Biography

1944  Born Marylebone London. Father Robert McCombe Royal Highland Tank Regiment. Mother Dorothy Jopling. Father killed in action. Mother a pianist. Family piano used for shelter during air-raids. Music making in the home. Great uncle Dan a cello playing priest.

1952  Mother remarries. Edward Tobias Renbourn physician. Surname changed by adoption. Family move to St Catherines a country house in Surrey. Private piano lessons.

1956  School in Guildford.  Music lessons with John Webber harmony and counterpoint. Early Music. English literature John Donne, Chaucer, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Art classes at Guildford Art School with John Kashdan. Private guitar lessons. Guildhall grades presided over by Madame Adele Kramer. Discovered the music of American folk/blues players. Attended concerts of Josh White. Read Steinbeck. Admired Ben Shahn.

1960  Hitchhiked in Britain France and Spain. Heard of folk/blues guitarists Wizz Jones and Davey Graham. Met Mac Mcleod in the west country. Played and recorded together.

1964  Attended Kingston Art School while living on a boat on the river Wey. Met singer Gina Glazer. Acquired a Scarth guitar. Played in pub/clubs The Roundhouse Soho, The Black Horse, Les Cousins, The Troubadour under the wing of Gerry Lockran. Met and began accompanying American singer Dorris Henderson. Through Dorris met T-Bone Walker, John Lee Hooker and Memphis Slim. Played at Mati ‘The Sands’ studio in Paris. Recorded with Dorris. Album titled  'There You Go'

1965  Met Bert Jansch in Soho. Shared places to live. Played together at Les Cousins. First recordings two tracks on ‘John Renbourn’ Album put out by the independent label Transatlantic. Tracks together appear on recordings under Bert’s name. Joint recording ‘ Bert and John ‘ engineered by Bill Leader.

1966  Married Judith Blanche Hills — Judy, also a student at the Art School in Kingston. Set up home in garret in Camden Town. Children Joel and Jessie. Bought a Gibson J-50 from an American airman. Used it on second solo album for Transatlantic 'Another Monday' recorded at Bill Leader’s place across the street. Three tracks with singer Jacqui McShee a friend of a friend from the Kingston days.

1967  Second album accompanying Dorris Henderson ' Watch the Stars.' Having found that Transatlantic raised no objection to tracks outside the folk genre slipped in on ‘Another Monday’ began combining jazz/blues rhythms with traditional British melodic patterns and elements of Early part writing. Ideas worked out on the old piano from Les Cousins -- last thing up the stairs when the place closed down.

1968  ‘Sir John Alot of Merrie Englandes Musyk Thynge & Ye Grene Knyghte’  First full studio album. Engineered by John Wood, Sound Techniques Chelsea. Studio musicians included David Munrow and drummer Terry Cox. Formed a group with Bert Jansh and Jacqui McShee, Terry Cox and bass player Danny Thompson - named Pentangle as a nod to Sir Gawain. First album ‘The Pentangle.’ Second (double) album ‘Sweet Child’ partly recorded at the Festival Hall. Cover design by Peter Blake. Family move to Buriton village in Hampshire. ‘Bert and John’ released in America as ‘Stepping Stones’

1969  First of a series of trips to America with Pentangle. Concerts include Carnegie Hall, Newport Folk Festival and Fillmore West with the Grateful Dead.   ‘Basket of Light’ recorded in England. Group plays at the Isle of Wight Festival.

1970  Fourth Transatlantic album engineered by Nick Kinsey and produced by Bill Leader. The Lady and the Unicorn’ more specifically early/folk in content. Pentangle too record a purely folk album ‘Cruel Sister’

1971  Recording agreements with Transatlantic coming to a close. Farewell album - going out as coming in with bluesy material updated. ‘Faro Annie.’  Pentangle with ‘Reflection.’ Separation with Judy. Lived on The Ventra a sailing barge on the Thames.

1972  Last Pentangle Album ‘Solomon’s Seal’ Break from the road. Solo concert at Queen Elizabeth Hall London. Date Publication of first book of compositions ‘Guitar Pieces.’ -- French tablature edition ‘ Pieces pour Guitar ‘ Return to Paris. Solo concert at the Olympia.

1974  Moved to South Devon. Began playing informally with Jacqui McShee, Tony Roberts, Keshave Sathe and Sue Draheim. Concert at the Albert Hall under the name John Renbourn Group. Publication of book ‘Songs for Guitar’.

1975  Joined Bert Jansch for a Festival Hall concert.

1976  Married Jo Watson. Two children Ben and Jake. Lived out in the woods. Recording mainly solo guitar. ‘The Hermit’ Tarot IX Major Arcana. Main guitar a Guild D55.

1977  Recording as The John Renbourn Group. ‘A Maid in Bedlam’ Collaboration with Stefan Grossman. Recording ‘Stefan Grossman and John Renbourn’ - guitar duets.

1978  Played in Japan and joined Stefan on direct-to-disc recording ‘Acoustic Guitar’ for Nippon Columbia.  Japanese edition of ‘Guitar Pieces’ edited by Isato Nakaguawa. Family moves further west. Waterhead House by the river Dart.

1979  Played with The John Renbourn Group also Stefan Grossman all over Europe and America. Solo album featuring Tony Roberts ‘The Black Balloon.’ Second album with Grossman ‘Under the Volcano.’ Chappell publish a new collection ‘Solo Guitar Pieces’ also ‘Bert Jansch & John Renbourn’ Tablatures transcrites par Remy Froissart.

1980  Second album with The John Renbourn Group 'Enchanted Garden’

1981  Third album of group ‘Live in America’ nominated for Grammy Award -- Lost to Queen Ida and the Bon Temps Zydaco Band. Toured frequently in Italy – Sicily –Sardinia. Enjoyed staying in Trastevere, playing at the Folkstudio and residing in the Hotel Cisterna.

1982  Enrolled as student at Dartington College. 3-year degree course covering composition orchestration Early Music and instrumental tuition --- sitar and shakuhachi. Began using a rosewood Franklin OM by Nick Kuckich Sandpoint Idaho.

1984  Double album ‘Live in Concert’ with Stefan Grossman. Recorded Sydney Opera House. Dates in America with Doc Watson including Carnegie Hall concert.

1985  Album ‘The Nine Maidens.’ Invited to teach at the Guitar Federation of Milwaukee held at the University of Wisconsin. Acquired rosewood OM by Ralph Bown York.

1986  Recorded with Stefan Grossman ‘The Three Kingdoms’ engineered and produced John Paul Jones. Chappell publish an expanded collection of guitar pieces ‘ Original Guitar Solos’

1987  Invited to give a concert in the Central Park series New York. Formed ‘Ship of Fools’ for the occasion. Name taken from Sebastian Brandt’s early moralistic tales. Members Tony Roberts, Steve Tilston and Maggie Boyle. Album ‘Ship of Fools’ released the following year.

1988  Took up position on faculty at Dartington. Heading the first course in England to offer steel-string guitar at degree level. Wrote columns for Frets and Guitar Player magazines.

1992  Video of solo Toronto concert ‘In Concert.’ ‘The Duets of Stefan Grossman and John Renbourn’ published by Mel Bay.

1993  Collaboration with Robin Williamson. Live recording 'Wheel of Fortune' Tarot X Major Arcana. Nominated for Grammy Award. Lost to Bob Dylan.

1994  Separation from Jo. Moved to San Francisco. Worked on ‘Complete Anthology of Medieval and Renaissance Music for the Guitar’ published the following year.

1995  Returned to the UK to play at the Edinburgh Festival. Stayed in Scotland. Made a home in The Borders. Publication of ‘Anthology of  O’Carolan for Fingerstyle Guitar.’

1996  Studio tapes of sessions following on from the 1971 ‘Faro Annie’ recording found and reissued as ‘The Lost Sessions’

1997  Radio broadcast of Pentangle issued on CD as ‘On Air.’

1998  Radio broadcast of The John Renbourn Group issued on CD as BBC Live in Concert’ New studio recordings made in Ireland and Scotland including a-capella vocal arrangements. Previous examples on earlier albums -- Pentangle, John Renbourn Group, Ship of Fools. ‘Travellers’ Prayer.’ Shanachie. Celebratory trip to Mexico.

1999  Played at the Hong Kong Festival followed by the Kuala Lumpur Festival. Video made of concert at the Kennedy Centre Washington.

2000 Returned to Hong Kong for a private patron. Went on for concerts in Japan. Japanese edition of the collected Transatlantic recordings. Played in Alaska. Returned to Scotland to premier the commissioned Lochbhraoin Suite at the inaugural Ullapool International Guitar Festival. Publication of ‘John Renbourn Fingerstyle Guitar’ Mel Bay

2001  Lifetime Achievement Award at the Ards Guitar Festival. Teaching at International Guitar Seminars – University of British Columbia Vancouver. Performed at Quebec City Summer Festival. Teaching at International Guitar seminars – Columbia University New York.

2004  DVD ‘Rare Performances’.  Began working with Marco Rossetti in Rome on transcriptions for the classical guitar.

2005  Pieces composed for soundtrack use in 1976 released on CD as ‘The Guitar Artistry of John Renbourn.’

2006  DVD ‘John Renbourn and Jacqui McShee in Concert ‘ CD of recordings made in the Folkstudio Rome in the ‘80s titled ‘Live in Italy.’

2007  Pentangle reforms for the BBC Folk Awards. Lifetime Achievement presented by Sir Richard Attenborough. Retrospective double cd of the Transatlantic years with previously unreleased material ‘Nobody’s Fault But Mine.’

2008  Teaching post-gradate studies at Irish World Academy of Music and Dance – University of Limerick. Pentangle concert tour including Festival Hall Concert and the Green Man Festival.

2009  Residential guitar course hosted at Cubertou in the South of France.

2010  Residential guitar course hosted at Ste Foy in the South of France.  The Martin Guitar Company produce a John Renbourn signature model.

2011  New studio recording ' Palermo Snow.’ Residential guitar course hosted at Cortijo Andalus in southern Spain.    Pentangle plays the Glastonbury Festival and returns to the Festival Hall for a final concert.

2012  Spring workshop in Andalucia and summer workshop in southern Crete.

2013  Publication of Guitar Works -solo compositions for classical or acoustic guitar.   Spring workshop in southern Crete. Concert to mark the opening of the Agia Galini amphitheater. Consultant and composer for The Boston Revel's annual production  'A Celebration of the Winter Solstice.'