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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Teaching at International Guitar seminars – Columbia University
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
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
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.’