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John Renbourn Biography

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Guitarist John Renbourn is one of the fathers of contemporary British folk music and is one of the finest fingerstyle players in the world. Renbourn was a founder of the seminal group Pentangle, and his music fuses British and Celtic folk with blues, jazz, British early music, classic guitar, and Eastern styles.

Born and raised in Torquay, England, Renbourn began playing guitar as a teen. At first he was into skiffle, a style that became popular as the a folk music revival was beginning. An instructional book, How to Play Guitar by Rory McEwen, introduced Renbourn to the music of many American folk artists and he began to research them. In 1964 he began studying classical guitar at the George Abbot School in Guildford. Two years later he was playing folk music in Soho, where he met many other musicians, including Paul Simon, Davey Graham, and -- most importantly -- Bert Jansch, a guitar player whom Renbourn greatly admired. Renbourn and Jansch were roommates for a while; during impromptu sessions they noticed how much in sync they were and how easy it was to play together. Both men had fledgling recording careers at the time. Renbourn performed on Jansch's second album and afterward they teamed up formally to record Bert & John.

In 1967 the two founded Pentangle and remained together through 1978. Renbourn, as with the other group members, continued to release such solo albums as The Hermit and The Black Balloon. He formed the John Renbourn Group in the '80s and began adding an East Indian percussion and jazz woodwinds to his music. Around the mid-'80s, he teamed up with guitarist Stefan Grossman and embarked upon a series of world tours. The two also recorded a few albums before Renbourn went on to found the ensemble Ship of Fools and play music with a stronger Celtic influence. He continues to tour alone and with other guitarists including Grossman, Larry Coryell, and Isaac Guillory. He also occasionally reunites with Jansch and sometimes tours with Scottish storyteller Robin Williamson. ~ Sandra Brennan, Rovi

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