Friday 30 May 2014

Rock Family Trees

This title of this post comes from a number of publications by Pete Frame, creator and former editor of the Britain’s first rock magazine, ZigZag, that describe the evolution of rock bands and their members. Those works were also made into two TV series by the BBC during the 1990s. When I recently got a copy of his first book[1], I thought how great it would be to investigate the representation of the historical information in a formalised way rather than his pictorial tree-like way.



Fig 1 - The Who[2]


This would also be a good test of STEMMA® and its micro-history principles since it would not be about family, and so not about genealogy in any recognised sense. I have tried such tests before, as in the post Where is Bendigo’s Ring? which researched a place rather than people, but this case will make use of Group entities to represent rock bands. Although my earlier post What is Genealogy? generated some interest in the handling of narrative content in conjunction with lineage, that’s only one part of STEMMA that contributes to its goal of representing generic micro-history so I need to paint this bigger picture.


An important thing to note here is that the structure of the Rock Family Trees is quite different from that of genealogical family trees. They’re even less like proper rooted trees than the genealogical case since the same band members may be represented by multiple connectors, both entering and leaving different bands. The main thing they have in common is being temporally directed, i.e. showing an evolution from past to future.


The chosen example for this post is the evolution of Fleetwood Mac from the early 1970s. This will use information from the aforementioned book[3] and from Wikipedia.


Firstly, in order to make our representation applicable to musical concepts, we need to define a custom vocabulary — something which STEMMA is very good at. The following code is a contribution to a Dataset header which defines namespaces, and associated prefixes, for the Group types, Event types, and Person roles. The predefined STEMMA Property of Role will be used to indicate the musical roles of the band members (e.g. vocalist). The code also defines a base Event that can be reused, via STEMMA’s inheritance mechanism, for representing changes in band membership.


<Dataset Name='RockFamilyTrees'







<Event Key='eMusicalBand' Abstract='1'>

<Type> et:Musical </Type>

<SubType> est:BandMembership </SubType>



Another goal of this post is to employ invisible, active linkages between the data entities. Previous attempts at using simplified 2-D, and even 3-D, diagrams have failed to convey the rich structure and flexibility available, so this post will allow you to click and follow the links without actually seeing them.[4] We’ll use the following style gallery to distinguish the different types of reference:


            Blue               URL Hyperlink

            Green             Person reference

            Purple            Group reference

            Red                Date reference

            --                      Place reference


We won’t bother with place references in order to simplify this illustration. When these references are underlined then it means there is some action associated with that reference, such as following a URL, viewing a date or event in a timeline, or visiting a Person or Group entity. Note that each action is application-defined and not prescribed by the STEMMA representation.


Danny Kirwan


Danny Kirwan, 1970, Niedersachsenhalle, Hannover, Germany.[5]


Born 13 May 1950 in London. Discovered by Peter Green and Mick Fleetwood in a Brixton pub, fronting a band called Boilerhouse. Joined Fleetwood Mac in August 1968 on guitar and vocals. Left in August 1972. See





Dave Walker


Dave Walker, 1977.[6]


Born 25 January 1945 in Walsall, Staffordshire. Left Savoy Brown in September 1972 to join Fleetwood Mac on vocals as a replacement for Danny Kirwan. Left June 1973. See




Bob Weston


Bob Weston (right) at a blues night jamming session at Bar Solo, London.[7]


Born 1 November 1947 in Plymouth. Played with a band called The Kinetic, and supported Jimi Hendrix and Chuck Berry at concerts in France. Joined Fleetwood Mac in September 1972 on guitar and vocals as a replacement for Danny Kirwan. Left January 1974. See Died 3 January 2012 in London.




Bob Welch


Bob Welch (left) at the Record Plant in Sausalito.[8]


Born 31 August 1945 in Los Angeles. Joined Fleetwood Mac on guitar and vocals in April 1971 after previous members, Peter Green and Jeremy Spencer, had both left. Left December 1974. See Died 7 June 2012 in Nashville of self-inflicted gunshot.





Christine McVie


Christine McVie in a 1977 trade advertisement for the Rumours album.[9]


Born 12 July 1943 as Anne Christine Perfect in the Lake District of England. Joined Fleetwood Mac in August 1970 on keyboards and vocals from Chicken Shack. Had earlier married existing member, John McVie. See




John McVie


John McVie, 1970, Niedersachsenhalle, Hannover, Germany.[10]


Born 26 November 1945 in Ealing, West London.Joined Fleetwood Mac in September 1967 on bass, a few weeks after they were formed, after leaving John Mayall's Bluesbreakers. See




Mick Fleetwood


Mick Fleetwood, 2013.[11]


Born 24 June 1947 in Redruth, Cornwall. Founder member of Fleetwood Mac, along with Peter Green, both formerly of John Mayall's Bluesbreakers. Performed on drums and percussion. See




Stevie Nicks


Stevie Nicks, 2008.[12]


Born 26 May 1948 as Stephanie Lynn Nicks in Phoenix, Arizona. Joined Fleetwood Mac in January 1975 on vocals, along with Lindsey Buckingham, after Bob Welch’s departure. See




Lindsey Buckingham


Lindsey Buckingham, 2009 at the Birmingham NIA.[13]


Born 3 October 1949 in Palo Alto, California. Joined Fleetwood Mac in January 1975 on guitar and vocals, along with Stevie Nicks, after Bob Welch’s departure. See




Fleetwood Mac


Fleetwood Mac in a 1977 trade advertisement for the Rumours album: Mick Fleetwood, Christine McVie, John McVie, Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham.[14]


British-American rock band formed in 1967 in London by Peter Green. The band name was the combined surnames of Mick Fleetwood and John McVie; both former band members of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers along with Peter. See



Even with such limited detail, and without any mark-up for place references, you can still see that the STEMMA representation is heavily linked. These links demonstrate the use of mark-up for deep semantics when the target of the reference has a corresponding entity in the data, and for shallow semantics in those cases where there is no corresponding entity. For instance, a reference to Peter Green is to a performer but we have no corresponding Person entity for him, whereas a reference to Danny Kirwan can be made into a live link because we have a Person entity called pDannyKirwan. The associated mark-up even allows meaning to be attached to elided references, such as “the band”, “John”, “He”, or “May”. The example also demonstrates a number of basic STEMMA features such as handling multiple names (married/maiden, or formal/informal) and extracting dates from an Event entity using intrinsic methods (see end of Semantic Mark-up).


OK, such much for the separate Person and Group entities but what about some narrative content that references several of them? Well, the source reference in note [3] contains quite a bit of narrative, and I will demonstrate how a transcription of it can be marked-up in a similar way.


Christine McVie: In late 1969, I won “female vocalist of the year” in the Melody Maker poll, and I was coerced to ‘return to my public’ as a result. I wasn’t keen on giving up my life of leisure as a housewife, but there again I fancied earning a bit of money independently … so after an amazing great audition at the Lyceum, I formed my own band and recorded an album: ‘Christine Perfect’ on Blue Horizon 7-63860. As a solo career, it was a bit of a desperate effort … in fact, it was a bit of a disaster — and that’s putting it mildly! So I quit, and returned to life as a housewife, whereupon I sat around for a few months, while John and the band were working up a new album and a new stage act, following Peter Green’s departure that May. They were down to a four piece, and just before the start of a tour, they suddenly felt they needed another instrument to fill out the sound … and there I was — sitting around doing next to nothing, and knowing all the songs back to front, because I’d been watching them rehearsing for the last 3 months.


Bob Welch was an America, working in an R&B club in Paris. He was suggested by Judy Wong (later Mrs Glen Cornick).


John McVie: He came over, sat around, talked and played with us for a bit, and joined. We met Dave Walker on a tour we did with Savoy Brown; he was their singer. We thought we’d try having a front-man/vocalist, which we’d never done before -- but it only, lasted about 8 months. He was living in San Francisco for a while but then he came back to England, where he formed a band called Hungry Fighter with Danny Kirwan and Andy Silvester — but they folded after about 3 gigs. I haven’t a clue where he is now. We had co-opted Bob Weston from Long John Baldry’s backing band. He was with us for just over a year and was asked to leave because of a strenuous disagreement.


Bob Welch left to form Paris with Glen Cornick and Hunt Sales.




Note that this transcribed narrative is not in a separate file — it is part of the same STEMMA file, or bundle. The recipient of such a bundle not only has information on the Events, Persons and Groups, and their respective linkages, but any number of transcriptions or units of researcher narrative. Given that a typical genealogical bundle also incorporates lineage and Places then the recipient has the option to explore the relationships from many angles, including temporal and geographical.


So, what have we depicted here, and what normal genealogical concepts were absent? We’ve represented the musicians and the rock bands that they were members of. We’ve represented the events during which they joined or left those bands, and indicated their roles within the bands. There are no lineage connections between the people in this particular example, although dates and places of birth are given, and the marriage of John McVie to Anne Christine Perfect in 1969 is indicated via the Event named eMarriage. The lineage of the performers could be represented but it is not a prerequisite for their musical histories.


The Persons and Groups have been linked to related Events, and this would allow a chart (similar to Pete Frame’s or a different style) to be generated by software from the data. The temporal connections between Persons and Groups share much in common with those between Persons and Places, and a similar chart could be used to indicate how a group of people have moved from place to place over time.


No changes were made to STEMMA in order to create this example. It is hoped that it demonstrates how STEMMA’s flexibility may be used to address non-genealogical cases of micro-history.



** Post updated on 19 Apr 2017 to align with the changes in STEMMA V4.1 **

[1] Pete Frame, Rock Family Trees (Omnibus Press, 1993).

[2] Image displayed by kind permission of The Family of Rock: The official home of Rock Family Trees (

[3] Frame, Rock Family Trees, p.13; transcriptions displayed by kind permission of The Family of Rock: (

[4] This is a little ambitious in a mere blog-post. If it doesn’t work in your browser then it may be that you have disabled JavaScript on Web pages. It may not work, either, in the email notifications that some of my subscribers will be getting.

[5] Image by W.W.Thaler - H. Weber, Hildesheim (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons.

[6] Image displayed by kind permission of Dmitry Epstein, "Interview with Dave Walker", Let It Rock ( : accessed 16 May 2014).

[7] Image by P metalady [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons.

[8] Image by Arsconcilium (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

[9] Image by Warner Bros. Records (Billboard, page 85, 14 May 1977) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

[10] Image by W.W.Thaler - H. Weber, Hildesheim (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons.

[11] Image by Joe Bielawa (Flickr) [CC-BY-1.0 ( or CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons.

[12] Image by User:SandyMac [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

[13] Image by Tony Hisgett from Birmingham, UK (Lindsey Buckingham  Uploaded by tm) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons.

[14] Image by Warner Bros. Records (Billboard, page 86, 25 Jun 1977) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.


  1. This is fascinating. I've been trying to figure out how to store information about band relationships with a view to automatically drawing Rock Family Trees. See my (far less advanced) efforts here:

    My idea is to generate a whole fake music "scene" with labels, bands, members etc, as an art project and programming exercise.

    1. Actually drawing the tree is not too difficult, as long as you remember that it is not a proper tree (in the family history sense). See terminology explained in

      Part of the value would be in incorporating narrative-- as this small example has done -- and using mark-up to link references to people and groups back to their representation in the tree.