Mayflower musicians

While perusing the lists of notable descendants recently published in Gary Boyd Roberts’ Mayflower 500: Five Hundred Notable Descendants of the Founding Fathers on the Mayflower, one name, James Vernon Taylor, immediately caught my eye. The music of James Taylor has always been special to me, which is why my wife and I chose “Sweet Baby James” as our first dance at our wedding three years ago. Perhaps my fondest memory, however, came when James was in the broadcast booth with Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy during the Boston Red Sox game promoting his newest song “Angels of Fenway.” In the middle of answering one of Don’s questions, James stopped mid-sentence to allow the audience at home to focus on the upcoming pitch, showing his dedication and knowledge as a baseball fan. These memories are the reason I was so excited to find that he was also a descendant of Mayflower passenger William White.[1] As I examined the list further, I noticed something else quite interesting: James Taylor was one of several descendants of William White who have had long and successful careers as musicians.

Amazingly, another musician who also counts herself among the descendants of William White is Carly Simon, who was married to James Taylor from 1972 to 1983.[2] The year before the couple married, Carly won the Grammy Award for Best New Artist, kick-starting what would turn out to be a decades-long career in the music industry.[3] While both Taylor and Simon have a folk-inspired sound that fit well into the music scene of the early 1970s and beyond, two other descendants of William White who also became world-renowned musicians in their own right were influential in very different genres.

...James Taylor was one of several descendants of William White who have had long and successful careers as musicians.

Grace Barnett (Wing) Slick was born in Highland Park, Illinois on 20 October 1939.[4] By the early 1950s, her family had settled in the San Francisco suburb of Palo Alto, California, a move which would fundamentally change the course of music history. It was in San Francisco that Slick joined the band The Great Society, a psychedelic rock outfit that existed briefly in 1965 and 1966.[5] The group disbanded when Slick left the band in 1966 to join Jefferson Airplane.

During their original run from 1965 to 1972, Jefferson Airplane headlined some of the era's most famous music festivals, including Woodstock, Altamont, and the Isle of Wight Festival.[6] The band was the face of the San Francisco music boom and became well known for their hard and heavy sound, bolstered by Slick’s powerful and haunting vocals. Like James Taylor and Carly Simon, Grace Slick was a descendant of William White, as was another vocalist for a genre-defining band.

In 1981, James Hetfield became a founding member of Metallica, a pioneering band in the thrash metal scene.[7] Along with drummer Lars Ulrich, Hetfield has been with the band from the very beginning, leading them to eight Grammy Awards between 1989 and 2017.[8] Although he comes from a very different world than the previously mentioned musicians, James Hetfield is forever connected to James Taylor, Carly Simon, and Grace Slick through their common ancestor, William White.


[1] Gary Boyd Roberts, Mayflower 500: Five Hundred Notable Descendants of the Founding Fathers on the Mayflower (Boston: NEHGS, 2020).

[2] Timothy White, James Taylor: Long Ago and Far Away (London, 2001).

[3] Grammy Award Database, Carly Simon,

[4] Gary Boyd Roberts, Notable Kin #75: “New England and Rock,” Part 3: The Ancestry of Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane, with an Addendum on Further New England Ancestors of the Beach Boys, 18 April 2008.

[5] Grace Slick Biography,,

[6] Colin Stutz, “Paul Kantner, Jefferson Airplane Co-Founder & Guitarist, Dies at 74,”, 28 January 2016.

[7] History,,

[8] Grammy Award Database, Metallica,

Zachary Garceau

About Zachary Garceau

Zachary J. Garceau is a former researcher at the New England Historic Genealogical Society. He joined the research staff after receiving a Master's degree in Historical Studies with a concentration in Public History from the University of Maryland-Baltimore County and a B.A. in history from the University of Rhode Island. He was a member of the Research Services team from 2014 to 2018, and now works as a technical writer. Zachary also works as a freelance writer, specializing in Rhode Island history, sports history, and French Canadian genealogy.View all posts by Zachary Garceau