|Birth name||John Christopher Hawken|
|Born||9 May 1940|
|Genres||Rhythm and Blues, rock, progressive rock|
|Associated acts||The Nashville Teens, Spooky Tooth, Third World War, Strawbs, Vinegar Joe, Renaissance and Illusion|
John Christopher Hawken (born 9 May 1940 in Bournemouth) is an English keyboard player. He studied classical piano between the ages of four and eighteen before acquiring a taste for rock and roll. Hawken's first band was the Cruisers Rock Combo (1960 to 1962) but he is possibly best known for his contributions to various versions of The Nashville Teens (1962 to 1968). He was then a founding member of Renaissance in 1969.
He also played in Spooky Tooth, Third World War, Vinegar Joe, Strawbs and Illusion, as well as being a session musician.
John was prompted to play piano by his mother Dorothy Constance Hawken who was formally trained as both a pianist and painter from an early age and passed on her passion for the arts to her oldest child. From a brief interview in 2005; "In 1960, I was living with my parents in Weybridge, Surrey, in the South of England when I joined my first rock band – the Cruisers Rock Combo. The personnel consisted of Dave Maine (drums), Pete Harris (bass), Mick Dunford (lead guitar), myself on piano and three singers, Tony Gallagher, Kenny King and Chris Wing. We rehearsed (and occasionally played) at the Addlestone Youth Club (in the town next to mine)."
At the same time, Ray Phillips and Arthur Sharp were the singers in The Nashville Teens (who also rehearsed and played around the Addlestone area). Phillips and Sharp split with their band at about the same time the Cruisers split from their singers, and the new Nashville Teens were born. A little later, Roger Groome joined on drums, John Allen on lead guitar and Terry Crowe became the third singer. This line-up turned professional in 1963 and went to Germany (as many English bands did at that time) to play in the clubs (including Hamburg's Star-Club).
In 1964 (now minus Terry Crowe and with Barry Jenkins on drums) The Nashville Teens signed a management contract and recorded "Tobacco Road," at the same time touring with Chuck Berry and Carl Perkins on their first tour of England. "I was delighted to be playing piano for both of them, in addition to playing the Nashville Teens set", said Hawken. They went to the US in late 1964 to play the "Murray the K" Christmas show at the Fox Theater in Brooklyn and subsequently toured extensively in England and Europe.
Peter Harris left the group in 1966 and was replaced on bass by Neil Korner, formerly of The New Vaudeville Band. Neil and John Hawken also worked together from time to time in a popular London pick-up band, Frankie Reid & The Powerhouse, which also featured Dana Gillespie on vocals and occasionally, the saxophone section from Cliff Bennett's Rebel Rousers, plus John Knightsbridge on guitar (later of Illusion).
Although subsequent records failed to equal the success of "Tobacco Road," the band worked steadily until Hawken moved on late in 1968.
In late 1968 former Yardbird Chris Dreja, John Hawken and steel player Brian (B.J.) Cole were going to form a country rock band, to be managed by Peter Grant and produced by Mickey Most, but they never got beyond the rehearsal stage. Dreja, aware that his former Yardbirds colleagues Jim McCarty and Keith Relf were putting together a new band, suggested Hawken as a possible member. In early 1969 Hawken got a telephone call from McCarty asking if he was interested in the new project. Hawken turned up at McCartys' house in Thames Ditton, along with bass player Louis Cennamo, Dreja and Cole. Cole and Dreja subsequently dropped out of the project: Cole went on to become a session musician heard on many recordings in the 1970s.
A short time later Jane Relf joined on vocals and Renaissance was born, with a line-up of Keith and Jane Relf, McCarty, Hawken and Cennamo. Live gigs included a tour of the US and work in Europe. This line-up recorded two albums, produced by another former Yardbird, Paul Samwell-Smith. Circumstances brought changes in the band, with Keith Relf, McCarty and Cennamo departing, followed soon after by Jane Relf. Hawken helped recruit replacements and, by the summer of 1970, the line-up consisted of himself with Neil Korner (the Teens' second bass player) on bass guitar, Michael Dunford (Cruisers and Teens) on guitar, Terry Crowe (from the early Teens) and Annemarie "Binky" Cullum as vocalists and Terry Slade on drums.
Hawken was ready for a change when Spooky Tooth contacted him in October 1970 for a three-month tour of Europe on the strength of their hit record "I Am the Walrus" from their Last Puff album. But before he left Renaissance he helped his successor, John Tout, to integrate with the band. Tout, together with Michael Dunford, formed the nucleus of a more stable line-up, with vocalist Annie Haslam, bass player Jon Camp and drummer Terry Sullivan, that went on to record many albums.
In 1971, Hawken joined Third World War. Their singer-songwriter was Terry Stamp. The group recorded one album (the band's second release). The group also included John Knightsbridge (lead guitar) and Craig Collinge (drums). Hawken has recently started collaborating with Stamp and Avery. After a brief spell with Vinegar Joe, whom he left in September 1972, Hawken joined Strawbs in 1973.
At his audition for the Strawbs, Dave Cousins introduced Hawken to the mellotron. The band consisted of Cousins (singer-songwriter), Dave Lambert (guitar), Chas Cronk (bass), Rod Coombes (drums) and Hawken on keyboards. Tours included the US, Japan and Europe. During Hawken's tenure with the band (1973–1975) they released two albums, Hero and Heroine and Ghosts.
In 1977, the original Renaissance re-formed with Jim McCarty, Keith and Jane Relf, Louis Cennamo and Hawken. Unable, for legal reasons, to use the name Renaissance, they chose "Illusion" – which had been the title of their second album as Renaissance.
Keith Relf was electrocuted at home while working on their music. The band was re-shuffled, bringing in John Knightsbridge (lead guitar) and Eddie McNeill (drums), with McCarty sharing vocals with Jane Relf and also playing rhythm guitar. The group recorded two albums, Out of the Mist and Illusion, before disbanding in 1979. A further album of unreleased material appeared many years later under the name Enchanted Caress.
On 29 October 1979, John, his wife Alexandra and sons Barnaby & Jody moved to the United States from the UK, and Hawken began playing with 'The Rocketmen' in New Jersey.
In 2001, the surviving members of the original Renaissance – Jim McCarty, Jane Relf, Louis Cennamo and John Hawken – recorded and released Through the Fire under the band name 'Renaissance Illusion'.
In 2004 the Hero and Heroine Strawbs line-up reunited, and undertook a number of tours both in the US and Europe, recording a new album, Deja Fou.
On 26 June 2008, Hawken announced his retirement from Strawbs.
In October 2011 Hawken came out of retirement to perform with Jim McCarty and Jann Klose at Hugh's Room and This Ain't Hollywood, Ontario for two Chamber Pop Summits.
Hawken appeared briefly in the David Essex film, That'll Be The Day (1973) as the keyboard player in the band led by Stormy Tempest (Billy Fury), which also featured Keith Moon on drums.