fans (Journey, The Doors). Other times a group might get someone with a different musical direction, even if he adheres to some of the same notions. Pink Floyd might be a good example of this. But many times, when a band loses a member, the only suitable replacement is a relative - a family replacement.

This kind of nepotism is frowned upon in the real world, but in musical circles, it's amazing how often it works.
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
Parting Member: Clarence Clemons
Replacement: Jake Clemons - Nephew of Clarence

Bruce Springsteen always had a special kinship with his E Street Band. Guys like Max Weinberg, Clarence Clemons, and Steven Van Zandt have, along with the Boss, come to define the Jersey experience. Though they broke up for almost a decade in the '90s, Bruce and E Street have always influenced one another and their best work was always together.

But when Clarence Clemons died in 2011 at the age of 69, the Street of E was bereft of glee. There was more than a little mourning, as is fitting when a band has been playing together for decades. Clarence, nicknamed the Big Man, was a key piece of the band's sound and a huge stage presence. Without his exquisitely tasteful saxophone solos, there was a gaping pothole on E Street. The man with the bloodline to replace Clarence was his nephew, Jake Clemons.

Jake wasn't some musical pretender to his uncle's throne. He grew up in the shadow of Clarence, but music is a Clemons family specialty. His father was a musical director in The Marines, and Jake was already an accomplished musician early in his youth. By the time he came of age, Jake had years of stage experience, playing with luminaries ranging from Eddie Vedder to Will Smith.

Jake is a humble, likeable sort, insisting that he is nowhere near his uncle in terms of talent. Fans and critics took to him quickly as he rose to the challenge on the band's 2012 world tour. Right before the official tour kicked off, the group tuned up at The Moody Theater in Austin. During "Badlands" Jake performed Clarence's solo beautifully, earning a standing ovation in the middle of the tune. Jake was right when he explained that filling in for Clarence was impossible – the man was more than just a musician. He spread love, understanding, and change with the same aplomb he displayed playing sax. But Jake certainly retains more than a little of his uncle's humility and kindness. And let's face it, he's pretty damn good at the sax, too.

Lynyrd Skynyrd
Parting Member: Ronnie Van Zant
Replacement: Johnny Van Zant - Ronnie's Younger Brother

Few bands suffered such abject tragedy as Lynyrd Skynyrd, and even fewer bands reformed after such a devastating loss. Skynyrd is still around, although the current group is hardly Skynyrd, and it leaves many listeners asking for three steps toward the door. But there was a time when no group sounded as fresh and exciting as these backwoods boys from Jacksonville, Florida.

In 1977, when the band was at their creative peak, the unthinkable happened. Van Zant, along with bandmates Steve and Cassie Gaines (brother and sister), died in a horrific plane crash that would sound a death knell for Southern Rock's glory days. Their record label wrote their epitaph in 1978 by releasing an album of early recordings called Skynyrd's First and... Last. But it was not their last.

Skynyrd would be the anti-Zep, notifying everyone that the Free Bird was a Phoenix. In 1987, with their physical and emotional wounds healed, guitarist Gary Rossington, bass player Leon Wilkeson, pianist Billy Powell and drummer Artimus Pyle - all crash survivors - got the band back together. But what about Ronnie? Who could possibly replace a force like Ronnie Van Zant? The answer was clear: Johnny Van Zant.

Johnny already had some chart success with his solo efforts. Brother Donnie also would have been a good choice but he was fronting .38 Special, a group that helped to shift Southern '70s Rock to an '80s Pop-Rock sensibility. So it was in 1987, after only ten years (which is hard to believe in a way) of hiatus, the band was back together. How different it must have seemed already, the pop landscape. When Ronnie died in 1977, Southern Rock and Country were hard-edged counterpoints to Disco. But now rap was beginning its rise to prominence, MTV made videos a necessity, and Hair Metal was near its peak. There were no more hits in this Skynyrd, but they could once again connect with with their loyal fans at live shows and with new material like their 2009 album God & Guns, the title a mocking reference to Obama's statement that Americans "cling to guns or religion."

Ronnie was a principal songwriter and a powerful singer, but Johnny didn't sound terribly unlike him, and he kept the fan support in the same way Dale Jr. inherited the Earnhardt fans. As the years went on, original members started dropping off. Leon Wilkenson and Billy Powell died, and Artimus Pyle was replaced early on, leaving Gary Rossington as the only member of the original lineup who is still in the group. But Rossington's skills can't be denied. As one of the most important guitarists as well as a cowriter on most of the band's greatest work, there is still life left in Lynyrd Skynyrd, who outlived their namesake: Leonard Skinner, the gym teacher who told them to cut their hair. Skinner died in 2010 at age 77.

Parting Member: Kristyn Osborn
Replacement: Karli Osborn - Sister of Kristyn

Country group SHeDAISY experienced enormous success very quickly in 1999 with the release of their well-received debut album The Whole SheBang. With singles like "I Will...But" and "Lucky 4 U" and other punctuation-laden tunes, the album was a top ten Billboard Country hit and ended up selling over two million copies.

The trio consists of three singing sisters: Kristyn, Kassidy, and Kelsi Osborn. The group's name is a Native American word meaning "sisterhood." It was a lot better than the group's first name, which took the first letter from each of their names (we're kidding, they were The Osborn Sisters).

What set SHeDAISY apart from a lot of the Country music of the time was that Kristyn wrote or co-wrote each and every one of the trio's songs. Writing song after song for the album-a-year cycle of Nashville music can become very tiresome. And then having to tour to keep your fan base and make new ones? Positively barbarous. And then having to do it with siblings? Pure murder. So Kristyn decided to sit out a tour so that she could focus on writing, kind of like Brian Wilson but without the sandbox.

But how could a group of three singers that are also sisters still tour if one sister isn't there? Well SHeDAISY had an answer. Out of nowhere comes Karly, the fourth SHeDAISY sister, also conveniently with a "K" name. Karly filled in admirably for Kristyn, keeping the same flavor and even enhancing it a bit, kind of like the way the Marx Brothers would sometimes have Zeppo in their movies.

The Allman Brothers Band
New Member: Derek Trucks - nephew of Butch Trucks

The Allman Brothers Band is one of the most influential music groups in history. When they stormed on the scene in 1969 with their self-titled debut album, the entire foundation of music changed. Though the group started out as a blues outfit, they would also usher in the birth of Southern Rock and all that it entailed, including death by various combustion engine-powered crafts. But before all that, the brothers Allman were a musical marvel thanks to the complementary skills of singer Gregg Allman, slide guitarist extraordinaire Duane Allman, second lead guitarist Dickey Betts, bass player Berry Oakley, drummer Jaimoe, and last but not least, their other drummer Butch Trucks.

So simply by being an Allman brother from another mother, Butch got his signature etched on the wall of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But in truth, being a surviving member of the Allman Brothers is almost as big a feat as being a founding member. Within just a few short years of their inception, the band weathered the kinds of misfortune usually reserved for members of Odysseus' crew. Duane Allman became the poster boy for the idea of a Southern Rock "Curse" when he lost his life in a motorcycle accident in Macon, Georgia. Already one of the most accomplished slide players in history (Eric Clapton asked him to play on "Layla"), Allman was only 24 years old. Hard to fathom. Even harder to fathom was that a year later the curse would be even more legendary, with bassist Berry Oakley perishing near the same stretch of road, dying only several blocks from Allman's crash site. Oakley, too, was 24.

These sort of things would destroy lesser bands, but the group went on, and actually became more successful (at least commercially) without Duane and Berry, scoring their first and only top ten hit with the Betts-penned "Ramblin' Man." And since then, the group has soldiered on, despite kicking out Betts in the interim. Greg Allman, for his part, endured drug abuse, poor health, and a marriage to Cher. But Butch has been, for the most part, free of woes both personal and financial. As one of only two original members in the group, he has been a sort of father figure to some of the new blood. And it is only fitting that one of the members is indeed blood: his nephew Derek Trucks.

Derek Trucks has played with a litany of preeminent musicians. He's shared the stage with Bob Dylan and Stephen Stills. He's been on multiple lists of the greatest guitarists of all time, and seems to be getting better. In 2003 Rolling Stone named him the 81st greatest guitarist of all time, and in 2011, Derek skyrocketed to 16th. His distinctive yet evocative slide guitar style is often what is cited for why he's so amazing. So getting him as a member of The Allman Brothers Band in 1999 certainly helped to bring their sound into a new millennium while still retaining the virtuoso aspect that always marked the group.

The story between Butch Trucks and nephew Derek is a bit different than the other groups on this list. Butch never left The Allman Brothers. If anything, he's been the one constant throughout, helping the band jump into the internet years late with the site "Hittin' the Web." So Butch wasn't replaced. He and Derek don't even play the same instrument. But Derek, along with Warren Haynes, were arguably the kick in the pants that the Allman Brothers needed to usher in the next phase of their evolution, and to this day they're still showing younger jam bands how it's done.

Van Halen
Parting Member: Michael Anthony
Replacement: Wolfgang Van Halen - Son of Eddie Van Halen

Eddie Van Halen is no stranger to the things that can ruin a rock star's career: alcoholism, drug abuse, marrying an actress. But if you dig down, you find that he's guilty of another, even more insidious charge: nepotism.

Sure, the group's name was suggested by David Lee Roth, so Eddie and brother Alex get a pass there. And, let's face it, musical talent runs in the Van Halen family. Eddie is vastly talented at guitar, but Van Halen fans know that he is adept at many different instruments. Alex, too, sang and played keyboards and guitar in addition to his duties as the drummer for the band. The brothers have their father, Jan Van Halen, to thank for at least part of their aptitude, as he was an accomplished musician who made sure his sons received the best musical training possible, while showing them a pointer or two on his own. Eddie would play piano as well as guitar, while Alex would play drums and guitar. Naturally, Eddie surpassed everybody's expectations with his shredding abilities, and when it came time for his own son, Wolfgang, to learn music, it was Eddie who instructed him.

Eddie would go on to name his signature guitar line after Wolfie, and even named the instrumental "316" for his son's birthday. When Van Halen toured in 2004, Eddie brought the youngster along as a guest musician for many shows.

After the 2004 tour, it seemed to Eddie that Wolfgang was a great fit for the band. Even better than longtime member Michael Anthony. Eddie convinced Wolfgang's mom that school wasn't such a big deal when you already had the skills and talent (his argument: trigonometry doesn't apply to music, and Jodie Foster left school too), and in 2007, the 16-year-old Wolfgang was Van Halen's bass player on their North American tour with Roth.

In 2008, with Wolfie as a full-fledged member, Eddie's alcoholism caught up with him, and he spent the next year figuring out how to stop drinking for the first time as a working musician. When Eddie was ready, Wolfgang stepped up and helped assemble A Different Kind of Truth. Released in February, 2012, it was the first new Van Halen album with David Lee Roth in 27 years, and the first album that features Wolfgang as the bass player.

Their 2012 tour sold well, but was cut short when the band abruptly cancelled the last 30 dates with no explanation. Our guess is that sharing the stage with three Van Halens caused David Lee Roth to climb the nearest mountain.

~Landon McQuilkin
More Song Writing

Comments: 2

  • Giac from Italyanother suggestion for this list: drummer Billy Yule, brother of Doug Yule, playing as a replacement for Maureen Tucker in the Loaded sessions, although this was just a temporary fill-in, so it may not count.
  • NameDavid Lee Roth climb a mountain? Is that a reference to his "Skyscraper" album!
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