Tomorrow is my brother’s birthday, and as a result of being his twin, tomorrow is also my birthday. For some reason, we never bother to get each other presents to help ring in the occasion. We usually just hang out and go have a nice meal somewhere, so it’s not much different than any other day other than the possibility of taking a day off work for it. We live together, so essentially what’s mine is his and what’s his is mine anyway, albeit with reasonable limitations that shouldn’t need explaining.
We’ve done so much together over the span of thirty-four years. From a music perspective, we’ve been consistent concert companions, occasional jam partners, and (briefly) band mates. Though our band thing never went anywhere, the idea of brothers sharing a stage or recording studio as musical collaborators always added another level of intrigue to a band. Being best buds, we obviously share more common interests outside of music. Sports is a huge one, and we had experience as teammates in organized sports through volleyball. Being on a sports team with a brother isn’t much different than being in a band with them. You still need to practice with each other regardless of your genetic bond, you’ve got to be on good terms personally, and in times where this is not the case, perhaps a certain level of tension or one-upmanship can elevate your respective performances.
On the sports end of our hobbies, one thing we used to do together as kids was spend our allowances on trading cards. Heck, we still buy them as adults every so often. We would gobble up all the baseball and hockey cards we could afford, eventually moving to basketball and football as well. Unfortunately, there wasn’t that much in terms of non-sport cards out there that featured musicians on them, but we built an interest in sports first before putting more thought towards music. There were quite a few sets that would feature brothers or father/son athlete pairings on the same card, be they on the same team or opponents. Seeing some of these classic card designs when flipping through my card collection in recent weeks made me wonder what such sets would have been like if they incorporated them for different bands or musicians.
I hope all the sports card collectors out there can recognize some of these designs, and I hope my brother gets a kick out of them too since this is his present by default. The hard part was figuring out who to include on these cards because there are so many pairings to choose from, brother and sister combinations alike. Before you go scrolling down the page to see if my cards feature some of your favourites, here are a few that you may or may not be surprised that don’t qualify:
- The Taylors from Duran Duran (none of the three were related)
- The Ramones (which is why they always seemed to have another brother lined up when one left the band)
- The Doobie Brothers (are you HIGH?)
- Scissor Sisters (which would be quite disturbing if you read too much into the name)
The first card I thought of to place in a musical context was from the 1991-92 Score Hockey set, which included a subset dedicated to NHL Brothers. And why not? There were so many brothers to highlight in the NHL that season, with the Sutters (though it only pictured three of the six brothers who played in the NHL), the Brotens, the Courtnalls, and the Mullens among them. In my case, I chose the Oliva brothers from Savatage.
The set was easy enough to pull off a decent facsimile, simply needing to apply a gradient to get it the background effect. The difficult decision was my choice in colour (they had red, blue, and purple versions depending on the edition and whether it was Canadian or American). I dig the blue Canadian version from Series II of the set, but compromised slightly by adding the American flag to match Savatage’s country of origin. The write-up is not perfect, but gives as good a glimpse into their history as you could fit on a 2 ½ by 3 ½ inch piece of paper.
When telling my brother that I was designing these cards, he clued me in to the obvious possibility that Peyton and Eli Manning must have shared a football card at some point. Going with an era-appropriate combo, here’s a guitarist/bassist pairing to match my brother and I. Plus, like us, they’re Canadian.
I wouldn’t reasonably expect a major card manufacturer to include Martyr in a set, but this was a product of my labour, so it was my call. I based this off of the Manning brother’s shared 2008 Donruss Threads Generations card. It looks as if this was from a blank variation of a memorabilia card that would contain a piece of a jersey or patch worn by the player. For the Mongrains, I guess you could either include guitar picks, pieces of old strings, or cut up a perfectly serviceable instrument strap.
As mentioned earlier, some sports card sets would include the rare combination of a father and son that played on the same team. One of the first times I saw this was in the 1991 Score Baseball set that had a card labelled “The Griffeys”. Both Ken Griffey Sr. and Hall-of-Famer Ken Griffey Jr’s careers briefly overlapped on the Seattle Mariners. While in music there are times where parents played together in an ensemble (Ornette and Denardo Coleman spring to mind), I’m keeping these cards limited to siblings for now. With that in mind, I went back several decades for my choice and am using this design with a different jazz duo, Cannonball and Nat Adderley.
The back of this card is what I looked forward to seeing what I could do with it. My limited editing skills still allowed me to put a pencil sketch effect and a bit of noise before blending the photo into the background rather than stick to the original black and white image. I chose to number the card 55 to commemorate the year that the brothers got their first big break, which I also very briefly describe on the back. The photo used may look a bit silly to some, but despite how bored-looking or awkwardly posed they are, it was deemed suitable for at least one of their albums.
Another baseball set I had numerous cards of growing up was the 1988 Fleer set. While there was at least one card from that set showing some family connections (the Ripkens), it was the red and blue diagonal striping that made me want to adopt it for my own re-purposing. It looks very much like an 80’s product, and as the lines somewhat remind me of the Frankenstrat look, I decided for this to be the basis for my Van Halen brothers card.
The front of the cards made use of a vignette or fading to blur the photos near the top of the image, with cropping often used for parts of the player equipment (such as bats or helmets). It was also the first style I used that allowed for a more expansive description of the artists on the back. Based on the fact Eddie is holding the Kramer edition of the guitar, this puts the photo towards the mid-to-late 80s, which I chose to make the design faithful to when the equivalent baseball cards would have been released.
Next comes a pair that were heavily influenced by Eddie and Alex. We’ve got the Abbott brothers from Pantera, both of whom are more widely known by their nicknames rather than surnames.
In case you don’t recognize the look of this one, I used 1992 Upper Deck Baseball Bloodlines subset to model it off of. Aside from the pin-striping on the back of the card, I tried to eliminate the baseball look as much as possible. I took the original Bloodlines logo with the ball and crossed bats on a diamond (see the Roberto and Sandy Alomar Jr. card), and turned the bats to drum sticks while adding a guitar neck and headstock, which I based off a Les Paul. The photo was a hard choice, but the band had a reputation for partying hard, so here they are with a backstage stash of alcohol. As far as the back goes, Darrell didn’t use the ‘Dimebag’ moniker until nearer the Far Beyond Driven era, thus why I give him the ‘Diamond’ branding. The fact the design is based off a baseball card may have helped my decision. Still, I think that Dimebagger would make a useful term to drop a) when 10 bases are stolen by a team in a game, or b) as an alternate name for hitting the cycle (Homer=4, Triple=3, Double=2, and a Single=1 for 10 total bases reached by a hit).
Now I’ve got a couple that go back to what I consider more classic styles, or at least designs that recall a time when the trading card hobby wasn’t all about trying to make a quick buck. I’m also overdue for a band with a name that actually references that there are, in fact, (Allman) brothers in the band.
The card’s inspiration may have been from a decade after Duane’s death (I used the 1982 Topps Football card of Eddie and Walter Payton as a guide), but the separate photo frames gave me more options to grab some better pictures of Duane and Gregg without using the inferior, lower resolution photos I found of them next to each other. To keep with the throwback vibe, I listed Gregg’s place of residence in the early 80’s rather than date it to the present (Gregg Allman died in 2017). If you find the mention of Cher to be somewhat questionable, some card companies of the time seemed rather interested in athlete’s sex lives (see 1982-83 O-Pee-Chee Hockey), so this isn’t out of the ordinary.
I’m not as pleased with the outcome of this next one, but I looked to one of my favourite hockey cards in my collection for its rather minimalized style. The 1974-75 O-Pee-Chee WHA Hockey set featured a card with all three Howe teammates from the Houston Aeros franchise, father Gordie (widely considered one of the greatest players ever) and sons Mark (who joined his dad in the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2011) and Marty. This gave me the opportunity to squeeze three brothers onto a single card. With another choice more on the obscure side, I’ve selected the Shulman brothers, who began with Simon Dupree & The Big Sound before their wider-known membership in progressive rock band Gentle Giant.
I’m pleased with how the back turned out, but there were a few limitations with the front. First, I had a hard enough time finding usable pictures of each member from around the same era, so I couldn’t find suitable enough ones in colour. Secondly, I did not include reproductions of their signatures on top of their photos since I do not know how they wrote their names and I didn’t want to make a questionable font choice for the sake of having a placeholder. The back lists all the instruments each member played on albums up to and including Octopus, which was eldest brother Phil’s swansong with Gentle Giant before leaving in 1973. This commemoration of the three brothers of Gentle Giant would technically be out of date by 1974, but card manufacturers back then weren’t often timely with their fact-checking. A player would be thankful enough if their jerseys weren’t airbrushed, their name wasn’t spelled incorrectly, or they weren’t mistaken for someone else entirely.
There are plenty of other brother combinations that I considered: The Jackson 5, the Robinsons (The Black Crowes), the Batts (better known as David Sylvian and Steve Jansen from the band Japan), Kevin and Robin Eubanks, the Breckers, the Porcaros (Toto), and the Loefflers (Chevelle), who were a complete band of brothers until 2005. I could go on forever, but if you’re wondering about Angus and Malcolm Young, they didn’t spring to mind immediately as I already own a few of their cards from sets I’ve previously discussed (see Exhibits A and B).
And don’t worry, I didn’t forget the talented sister musicians that have delighted many an eardrum throughout history, and have dedicated one more entry to speak of sisters in a post full of brothers. There is still a deep pool to pick from, so who gets the honour? The Wilsons (Heart)? The Judds? The Andrews Sisters? The Landers (Kittie)? The Erwins (Dixie Chicks)? The Pointer Sisters? I opted to go with the Deals.
Most people around my age probably didn’t know Joe Sakic had a younger brother who was drafted into the NHL unless they had this card. Brian never played a game in the NHL, but was nonetheless pictured with his future Hall of Famer brother in the 1992-93 Upper Deck Hockey Bloodlines subset. It’s a sharp-looking design that was simple enough to replicate to use with these Breeders band-mates. I haven’t given The Breeders too many listens, being more familiar with Kim more as a key player in the Pixies, but did a bit of a crash course on them since I see similarities in the sisters’ dynamic musically to that of my brother and I. From what I’ve learned, Kim was the more polished of the two musicians while growing up, and encouraged Kelley’s playing to develop to get her involved with her band. That’s pretty much the way it was between Alex and I as we gravitated towards being musicians. Being twins like they are is icing on the cake. The first time we played in front of a crowd was at a high school talent show. He was the composer of the song, and I followed his lead. He’s still the more driven of the two of us in terms of finding his creative voice, so if I ever collaborate with him in the future, I’d be content to take a backseat role and see his vision through.
I’m ending it on that card, but this could keep on going. What about sibling combos that had a brother and a sister? You could add the likes of Cowboy Junkies, The B-52s, and The Carpenters into the mix. There are so many of them that I’ve yet to even hear myself, but seeing as it was thinking of my brother that brought this on…
Happy Birthday, Alex! Keep on creating.