John Hawken

Last updated

John Hawken
John hawken 2008.jpg
Background information
Birth nameJohn Christopher Hawken
Born (1940-05-09) 9 May 1940 (age 80)
Origin Bournemouth, England
Genres Rhythm and Blues, rock, progressive rock
InstrumentsPiano, keyboards
Years active1960–present
Labels A&M
Associated acts The Nashville Teens, Spooky Tooth, Third World War, Strawbs, Vinegar Joe, Renaissance and Illusion
Website (archive)

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)."

Nashville Teens

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.

Third World War

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. [1]


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.

United States

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.

Screen appearances

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.


The Nashville Teens


Third World War


Studio albums

Live albums





Renaissance Illusion


Related Research Articles

Renaissance (band)

Renaissance are an English progressive rock band, best known for their 1978 UK top 10 hit "Northern Lights" and progressive rock classics like "Carpet of the Sun", "Mother Russia", and "Ashes Are Burning". They developed a unique sound, combining a female lead vocal with a fusion of classical, folk, rock, and jazz influences. Characteristic elements of the Renaissance sound are Annie Haslam's wide vocal range, prominent piano accompaniment, orchestral arrangements, vocal harmonies, acoustic guitar, bass guitar, synthesiser, and versatile drum work. The band created a significant following in the northeast United States in the 1970s, and that region remains their strongest fan base.

<i>Little Games</i> 0000 studio album by the Yardbirds

Little Games is the fourth American album by English rock band the Yardbirds. Recorded and released in 1967, it was their first album recorded after becoming a quartet with Jimmy Page as the sole guitarist and Chris Dreja switching to bass. It was also the only Yardbirds album produced by Mickie Most.

Keith Relf

William Keith Relf was an English musician, best known as the lead vocalist and harmonica player for the Yardbirds.

Armageddon were an English hard rock band formed in 1974. Their self-titled debut, Armageddon, was recorded in England and released in the United States on A&M Records. The albums' original liner notes use the term "supergroup", as their personnel were drummer Bobby Caldwell, singer Keith Relf, guitarist Martin Pugh, and bassist Louis Cennamo.

Paul Granville Samwell-Smith is an English musician and record producer. He was a founding member and the bassist of the 1960s English rock band The Yardbirds, which launched leading guitarists Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page to fame. As a youth, Samwell-Smith attended Hampton School with The Yardbirds drummer Jim McCarty.

<i>Birdland</i> (The Yardbirds album) 2003 studio album by the Yardbirds

Birdland is the fifth and most recent studio album by English blues rock band the Yardbirds, released in 2003. Their first studio album in over 35 years, the only band members from the 1960s group who appear are drummer Jim McCarty and rhythm guitarist Chris Dreja. Newer members are lead singer and bassist John Idan, lead guitarist Gypie Mayo and harmonica player Alan Glen. Notable lead guitarists make cameos throughout the album, including Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Slash and Brian May.

Illusion were a British progressive rock band formed in 1977. They released two albums, Out of the Mist (1977) and Illusion (1978) on Island Records, before folding in 1979. A third release titled Enchanted Caress was released in 1990.

Jim McCarty

James Stanley McCarty is an English musician, best known as the drummer for the Yardbirds and Renaissance. Following Chris Dreja's departure from the Yardbirds in 2013, McCarty became the only member of the band to feature in every lineup.

Jane Relf is a British singer and the younger sister of Keith Relf of the Yardbirds.

Louis David Cennamo is an English bass guitarist, whose lengthy career has included extensive recording and touring with a number of important British rock/blues/progressive bands.

Steamhammer (band)

Steamhammer was an English blues rock band from Worthing, England, whose origins were with the blues. The band was founded in 1968 by Martin Quittenton (guitar) and Kieran White. The first stable line-up consisted of Quittenton, White, Martin Pugh (guitar), Steve Davy (bass), and Michael Rushton (drums).

<i>Armageddon</i> (Armageddon album) 1975 studio album by Armageddon

Armageddon was the only album released by British/American progressive rock group Armageddon in 1975. It features vocalist Keith Relf of The Yardbirds and Renaissance; Martin Pugh, lead guitarist for Rod Stewart's An Old Raincoat Won't Ever Let You Down and Steamhammer; Bobby Caldwell, drummer for Captain Beyond and Johnny Winter; and Louis Cennamo who was the bass player and bandmate of Relf's in Renaissance and Pugh's in Steamhammer.

<i>Renaissance</i> (Renaissance album) 1969 studio album by Renaissance

Renaissance is the self-titled debut album by the English progressive rock band Renaissance, released in late 1969.

Stairway was an English new-age music band, who have released a total of five albums and cassette tapes between 1986 and 1995.

<i>BBC Sessions</i> (The Yardbirds album) Live album recorded 1965–1968

The Yardbirds Live at the BBC compiles 26 song recordings made for broadcast from eight different sessions between 1965 and 1968. All the songs feature either Jeff Beck (1965–1966) or Jimmy Page (1967–1968) on guitar. Eric Clapton left the group shortly before the first recording session represented on this CD. These recordings were originally released in 1991 as Yardbirds ...On Air.

<i>Illusion</i> (Renaissance album) 1971 studio album by Renaissance

Illusion is the second studio album by the English progressive rock band Renaissance, released in 1971. It was originally released only in Germany and did not receive a wider release until 1973. It was first released in the UK in 1977, with a cover that had the original front and rear cover artwork swapped.

<i>Live at B.B. King Blues Club</i> 2007 live album by The Yardbirds

Live at B.B. King Blues Club is a 2007 album by English blues rock band the Yardbirds.

The Yardbirds English blues and psychedelic rock band

The Yardbirds are an English rock band, formed in London in 1963. The band's core lineup featured vocalist and harmonica player Keith Relf, drummer Jim McCarty, rhythm guitarist/bassist Chris Dreja and bassist/producer Paul Samwell-Smith. The band is known for starting the careers of three of rock's most famous guitarists, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck, all of whom ranked in the top five of Rolling Stone magazine's list of 100 greatest guitarists. The band had a string of hits throughout the mid-1960s, including "For Your Love", "Heart Full of Soul", "Shapes of Things" and "Over Under Sideways Down".

<i>Reunion Jam</i> 1999 live album by The Yardbirds

Reunion Jam is a live album by English rock band the Yardbirds. It is of recordings of the first concerts after the band reformed in 1992. It features original Yardbirds Jim McCarty and Chris Dreja along with new members John Idan and Rod Demick.


  1. Tobler, John (1992). NME Rock 'N' Roll Years (1st ed.). London: Reed International Books Ltd. p. 242. CN 5585.