Friday, 12 April 2013

The Family Tree - Miss Butters (1968)

I love a good late 1960's Beatles inspired album. There were quite a few of these released in the states in 1967-1968 when many of the garage bands traded in fuzz and snarl for moustaches and melody in the post Sergeant Pepper apocalypse. Music cynics have often declared this period as the end of pop's innocence, paving the way for overblown stadium rock and the like. There may be a little bit of truth in this, especially in the mainstream but there are always exceptions. Bob Segarini is an exception, a true champion of the melodic pop song. Bob knew that no matter what, you gotta have pop!

Segarini cut his teeth in California band, The Brogues who released a couple of great, tough R&B garage singles in the mid-sixties. The best track of the two singles, "I Ain't No Miracle Worker" turned up years later on the Nuggets compilation. The Brogues went their separate ways with two members, Greg Elmore and Gary Duncan winding up in the Quicksilver Messenger Service. Segarini along with fellow ex-Brogue bass player Bill Whitington to form The Family Tree in 1966 along with drummer Newman Davis and keyboard player Mike Olsen (who would later change his name to Lee Michaels and score a big hit with "Do You Know What I Mean" in 1971). The band were picked up up by Mira records and released their first single, the Segarini penned "Prince Of Dreams" in September 1966. An LP was planned but Mira eventually lost interest. By early 1967 was the only original member left in the Family Tree, now a quintet with Jim DeCocq (keyboards), Michael Dure (guitar), Bill Troachim (bass) and Vann Slatter (drums). Now signed to RCA Victor records, for whom their debut single "Do You Have The Time?" revealed themselves as a more melodic band with a distinctive Anglophile edge and serving as a taster for their debut (and only) album which would appear nine months later.

Unlike The Beatles' Sgt Pepper album, the "Miss Butters" record was released without fanfare or hype and slipped by the general public capturing very little attention along the way. Eventually getting a CD release in 2007 by Rev-ola records "Miss Butters" is finally getting the praise it deserves. Apparently Elton John is a big fan and once listed it in his all time top 25 favourite albums! The theme of the album is very loose, as is often the case with concept albums. The song titles suggest that it is based on the life of a lonely lady and split into four sections of separate songs; The Early Years, It Is Better To Have Loved, The Effect Of It All and The Underture. Some of the songs flow into each other nicely providing a little continuity but overall its just a collection of great pop tunes. The album was written solely by Segarini, produced by Rick Jarrard with orchestral arrangements by George Tipton who were both simultaneously working on a similar project; Harry Nilsson's "Aerial Ballet" also for RCA Victor.

"Slippin Thru My Fingers" was chosen as a single to promote the album but didn't result in any significant sales. One last single was punted, the non-LP "She Had To Fly" b/w "He Spins Around", two great songs but again failing to set the world alight. Family Tree were never going to bring home the same amount of dollars as The Mamas & The Papas or The Monkees so they were subsequently dropped by RCA in 1969. Segarini and DeCocq continued together to form Roxy releasing one "OK" album for Elektra. Shortly after Segarini teamed up with Trochim to form The Wackers who would release a trio of Power Pop LPs in the early seventies...but that's a story which deserves it's own separate blog entry. For now though dig this...


  1. good info,didn't realise he had anything to do with the brogues,thanks

  2. I was never a Brogue. I was in a band called 'Us' and they were friends of mine. The only other errors would be Mike Durr, he was a member of the Family Tree from the beginning, and the fact that Harry (Nilsson) contributed a couple of lines of lyrics to 'Butter's Lament' Thanks for the flattering review. This album is still very close to my heart 50 years later.