So, Roger Daltrey, fabled voice of The Who, is touring smaller venues on a solo tour to keep his golden tonsils sharp for the next Who extravaganza. Nothing unusual there for this hard-working musician, except for the fact that he is being accompanied by guitarist Simon Townsend. Who? No, not The Who, but who? Yes, that would be Pete Townsend’s younger brother. Pete is of course the guitar slashing and smashing mastermind of The Who’s music, one of the giants of rock music song writing and performing, as famous and influential as anyone whoever strapped on a Gibson. Simon Townsend? Not so much.
Sort of brings to mind Paul Simon’s brother, What’s-his-name Simon, who has carved out a decent living running a respected guitar school and appearing as a session guitarist on records here and there, forever in the shadow of big brother Paul, the songwriter’s songwriter of Simon & Garfunkle and Rhymin’ Simon fame. Or to a lesser extent, Paul McCartney’s younger brother Mike McGear, who made the grave error of changing his last name so as not to trade on Paul’s Beatle or solo career fame. When last heard from, Mr. McGear was downing pint after pint of (very) bitters in a Liverpool pub with Pete Best, the drummer The Beatles fired and replaced with some guy named Ringo Starr. Worked out okay for them, but not for Mr. Best or the un-fabled younger McCartney brother. Consider some of these less successful siblings of the famous:
Jimmy Lincoln: Younger brother of our finest president, Jimmy Lincoln thought Abe to be a foolish dreamer with all that walking miles and miles of country roads to borrow books and reading them by candlelight. As Jimmy was fond of saying: “Education, shmeducation! Where’s that going to get you?” While Honest Abe went on to become a successful lawyer, member of Congress and the president who preserved our Union during our darkest hours, Jimmy became an unsuccessful slave trader and Confederate officer, leading his men in circles in the woods of Tennessee for 3 years.
U.S.S.R. Grant: Younger brother of Ulysses Simpson “U.S.” Grant, Abraham Lincoln’s most effective general in the Civil War and himself a president, young Uriah Steven Sinclair Robert Grant did not follow in big brother’s military footsteps, instead becoming a disciple of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels when they published “The Communist Manifesto” in 1848. A thorn in his brother’s military and political side, Uriah emigrated to Russia where he was jailed for trying to overthrow the Tzar several decades before the October Revolution. His brother exerted his influence to have him released from prison and Uriah returned to America in 1890 and opened the famous Russian Tea Room restaurant in New York City.
Billy Christ: Younger brother of Jesus, Billy Christ got no mention at all in the Bible, and with good reason. After a lifetime of being compared to a brother who walked on water, raised the dead and turned water into wine, Billy was one bitter and resentful young man, sick of hearing his mother Mary berate him: “Your brother Jesus cures lepers and multiplies fish and loaves for the multitudes! What are you doing with your life?” He left the family woodworking business and went to work for the Roman governor’s office in Jerusalem as a personal valet to Pontius Pilate. It was Billy who came up with the thirty pieces of silver to bribe Judas Iscariot and also made sure that Pilate had plenty of water and clean towels when he washed his hands of his showoff big brother, getting the last laugh on Mr. Miracles.
Kathy of Troy: Little sister to Helen of Troy, the beauty with “The face that launched a thousand ships,” Kathy of Troy was a chubby, awkward teenager with braces on her teeth and beset with a wicked case of acne when her gorgeous sister was kidnapped and the Trojan War was declared to get her back. The hero of the whole thing, the legendary warrior Achilles, only agreed to go into battle when King Menelaus of Sparta offered him Kathy as his wife. Rumor has it that the fatal wound to his heel was self-inflicted so he wouldn’t be able to walk down the aisle with poor Kathy of Troy. Which was too bad for Achilles, since she was one of those homely girls who blossomed into a beauty every bit as radiant as Helen.
Elvis Einstein: Younger brother of world-class genius Albert Einstein, Elvis Einstein was the black sheep of the family and a high school drop out who insisted on playing hillbilly music, a pretty radical thing to do in the Germany of the early 1900’s where oompah songs and accordion ditties were all the rage in popular music. While Albert went onto publish his innovative and science-changing Theories of Relativity and become the world’s first superstar scientist, Elvis had to content himself with being an obscure but influential rockabilly performer who inspired Mrs. Presley to name her son after him.
Larry Gandhi: Little brother the the famous Mohandes K. Gandhi, revered as the beloved Mahatma who was instrumental in freeing India from British domination and who’s life and writings on non-violence inspired Reverend Martin Luther King, Larry Gandhi was the antithesis of his brother philosophically. While Mahatma Gandhi championed the poor and disenfranchised, Larry became a playboy prince with the nickname “The Jolly Rajah” for his famous drunken exploits in the salons of Europe where he called for the Indian Caste system to be adopted worldwide, arguing that the poor were created to serve royalty and surrender their daughters to them. Larry died of syphilis in a brothel in Hong Kong at the age of only 32.
Freddy The Hun: The youngest brother of Attila the Hun, Freddy enjoyed a privileged place in Hun society, getting the finest tents and the freshest goat milk as his brother’s lethal hordes charged out of the Steppes of Russia to conquer much of the known world. Unfortunately, his spoiled life did not prepare him for the rough and tumble existence of nomadic slaughterer of nations and upon his brother’s death did not inherit his crown but instead was assigned to be the third under-assisstant to the ambassador to Latvia, married to the morbidly obese Latvian princess, Olga The Overbearing.
Alexander The Mediocre: Although not actually named Alexander like big brother Alexander The Great, Gary The Great was a rather timid boy who preferred to stay at home in Macedonia while his brother travelled the world sacking and looting and slaying his way to greatness at the head of a huge army. Upon Alexander’s death, Gary assumed his name but not his abilities. The empire his big brother founded fell apart and Alexander The Mediocre became a vendor of Alexander The Great T-shirts, coffee mugs, action figures and other memorabilia in the tourist bazaars of Alexandria, Egypt.
Murray Sinatra: Unlike big brother Frank, the greatest singer of standards of all time, Murray Sinatra preferred playing an instrument for his musical fulfillment, and his taste in music ran towards classical rather than popular. Unfortunately for Murray and his audiences, that instrument was the kazoo. His greatest disappointment was the poor reviews given his greatest compositions, which featured his hundred-man All-Kazoo Orchestra; “Rhapsody in Kazoos” and “Prelude To The Afternoon Of A Kazoo.” Sales of his recordings of these symphonies were disappointing, to say the least.